Carlo Ratti designs mile-high observation tower with a park on top

Italian architect Carlo Ratti has unveiled plans to build a mile-high observation tower, envisioned as a vertical alternative to New York's Central Park.

Measuring 1,609 metres high, the tower would be almost double the height of the world's tallest building – the 828-metre-high Burj Khalifa. It would be covered in plants, and would feature a vertiginous viewing platform.

"Imagine you take New York's Central Park, turn it vertical, roll it and twirl it," said Carlo Ratti.

The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti

Carlo Ratti Associati worked with German engineer Schlaich Bergermann Partner and British design studio Atmos on the proposal, which was commissioned by an undisclosed client.

It is not planned for any particular location, although the team are in talks with officials from numerous cities interested in building it, according to a spokesman for Ratti's studio.

"We developed the concept initially for a client, but in this moment it's not specific for any city," he told Dezeen.

Named The Mile, the tower could become the world's tallest manmade construction. Visitors would ascend to the top via a series of glazed capsules that would spiral up around the 20-metre-wide central shaft.

The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti

A park would be located at the top, but the team also said that plants will cover the structure "from base to apex". The intention is to provide an ecosystem for hundreds of different species.

To achieve the record-breaking height, the tower is designed as lightweight structure supported by a network of pre-stressed cables – the result of a complex engineering study.

According to Schlaich Bergermann Partner associate Boris Reyher, the aim is to push the boundaries of what is possible and create a milestone in architectural history.

"The structural concept for The Mile is technically feasible because of its consequent and uncompromised lightweight approach, said Reyher.

"The architectural form and the spatial equilibrium of forces become one and the same thing," he explained. "On the one hand, this leads to an optimised usage of high-grade materials. On the other hand, the structural form and load paths become intuitively comprehensible by every spectator."

The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti

The Mile is the latest in a series of boundary-pushing projects by Ratti, who is also director of MIT's Senseable City Lab, set up to investigate the urban impact of digital technologies.

The architect has also developed a prototype for a supermarket of the future, and a motion-activated heating system designed to combat energy waste.

Ratti's studio will present The Mile at Cannes real-estate fair MIPIM next month, proposing a financial model based on those of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the London Eye. It anticipates "substantial profits" for the host city.

It is one of several recent proposals for towers of ground-breaking heights, following a vision for a mile-high skyscraper in Tokyo and a Dubai observation tower.

The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Central Park concept diagram – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Height comparison diagram – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Structural concept diagram – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Layout concept diagram – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Capsule and lift concept diagram – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Diagram showing the journey of visitors – click for larger image
The Mile observation tower by Carlo Ratti
Ecologies diagram – click for larger image