Bangkok, Thailand, has added a sculptural topper to its skyline with the completion of the MahaNakhon (which means “great metropolis” in Thai), the tallest building in Thailand. The local branch of international studio Büro Ole Scheeren designed the 1,030-foot-tall tower, a glassy spire with a distinctive “dissolving” cutaway that spirals up along the length of the building. With the completion of a glass-bottomed observation deck at the very top of MahaNakhon on November 26, the 77-story tower is now officially open to the public. “The idea behind MahaNakhon was to take the life of the city and bring it up the tower in a dramatic, spiraling movement,” said Ole Scheeren, principal of Büro Ole Scheeren. “Even the very top of the tower is surrendered to the public, so there is not only a public square at the ground, but human activity rises along the pixelated shaft to the top floors of the building which are given back to the public domain. It is a project that is strongly embedded in the city and the public realm, and expressively proclaims itself as an active part of it.” The distinctive cut that snakes around the building gives it an unfinished appearance from a distance, but reveals planted terraces, balconies, and cantilevering living rooms when viewed in detail. Scheeren has described the gesture as an “erosion” of the typical rectangular form that’s meant to blur the boundaries between the interior spaces and Thailand’s tropical climate. The 1.6-million-square-foot MahaNakhon features a bit of everything in its programming, including 200 high-end condo units, 150 hotel rooms, cafes, restaurants, and retail space located at the landscaped MahaNakhon Square at the tower’s base. The crown jewel of the glass-clad building is the “Skytray,” a 15-foot-by-57-foot glass observation deck more than 1,000 feet off the ground. Visitors will be able to check out the entirety of Bangkok (and beyond) thanks to the tower’s unobstructed height. Towers with “pixelated” cutaways have been gaining in popularity in the last few years, and the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in particular has continued to experiment with the form. MahaNakhon may have beat BIG’s Spiral to the party though, as the Thai tower was originally commissioned in 2008.
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Architect Duangrit Bunnag, principal of DBALP Consortium, has been accused of plagiarizing the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for his competition-winning design for an airport terminal in Bangkok, Thailand. DBALP Consortium was declared the winner of an international competition to design Suvarnabhumi Airport Terminal 2 last week, following the disqualification of the original winner, SA Group, for failing to submit required bidding documents. Shortly after the announcement, social media commenters began noting striking similarities between DBALP’s proposal and Kengo Kuma’s Wooden Bridge Museum in Yusuhara, Japan, both of which feature tree-like canopies of stacked timber. Others argued that this style of wooden structure was not originated by Kuma but instead derives from traditional Asian building techniques, citing architect He Jingtang’s China Pavilion, built in 2010, and architect Tadao Ando’s Japan Pavilion, built in 1992, as examples of similar constructions. In an interview with The Standard, Bunnag flatly denied the accusations, maintaining that his design was inspired by the forests of Thailand. "I didn't copy anyone else's work. Those who follow my work will know that I created a similar image in my previous designs, such as for a hotel in Sri Lanka," he said. The Architect Council of Thailand (ACT) has advised those affected by the alleged plagiarism to file a complaint with their office, which will trigger an official investigation into the matter. "If this case is proven to be plagiarism, the architect's license will be suspended, while his winning design will be declared invalid," said Thanit Kittiampon, ACT president, at a press conference. Kengo Kuma has not yet commented on the claims that his work was copied. If DBALP’s proposal goes uncontested, the construction of the 348,000-square-meter terminal will begin in 2019 and is scheduled to be completed within 30 months. It is estimated that more than 30 million passengers will arrive and depart below its undulant timber ceilings annually.
The facade and roof serve as a the graphic identity for the 20,000 sq. ft. building while acting as a veil which reveals and conceals views.The Groove provides an extension to CentralWorld, the third largest mall in the world. At 6,000,000 sq. ft., the mall is comprised of three towers: an office tower, a lifestyle tower (including a gym, dentist and doctors offices, schools, etc.), and a hotel tower. The main shopping center includes four department stores and a convention center. Sited at an existing entry plaza to the office tower, which feeds an underground parking garage, the project came to Synthesis’ office with several structural design constraints. The weight of the addition was limited, causing the design team to incorporate a specific steel frame with a grid coordinated to the bay spacing of the parking garage immediately below grade. Alvin Huang, Founder and Design Principal of Synthesis Design, says this helped save time at the start of the design process. At 20,000 sq. ft., the project, jokes Huang, is “the punctuation on the paragraph.” The design team approached the project with a concept aimed at providing an intermediary space – an “intimate atmosphere” – within Bangkok’s predominant shopping district. Their strategy was to depart from a traditional single monolithic building (more of the same), developing instead an indoor/outdoor atrium space to link a series of buildings inspired by the Bangkok "soi" (Thai for side-streets) for their comfortable café-like pedestrian atmosphere. The building envelope of the Groove peels open to organically reveal openings rather than incorporating typical punched openings. An aluminum composite panel rainscreen system incorporates gradient patterning and integrated lighting to produce an exterior that is “intense, active, and slick” according to Huang. “The skin replicates the intensity of a specular effect of continually pulsating lights along Ponchet Road.” A warm interior spills out to the exterior via CNC-milled timber soffits, whose geometry peels outward, overlapping openings as a sort of exaggerated detailing found in an airplane window trim. The rainscreen panels were CNC milled by a local fabricator who utilized geometry from Huang’s office to produce a custom perforation pattern. “We didn’t want the architecture and the identity to be two different things,” says Huang. “The signage appears and disappears – a gradient that pulses and draws your eye toward openings.” Huang says as an office, Synthesis is generally interested in the relationship between the digital and the hand made. “We are highly digital in our design process. but in Thailand, most construction components are hand made and ultimately assembled by a labor force of limited experience, requiring simplification, not complexity.” Synthesis’ design office focuses on "digital craft" with a body of work that is driven by the relationship between fabrication and the act of making as part of the design process, says Huang. “What we are not interested in is designing, and then figuring out how you are going to make it.” The Groove is one of 37 projects currently nominated for "Building of the Year 2015," a poll open to the public through the end of January, 2016.
This Fall, I served as special media correspondent for The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Ole Scheeren—founder Büro Ole Scheeren and former director at OMA. In light of Scheeren's recent work on The Interlace in Singapore and Bangkok's MahaNakhon, we talked about exploring the power of public space and shared experiences in tall buildings. “The city is about sharing,” said Scheeren. “The city is not about individuality per se but it's about how individuals come together and the spaces they share. And in a way the adventure of that space.”
Bike On, NYC. This afternoon the mayor's office announced that the company Alta would run the city's new bike sharing program, which is set to begin next summer. In Manhattan south of 79th Street and in select neighborhoods in Brooklyn, 10,000 bicycles will be available for pick up at 600 stations. More details at The New York Times. Back to the future? Ford Motor Company has somehow navigated its way through the Great Recession by focusing on its core values and eliminating the fat. This gaunt American icon is now beefing up and hedging its bets on design of the new, "Evos" in an attempt to blow the DeLorean-esque doors off its profit margins. More at Motortrend. Bangkok Underwater. Thailand's capital city is slowly sinking, and may even be submerged as soon as 2030, unless drastic planning measures are taken, reports The Guardian.