Where there are tall buildings there are also tall elevators. Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, will be the tallest building in the world if constructed as planned. The building is expected to stand 3,281 feet tall and will require elevators the likes of which the world has never seen. Luckily for the Kingdom Tower, one elevator company is researching the extremes of vertical circulation. The Finnish elevator company KONE has already begun construction of prototype elevators for the project, but these test lifts don't jut up into the sky. They drop deep beneath the earth’s surface. They company is currently testing and constructing their technologically advanced elevators in an abandoned 19th century mine shaft in South Finland. Since the site was chosen in 2008 as an ideal elevator testing ground, KONE has made progress in developing Ultrarope, a new piece of technology that will allow elevators to travel distances up to 1,000 meters: an unimaginable feat until now. Unlike most modern elevators which typically use steel cables, Ultrarope houses a carbon fiber core surrounded by a high-friction coat. The carbon fiber core is very light, reduces energy consumption noticeably, and decreases the weight of nearly all the major components operating the elevator. In addition to the markedly reduced energy consumption, this new cable material will last twice as long as regular steel lines and does not require frequent lubrication for maintenance. The Kingdom Tower will be filled with 65 elevators and escalators, each designed to maximize comfort and speed while also ensuring the safety of its occupants. KONE was previously tasked with designing the elevators for the third tallest building in the world, the Makkah Clock Royal Tower in Saudi Arabia.
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For many, architecture isn't the first thing that comes to mind when considering Nashville—it's called the Music City for a reason. But there is more to Nashville than country songs, barbecue ribs, and the eponymous show on ABC. In recent years, the city of 600,000 has become a regional leader in smart urban design and distinctive architecture. New riverfront parks are transforming Nashville's connection to the Cumberland River, bikeshare docks have appeared around downtown, bus rapid transit is in the works, and the city's tallest tower is set to rise. And that's just the start of it. Take a look at the city's dramatic transformation and a peek at where it's headed. Music City Center One of the most significant new works in Nashville is Music City Center—a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center, which the mayor’s office called “Nashville’s beacon of momentum.” The center is the work of tvsdesign, Moody Nolan, and Tuck Hilton Architects, and is as sprawling as it is striking. The structure is covered with an undulating roof that is meant to evoke the rolling hills of Tennessee. Below that curvy topper is a primarily glass facade and prominent, idiosyncratic, paneled forms that pull the building out of its own skin. The $585 million convention center also includes a public art collection and a 6,000-seat ballroom. “The defining character of Music City Center is how design—from large scale moves to the smallest detail—can tame an immense structure,” said tvsdesign in a statement. “The building communicates warmth, intimacy and an attention to detail that belies its 2 million square feet and reflects the distinct character of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.” Nashville Convention Center Redevelopment With the shiny new Music City Center open, Nashville’s existing convention center is no longer needed, so out with the old and in with the new. The city has proposed replacing the existing structure with a one-million-square-foot, mixed-use development. By the numbers, the project includes 840,000 square feet of office space, a 673-room Nashville Renaissance Hotel, 244,000 square feet of retail, and 50,000 square feet for the National Museum of African American Music. Gresham, Smith & Partners is designing the project, but, according to the mayor’s office, its “scope and design elements will be refined in 2014 through community input.” The latest renderings show a multi-story retail base with glass towers above. NACTO Street Design In June, the Tennessee Department of Transportation became the first southern state to endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ “Urban Street Design Guide,” which serves as a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets. This campaign was launched in October by then–New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan who was serving as NACTO’s president at the time. “The Tennessee DOT endorsement of the Urban Street Design Guide is part of an exciting movement among states,” said Linda Bailey, NACTO’s Executive Director, in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with Tennessee and other states to build economically vital, safe and inviting streets going forward.” What does this mean for Nashville, specifically? That’s hard to tell right now, but it underscores the state’s commitment to public transit and safe streets in a region known for its car culture. The AMP, Nashville's Proposed BRT In 2016, Nashville could have its very own, world-class bus rapid transit system that cuts through the city's urban core. Plans for the 7.1-mile system, known as the AMP, have been in the