Nowadays we are facing problems on a global scale in all fields. Economic, environmental, cultural and social crises are shared by all countries worldwide. It was in 1972 in Stockholm, during the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, that people started talking about sustainable development. The 2020 “Earth Overshoot” day, which “marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year,”  is on the 22nd of August. Nevertheless, we still see many behaviours and related choices, on both a small and large scale, which are failing to address the challenges of our times.
The problems mining the path toward a better future include climatic changes, overpopulation, scarcity of food, new diseases, pollution and loss of biodiversity, as well as continuous conflicts between different interests. The risk of leaving future generations in a poor and devastated scenario, like those described and represented in many novels, movies, comic books and videogames, is real and tangible.
This situation has arisen for several reasons, but is mainly due to some questionable behaviours grounded on selfish and obsessive exploitation of resources, arrogance and superficiality. Another negative attitude has been to disregard the lessons of history. Ignoring or forgetting how to learn from the previous experiences of our ancestors is one of the reasons why we make the same, or similar, mistakes as those made in the past. Consequently, the current situation should and could have been avoided.
A glance at past times allows us to comprehend that many great civilisations and empires disappeared because of the behaviours mentioned above. However, we can also learn that a remarkable number of achievements, including significant architectural works, have been designed and built during historical periods that had some form of stability.
Human beings can positively affect the spaces they live in, whether this be a house, a palace, a neighbourhood, a city, a country, a continent or the whole world. It is not simply that sustainability requires a more balanced relationship between man and nature. We must not forget that human wellbeing is a mixture of cultural, economic, environmental and social aspects that should also be well balanced. More responsible and reflective behaviour could provide the capacity to evaluate and avoid dangerous situations by making wise decisions. In order to follow this path, it is essential to respect all the existing differences between people by improving our way of thinking.
Architecture is everywhere, and it can positively influence human beings. Buildings in rural and urban environments have the power to affect our daily life through their aesthetic, cultural, emotional and functional qualities. These reflections constitute the foundations for a visionary architecture that could be named the ‘Equilibrium Tower’. Through its shape, presence and content, such a tower could deliver messages, remind people of significant values and enable people to improve their behaviour.
The Equilibrium Tower
The Equilibrium Tower is a monument, in the Latin sense of the word. In fact, the term ‘monument’ is derived from the Latin verb ‘moneo’ and implies several meanings: to remind, to advise, to make one think, to inspire and to inform. These are all actions that may be suggested by the shape of a tower which can be observed from several locations.
The size of the tower is not fixed and can be adapted to various urban environments. The journey undertaken inside the tower is an upward path which, through various sections, aims to enrich people’s way of thinking. This physical, cultural and moral ascent begins at the main entrance of the tower, which is as vast and solemn as those in the temples built by any ancient civilization.
The base of the tower contains a museum space. Here, a selection of images and texts describe mistakes made by people in a variety of cultural and geographical contexts, demonstrating that it is only possible to grow and mature by learning from our own mistakes. The shape of this first section of the building is inspired partially by the irregular shape of the roots of a tree, and partially by rocky and stratified formations. The outside walls do not have openings, and the interior of this space creates the sensation of being in a primordial cave. Besides the subtle artificial lighting, there is only a central skylight, from which comes an indirect light.
The central body of the Equilibrium Tower is comparable to a tree-trunk. This central section of the monument occupies the greatest number of storeys and accommodates a vast library. Studying past and modern masterpieces will enable us to be more aware of how many great achievements have been made by people around the world in many disciplines. This represents a positive incentive for our improvement and a brighter future. The plan of this central body is annular, and the various floors have openings both inward and outward. The inward openings look towards a colossal, enclosed central space that hosts several bridges and staircases linking different levels of the library. On the outer walls, the small windows located just above the museum become increasingly prominent as they move towards the higher part of the tower. This suggests that, by nourishing knowledge, it is possible to change the way we perceive the world we live in, and the way we appreciate and judge our surroundings.
On top of the library, there is a vast, multi-storey sky garden. Gardens are ideal places in which to relax and engage in dialogue with other people and nature. Communication and exchange of ideas with others are essential to developing an awareness of alternative ways of looking at and interpreting the world, and to learning to respect them accordingly. From different locations within the sky garden, six small coloured towers represent the continents branching out: Africa, the Americas, Antarctica, Asia, Europe and Oceania. These are towers of reflection; places in which to acquire self-awareness and a deeper perception of reality.
From the dark spaces of the lower floors, the structure has gradually opened up and coloured itself, representing the idea that a better ability to think allows us to live in a better way and to appreciate what surrounds us. Inside the six towers of reflection, there are images and information about the most beautiful natural places on each continent. A series of circular glass openings, gradually enlarging upwards, allows visitors to observe the surrounding landscape from various points of view, and to reflect on the actions that should be taken to improve our present and future. The towers are linked to each other through sky bridges, which form observation and reflection points, free from any external factor. These bridges are also useful to stabilise the towers. At the top of each tower of reflection are a small garden and wind turbines, reminding us that nature sustains our lives, and we should respect it. Despite our differences, we share the same planet, and questionable behaviours by one or more groups of people affect everyone. Without a balanced relationship with our natural environment and its resources, it becomes difficult to imagine a better future for humanity, and we can achieve more considerate behaviour only through better thinking.
The Equilibrium Tower could be considered as the very first universal building. It goes beyond the economic, political, social, cultural and religious differences among human beings, because we need to recognise that there are universally acknowledged values such as respect for our natural environment and an appreciation of our diversity. The aim of this tower is to present a stable building designed to last, like a secular tree provided with in-depth content; a monument which symbolises the cultural and moral levels achieved by our civilisation.
Danilo Di Mascio, 28 June 2020