By SHELLIE KARABELL
From INSEAD Knowledge (http://knowledge.insead.edu)
For the past two years, David Fisher has made a name for himself by building towers in the sky. Literally. For, despite the earthly icons he's received for his architectural concept (Time Magazine Best Invention award in 2008), so far the 80-story, 1,300-foot Dynamic Tower exists solely in his lofty imagination. It's been there for a while.
"I guess it all started when I was five years old," says the 60-something Israeli-born Florence-based architect. "My mother used to take me to see the sunset every evening over the Mediterranean and I would sit there and have my dinner and watch the red sun going slowly into the water. This is when I started to think about movement -- one day is going away, another is coming -- and I started thinking about time. And I started thinking later, as an architect, that life changes, everything changes ... but buildings don't change; homes don't change."
Fisher graduated from the University of Florence in 1976, lectured there in architecture and structural engineering, restored monuments, designed buildings and ran a family company specializing in masonry and prefabricated construction materials before heading to New York in the early 1980s. One day in the Olympic Tower in midtown Manhattan, the idea for his Dynamic Tower really took shape.
"I was looking at the spectacular view of New York City and the apartment owner said to me, 'You can see both sides of Manhattan. No one else has such a view,' and my social beliefs came out and I thought everyone could have such a view if we rotated the building. But it wasn't until I got home to Florence and put it on a computer that I began to understand that if I were to rotate every floor independently, that the building would actually change shape continuously."
Indeed, the tower in animation looks like a 3-D barber's pole, undulating nonstop from the ground into the clouds. The floors rotate around a center core, covering a vertical distance of around six kilometers a day -- or up to some 2,000 kilometers per year. Technically, the activation and speed of each floor can be controlled by the apartment owner through a voice-activated password. Or, in the case of more than one unit per floor, by the architect or building manager.
And that opens up a whole can of aesthetic worms: who controls the shape of the building as it sits in the real world? Is this a zoning matter? A city planning agenda item? A political pickle? An exercise in democracy?
"The building will be shaped by life and designed by time," says Fisher. "It's everybody who will be able to shape the building. An architect 300 years from now will be able to reshape it the way he wants it."