works for a few years and initially included dedicated center lanes and medians for quick boarding. As these things go, the project received some strong public backlash and was almost entirely derailed by a conservative state legislature, with a little help from the Koch Brothers. In March, the Tennessean reported that the billionaires' Americans for Prosperity group helped the state Senate pass a bill to block the $174 million project. But the AMP isn't dead just yet. The final design details of the project are currently being hammered out and construction could start as early as next year. While it’s not entirely clear what the AMP will look like, Ed Cole, the executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, is optimistic about this project and Nashville’s transit future overall. “The principles behind new urbanism are clearly part of our future here,” he said. 505 Church Street Adrian Smith—the man behind such projects as “the tallest building in the world”—has now designed what would be the tallest building in Tennessee. While not Burj Khalifa height, the tower proposed for 505 Church Street, which is designed by Smith’s firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, climbs its way up to 750 feet. Last August, AN reported on Smith and Gill’s plans for the site, which called for a mixed-use tower that gently bends and twists its way to LEED Platinum designation. That scheme has since been scrapped, but Smith and Gill have released an alternate design for a glassy, residential high-rise. Since a portion of the site was sold to the city for a parking garage, the firm created a more slender tower, which has balconies and horizontal louvers etched across its exterior. “The tower’s shape is based on a parallelogram which has been softened at the corners to maximize river views to the South and East,” said Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill in a statement. “The curved corners minimize the tower’s true East and West facades in an effort to reduce harsh East and West solar exposures.” The project’s developer, Tony Giarratana, told AN that the tower should get underway once the garage is completed some time next year. That puts 505 Church's opening somewhere around late 2018 or early 2019. Virgin Hotel While Sir Richard Branson is all about space travel these days, the knighted billionaire isn’t done with earth just yet. In April, Virgin Hotels announced plans to open its third outpost at One Music Row in Nashville in 2016. There are no renderings for the project just yet, but it is expected to include 240 rooms, a recording studio, and, according to a press release, “multiple concept suites, food and beverage outlets.” In a statement Branson said, “Nashville's time is now, and we want to be part of that excitement. We hope our first venture in Nashville will open the doors for more Virgin opportunities and more global travelers to enjoy Nashville's southern hospitality.” Nashville B-cyle Bikeshare In late 2012, Nashville fell to peer pressure and did what all the top cities are doing these days: It launched a bikeshare program. The 23-station system is known as B-cycle and, according to the program’s website, is an “absolutely stylin’ way to get around town.” Hear that? Absolutely stylin'. Peddle forth Nashvillians, peddle forth. Ryman Lofts In 2013, Nashville opened the colorful Ryman Lofts—the city’s first subsidized housing designed for working artists. According to the mayor’s office “the idea for Ryman Lofts grew from the Music City Music Council, which recognized that making quality affordable urban housing available to emerging artists can spur small business development, reduce transportation demands and help nurture the city’s creative workforce.” The project was designed by Smith Gee Studio, which bookended the primarily, brick-clad structure with bright, colorful panels that frame—and climb on top of—the main facade. Riverfront Amphitheater By this time next year, the good people of Nashville should have another venue to get their country music fix. Construction is currently underway on a 35,000-square-foot amphitheater right alongside the Cumberland River. The structure, and accompanying green space, is designed by Hawkins Partners with Hodgetts + Fung and Smith Gee Studio, and is intended to resemble the Cumberland's limestone cliffs. According to a press release from Mayor Karl Dean's office, "the amphitheater will accommodate up to 6,500 people with semi-fixed seating for 2,200, a 300-person greenway pavilion, and 4,000 lawn seats—all within a natural bowl providing optimal lines of sight to the stage and downtown." The amphitheater anchors the the new 12-acre West Riverfront Park, which replaces the city's old thermal transfer plant. The new space includes, greenways, gardens, a playground, and a dog park.
Climate change and extreme weather events have made resilience a watchword among AEC professionals. In this video from our partners at Enclos, filmed at facades+ NYC in April, Gordon Gill (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill), Edward Peck (Thornton Tomasetti), and James O'Callaghan (Eckersley O'Callaghan) talk about designing and engineering building skins to meet present and future environmental challenges. Resilience will take center stage at the facades+ Chicago conference July 24-25. Early Bird registration rates have been extended through Sunday, June 29. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.
