by Chang-Yeob Lee


Royal College of Art graduate Chang-Yeob Lee has developed a concept to transform the BT Tower in London into a pollution-harvesting high rise (+ movie).

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee

Entitled Synth[e]tech[e]cology, the project predicts the eventual redundancy of the 189-metre tower - currently used for telecommunications - and suggests repurposing it as an eco-skyscraper that collects airborne dirt particles and helps to reduce the level of respiratory illness in London.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee

The process would involve extracting the carbon from petrol fumes and using it to produce sustainable bio-fuel.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee

"The project is about a new infrastructure gathering resources from pollutants in the city atmosphere, which could be another valuable commodity in the age of depleting resources," says Chang-Yeob Lee.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee

Lee describes his proposal as "a hybrid between a vertical oil field and laboratory for future resources". The exterior of the tower would form a giant eco-catalytic converter, while the interior would house a research facility investigating methods of increasing air movement and maximising the efficiency of the structure.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee

Similar structures could also be fitted to other unused high rises to create a network of pollution-reducing architecture.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
System anatomy - click here for larger image

Referencing a quote from architect Buckminster Fuller, Lee says: "Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value." He adds: "Pollution could be another economy".

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
Prototype model

Synth[e]tech[e]cology is Lee's diploma project from the architecture programme at the Royal College of Art in London and he was one of two winners of the Sheppard Robson Student Prize for Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts' Summer Exhibition.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
Masterplan diagram - click here for larger image

Other projects from this year's RCA graduates include bristly headdresses made from colourful plastic spikes and bicycle helmets made from old newspapers. See more projects by 2013 graduates.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
Project aim - click here for larger image

Other conceptual skyscrapers we've featured include a building that would produce energy and clean water from algae, a tower constructed from rubbish and a hairy skyscraper that functions as a wind farm. See more conceptual architecture.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
System assembly - click here for larger image

Here are a few words from Chang-Yeob Lee:

Synth[e]tech[e]cology _ Greenhouse Gas to Economic Asset

"Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value." - R. Buckminster Fuller

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
Study diagrams - click here for larger image

Harnessing advancements of various particle-capturing technologies, this project envisions that air pollution as a valuable commodity in an age of depleting resources. The scheme utilises the Post Office Tower adjacent to Marylebone Road, one of London's most polluted areas, as a hybrid between a vertical oil field and laboratory for future resources scrubbed from the atmosphere.

Synth[e]tech[e]cology by Chang-Yeob Lee
Concept diagram - click here for larger image

The project aims to show how hybrizided new infrastructure can gather pollutants, store, digest, and harvest them to dilute minerals and biofules, celebrating clean air process on the ground level. The ultimate ambition of the project is to be deployed as a retro-fitting strategy to tall unused or derelicy buildings in London, showing that alternative routes to 'economic profit' meaningfully engaged into pollution can be a provocative strategy for 'sustainable ecology'.

  • I find these projects a bit awkward since it’s vague about what’s performance and what’s not.

  • internautas

    Why do you put this nonsense?

  • Colonel Pancake

    "Entitled Synth[e]tech[e]cology……."

    Thus marks the spot where I stopped reading.

  • i2hellfire

    It’s great to see students take on the environmental issues afflicting modern cit….holy hell, what the deuce is that? Seriously, nevermind the state of environmental issues.

    The “architects” schools seem to be generating these days can’t possibly get around with their heads so far up their asses.

  • nonarchitect

    Geez….is his major illustration or architecture? I would ever hire any Royal College of Art graduate.

  • Well done!

  • fraperic

    This reduces Dezeen to the realm of a fridge magnet, with which proud parents pin the scribblings of their children.

    • i2hellfire

      Exactly. Please leave that type of excessively redundant design to Evolo.

    • BriH

      If Dezeen only published stuff that is mundane and unimaginative it would be failing in its brief. This may be a unachievable project but it shows how high we should aim in reclaiming valuable resources.

      NB Buckminster Fuller is up there with Einstein, Turing & Hawking!

  • osi

    Am I the only one not understanding how that thing shall work?

  • P. Gaverston

    OTT for the sake of OTT. Such a pretentious and contrived title, puts me off completely.

  • Michael

    If design is about simplifying what is ugly into beauty, we can take this quote as the element worth acknowledging in this project:

    “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

    The concept has the right idea, to utilise what one group of people deem as waste. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, so things like pollution or rubbish that we label in society could be rethought as new resources.

    While I have virtually no clue what this project is even doing to harness one of these resources, its core idea is in the right place. Hopefully after a good critique, this student was able to make a more tangible solution toward utilising waste.

  • Sibling

    So I saw this and I am like “dafak?”; I read it and still “dafak?” Finally I read the comments and “Now I get it!” :D

  • Tom

    It appears Spider Kong is in London.

