Aside from the events that take place as part of the Olympics, it seems the competition is also on for each Games to become “greener” than those that have gone before. This year’s Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver boasted a variety of green initiatives, including Canada's biggest "living roof." London looks set to outdo Vancouver in 2012, but Rio is looking to up the ante again and be the first zero-carbon footprint games when it hosts the Summer Olympics in 2016. To help the city achieve this goal Swiss-based RAFAA Architecture and Design has proposed a Solar City Tower which features an eye-catching energy-generating waterfall.

The Solar City Tower is RAFAA’s entry in the International Architecture Competition for the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The tower is adorned with solar panels that produce energy for the Olympic village by day, with surplus energy used to pump seawater into a tower. Then the water can be released to drive turbines and generate electricity at night. On special occasions the water can also be pumped over the edges of the building to create what the architects call an “urban waterfall”. This would be a symbol of the forces of nature, while at the same time acting as “the representation of a collective awareness of the city towards its great surrounding landscape”.

Access to the building is via an urban plaza located 60 meters above sea level, which can serve as a place for social gatherings and events, while a cafeteria and shop are situated beneath the waterfall (presumably under cover). A public elevator takes visitors to the observation decks on level 98 and the urban balcony situated at the top of the tower, 105 meters above sea level. Here visitors have a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape and can walk over the waterfall on a glass skywalk platform. There would also be a retractable platform for bungee jumping on level 90.5.

RAFAA propose locating the Solar City Tower on the Cotunduba Island that sits at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. There it would act as an instantly recognizable landmark for visitors arriving in Rio by air or sea.

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