Architect Gordon Gill has one simple rule for facade design: seek performance first, and beauty will follow. Gill, who will give the opening keynote address at next month’s facades+PERFORMANCE conference in New York, is a founding partner at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, a firm known for pushing the boundaries of what architecture is and does. Gill and his team start by “establishing a language of architecture that’s based in the performance of a building,” he said. “We’re trying to understand the role of the building in the environment it’s being built in, then shape the building in order to benefit it the best way. Once we take that approach, the facades play a pretty rich role in either absorbing or reflecting the environment.” Gill titled his keynote talk “Skin Deep” as a tongue-in-cheek reference to what facade design ought not to be. “A lot of times facades are treated that way, as just a wrapper to make the building look good, when in fact we find their roles to be much deeper,” said Gill. “The role of the facade is really an amazing opportunity to change perceptions of space, to change thermal compositions of space, to change experiences of space on either side of that fence.” Gill has plenty of experience designing high-performance facades for challenging climates, from the heat of Dubai to the cold of Kazakhstan, where, he said, the air was so frigid and dry that he saw ice on the floor of the car that picked him up from the airport. “It’s amazing the environments that we have decided to occupy, and in doing so then we turn to these envelopes to protect us, everything from our coat to our building,” he observed. Gill embraces technology as a means to the end of high performance. “I’m a big fan of trying to get the most out of everything, and the technology plays a pretty big role in that for me,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a whole host of factors, including massive wind loads, movements of buildings, safety and protection in something that’s one kilometer tall, you’ve stretched the boundaries of conventionalism, you’ve gone beyond the normal expectations of materials. So now it becomes this combination of things you have to do to solve the problems.” Balancing performance and sensitivity in a facade, said Gill, is “like conflict resolution at the threshold of the built environment”—and technology can be an important mediator. “I would just put out a little call to arms for everyone who’s out there in this business, because we do have a responsibility to improve the environments that we design and work in,” concluded Gill. “I think beauty [has] a pivotal role and [is] a quality we all want to pursue, however, it shouldn’t be at the cost of intelligence, performance, and all the other things that make our environments valuable to us. I look forward to seeing more of that in the architecture that’s being produced—from us, too.”
With Great Height Comes Greater Challenges: Questions Linger as Construction Begins on Massive Kingdom Tower
A kilometer is less than a mile but still more than a Burj Khalifa. This truism means that Kingdom Tower is still set to be the worlds tallest building now that construction has begun in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. Though the initial projected height of a mile has since been whittled down to a mere kilometer, problems continue to beset the oft-delayed $1.2 billion project. Investors have pinpointed April 27th as a suitable commencement date. UK companies EC Harris and Mace will be overseeing the realization of a design by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, no strangers to the obscenely tall tower scene. Having recently completed work on The Shard, Mace would have to stack Renzo Piano's design upon itself three times in order to approach the projected height of the Kingdom Tower. Shockingly, building things this tall comes with its fair share of hardships. A company called Advanced Construction Technology Services has been brought aboard in order to develop a method of pumping concrete that would meet the demands of the project. Elevators should prove problematic as well. The weight of a typical elevator cable cannot be supported beyond 2,000 feet. Once this first of its kind elevator is created, its not clear how human passengers will respond to the unprecedented lengths of its journeys. In a recent story in Bloomberg, Gill conceded that it remains unclear how the inner ear would respond to the rapid changes in height it would undergo while traversing the Tower by lift. Potential stumbling blocks do not reside exclusively in the sky, but can be found beneath the ground as well. The structure's foundation will extend deep enough into the ground that it will meet the salty waters of the nearby Red Sea, meaning materials capable of surviving the encounter must be found. Economically the project rests squarely upon the shoulders of $20–30 billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal, nephew to the country's King Abdulah and chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company.
Members of the Arts Student League of New York voted to allow Extell to cantilever their super-tall skyscraper (pictured left) over their landmarked building. In return for the air rights, the league will receive $31.8 million, which it plans to use to upgrade its current facilities. According to the New York Observer, “Extell imposed a hard deadline, telling the League that if the deal was not approved by Wednesday, it would walk away and build without the cantilever.” This overwhelming vote paves the way for construction to begin on the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill-designed tower.