  • Tom

    I’m mixed, however. Obviously a creative student but chances are something like this wouldn’t produce nearly enough meaningful energy. It would gain more money tourism wise than usable resources.

    Still sorta put some chemicals from the periodic table into the diagram to give it some engineering validity.

  • a.libi

    If we all produce 90-degree corner brick houses – then we would live in a terrible world.
    This project has a great value, shows awesome analysis and creates an awareness – freedom is about design.

    I love this project and I would hire this student – of course the real world is different, but that is the next step.

    I have the feeling that 90% of Dezeen comments are from desperate architects – please show your work, when you come up with weird comments – architecture is such a broad topic, there should be space for all kinds of architecture!

  • TT…

    Great! Mankind finally found out how to dump trash. Enlightening, we just live in and with trash. It is as simple as that!

  • Concerned Citizen

    So, the object is to take refuse and not do anything with it, other than to clutter up the sky? Couldn’t all that stuff be put to good use elsewhere?

  • rec

    It’s like if you know that garbage exists in the world and try to justify an ugly model non-effective “trash can”, when better solutions existed before. The answer to the garbage problem does not justify a false response. The answer to pollution is not this project. This project was obviously created from the personal aesthetics of creator.

  • Jacana

    What nonsense!

  • I can’t quite understand the vitriolic reply a project like this has received.

    Within the last century many paper architects with only a fraction of the enquiry devoted to this project have exerted a global influence on the development of architecture. Archigram, Peter Cook, Corbusier, Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman, Lebbeus Woods; all of these names were to some extent paper architects and all of which have had a heavy influence on the development of architectural culture and discourse.

    I can’t help but think that a large part of this petty uproar is over the intimidation over the aesthetic complexity of the project, this reeks of the child that desperately tries to find a petty error in the work of a philosopher in order to somehow feel superior.

    This project is outstanding not only because its graphic flair but also its depth of study and research. I will admit that some of the London schools can sometimes be accused of fostering style over substance, many of the other schools around the country produce often more pragmatic grounded projects, they will very often lack the feverish curiousity and graphic capability to produce much of worth.

    Architecture is as much an aesthetics as it is about pragmatics. Do not forget that aesthetics was originally an ethical category.

  • g.o.b.

    This project was stolen from Francois Roche.

  • Justin

    Just like with Kristian above, I would also like to point out how absurd the responses are about this article.

    Admittedly the cost of such an architectural design would most certainly need a vast amount of money in order to have it built. But then, we could be able to justify the cost of the structure, just by seeing the potential benefits it could have in the long run.

    Once built, it would not require much to continue its upkeep, while at the same time, it could already be put to work in paying off its construction fees. Not only could it help reduce the growing problem of pollution currently plaguing London, but it could act as a symbol or hope for the future – this building could potentially spark an eco-friendly movement all around the world.

    I am also of the opinion that it is the very magnitude of this design that highlights the intellectual creativity of its inventors. This is quite frankly, a gargantuan turning point that would shift the way we view pollution, not as garbage to be disposed of, but energy to be recycled (as mentioned in the article).

    People’s judicious lambasting of the designers for being “nonsensical” and “over-the-top” strikes me as being severely unfounded, simply because many famous inventors also went through the same ordeal. A quote by John Sladek aptly describes this very reaction: “People have laughed at all great inventors and discoverers.”

    An example of such an event would be the public’s rejection of the airplane. Today, the notion of the airplane ceasing to exist sounds positively absurd to us, we see it everywhere, and it has considerably lessened the burdens of international flight, by providing a quick, easy transportation system.

    But back then people couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept and promptly regarded the airplane as an impossibility; with others even going so far as to say that even if the invention would succeed, its capabilities would be utterly useless.

    From here we can see that people shouldn’t be so quick to judge something they don’t understand. I mean take the time to imagine what would’ve happened if the Wright brothers had been discouraged from pursuing their ideals and consequently failed to invent the airplane.

    I’ll let you stew on that, and finally close this extremely long rant by congratulating the designers for trying to break through people’s preconceived notions.

    Keep up the good work, guys! :)

  • Gary Walmsley

    It looks like a runaway fungus. But to a simple practical point, it’s ridiculous. Does this kid think that at such heights all those loose and dangling sacs and tubes aren’t going to take a tremendous buffeting by the wind sheer, with bits tearing and flying off?

    It is one thing to encourage students to think in new directions, it’s another to allow them to just go wild in their 3D rendering programs, ignoring very basic practical realities.

    Bad enough that the student got lost in his own elaborate rendering, which are technically impressive, but worse is that his instructors were so taken with Chang-Yeob Lee’s technical prowess that they didn’t call him on the practical shortcomings of his concept.

  • zjs

    Wo shi zhongguo ren.