The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat held its 11th annual awards symposium Thursday, bestowing architect Helmut Jahn and structural engineers Charles Thornton and Richard Tomasetti with lifetime achievement recognition and awarding Doha Tower the title of 2012’s Best Tall Building.
Ateliers Jean Novel’s cylindrical landmark for the burgeoning Qatar capital is the first tall building to use a diagonal grid of reinforced concrete columns in a cross shape. This innovation leaves open the central core, creating a stunning space at the tip of the tower that makes perhaps the best use of the building’s intricately detailed facade.
In the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Hermann Hall, CTBUH also awarded one building in each of four geographical regions with Best Tall Building awards, with each recipient presenting their work.
The Absolute World Towers in Mississauga, Ontario took home the Americas award. Architect Ma Yansong remarked that high-rises increasingly resemble machines, but his work aims to make tall buildings more human.
SOM’s Al Hamra Firdous Tower in Kuwait City and Progetto CMR’s Complesso Garibaldi Tower 2 in Milan received honors as featured finalists.
Jahn, whose 40-year portfolio of built work includes the Sony Center in Berlin, Liberty Place in Philadelphia and the MGM Veer Towers in Las Vegas, said some architects forget that very tall buildings have a responsibility to reflect the character and spirit of the cities whose skylines they alter. During the question portion of the morning presentations, he also lamented the loss of architects “who would just throw their drawings at the client,” calling for less “pussyfooting” and more boldness in design today.
In another crowd-pleasing moment, Charlie Thornton said engineering is essentially simple when it is not obfuscated by self-important professors. “We need to get rid of calculus teachers,” he said. “They are destroying future engineers.”
“I’m not very popular with engineering schools,” he added. Thornton’s name has become practically synonymous, as has his partner Richard Tomasetti’s, with tall building engineering. Before the days of BIM and Catia, Thornton said, he would calculate building stresses on yellow legal pads during long flights. $5 million of computer calculations later, he said, his longhand calculations would be within 10 percent.