Perkins + Will’s beveled, glassy facade looks likely to replace to a modernist icon whose long battle for preservation ended earlier this year. Last month Northwestern Memorial Hospital released three finalist designs for its new biomedical research center, the successor to Bertrand Goldberg’s partially demolished Old Prentice Women's Hospital. Northwestern spokesperson Alan Cubbage told the Tribune, “the combination of the elegant design and the functionality of the floor plans were key.” Construction on the $370 million project could start as soon as 2015, finishing by late 2018 or early 2019. Eventually reaching 1.2 million square feet, the medical research facilities would be built over two phases of construction, culminating in a 45-story tower. The cost of phase two has not been determined and would be in addition to the $370 million first phase. Community group Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) last month laid out their hopes for a more "iconic" building than those proposed in an open letter to those involved with the project. The other finalists were Goettsch Partners, working with Philadelphia-based Ballinger; and Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill Architecture, working with Boston’s Payette Architects.
An update to our story from yesterday: Northwestern University released many more images from the three candidates vying to build a successor to the site previously occupied by Bertrand Goldberg’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The new images include floor plans, interior renderings, and additional elevations of the three buildings. The three finalists whose designs now go to the Northwestern board of trustees for a decision are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Payette; and Perkins+Will. Construction is expected to start in 2015, with the approximately 1.2 million square feet phased in over time. Prentice Women's Hospital, the building previously occupying 333 E. Superior St., was the subject of a heated and ultimately doomed preservation effort. Demolition on the distinctive cloverleaf structure began in October. Peruse the full galleries here: Goettsch/Ballinger; AS+GG/Payette; Perkins+Will.
Northwestern University released images of the building that could replace old Prentice Women's Hospital Thursday. The three finalists vying to design a successor to Bertrand Goldberg's curvilinear icon are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill and Payette; and Perkins & Will. After a long and high-profile struggle to save Prentice, preservationists were discouraged by what they saw as a raw deal. A short documentary released in October is the latest in a series of post-mortems on that contentious process. Northwestern plans to begin construction on the Feinberg School of Medicine Medical Research Center at 333 E. Superior St. in 2015. The University’s board of trustees will pick the final design. Review the submissions here:
A new condo tower designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill was announced late last year, but details of the super-tall tower have been scant. The 88-story tower at 215 West 57th Street will be one of New York City's tallest buildings, reaching up to 1,550 feet. That means it will top the Empire State Building's measly 1,454 feet and come in second only to the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center. (If you're paying attention to the spire / antenna semantics game ongoing at One World Trade, AS+GG's new tower would beat its midtown rival by a little over 200 feet.) Adrian Smith is no stranger to designing soaring skyscrapers—he designed Dubai's Burj Khalifa while working at SOM, still the tallest tower in the world. The architects declined to comment further about the tower.
Perkins + Will, Goettsch Partners, and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill will compete to design a successor to Bertrand Goldberg’s celebrated Prentice Women’s Hospital, which Northwestern University will soon demolish. Booth Hansen will serve as the local architect of record. Northwestern, whose politically expedited approval from the Landmarks commission angered preservationists, selected the three firms from a larger pool based on their responses to a Request for Qualifications. The winning firm will be chosen by December, according to their written timeline, but no construction work is planned until March 2017, according to Curbed. Goettsch also designed Northwestern’s lake front Bienen School of Music, which is currently under construction.
Extell Development made waves as when they announced their 1,004-foot-tall skyscraper One57 by Christian de Portzamparc on Midtown Manhattan's 57th Street (which made headlines most recently for crane troubles during Hurricane Sandy), but their next project a few blocks down the street looks to climb even higher. Developers announced in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture will design an 88-story, 1,550-foot-tall tower on West 57th Street just east of Broadway, an area quickly becoming known for skinny skyscraper proposals. Adrian Smith, a former design principal at SOM's Chicago office, and Gordon Gill, a former design associate at SOM, are two of the leading authorities on supertall buildings, while at SOM and at their own practice. While at SOM, Smith was the designer of the world's current tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. In more recent years, AS+GG has retrofitted Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), designed the Quintai International Tower in China, the Dancing Dragons towers for Seoul, Korea's Yongsan Business District and the Federation of Korean Industries Tower, and taken on what could be the world's next tallest tower, the kilometer-high Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. AS+GG's new tower for Extell, their first in Manhattan, will stand 300 feet above the Empire State Building and taller than the World Trade Center excluding its antenna. It will house the city's first Nordstrom department store with a hotel and residences above. The architects were selected from a pool of top name architects including SHoP and Herzog & De Meuron, who both are already working on towers in New York City. Extell president Gary Barnett told the Journal that Seattle-based Nordstroms actually recommended AS+GG for the job. No groundbreaking has been set and financing must first be secured, but the tower could be complete as soon as 2018.