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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It’s time to go north of the border as The Architect’s Newspaper checks out some of the highest-profile projects that have been announced across Canada this year. A strong economy has driven construction across the country, and Toronto, in particular, has an abundance of notable buildings breaking ground. From subdued civic structures to prismatic rental towers, 2018 has brought a surfeit of high-profile projects to America’s northern neighbor. One Delisle Studio Gang Toronto, Ontario Studio Gang could end up making a major mark on Toronto’s skyline with its first Canadian project, a 48-story multifaceted tower. The rental building has been designed with 16 sides made up of overlapping eight-story hexagonal modules, and each segment will contain enclosed balconies and be topped with garden terraces for residents. The overlap of the modules resembles scales or the natural spiraling of growing plants, and the effect creates a different view of the tower depending on the angle of approach. An existing 1929 Art Deco facade will be moved over to the base of a neighboring tower, and the base of One Delisle will relate to the historic facade to maintain a cogent street wall. Toronto Courthouse Renzo Piano Building Workshop and NORR Architects & Engineers Toronto, Ontario Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)’s first project in Canada will consolidate many of Toronto’s smaller courts into a centrally-located municipal building next to the city’s Superior Court of Justice. The building is reminiscent of Piano’s work on the Jerome L. Greene Science Center for Columbia University, both in its boxy massing and in its open ground level, created by raising the base of the building several stories. Despite the courthouse’s wide-open atrium space, the building has been designed with security in mind, and cameras, baggage checkpoints, and internal security corridors will be deployed throughout. The first museum in Ontario to focus on the history of the indigenous justice system will also be located inside. Construction is on track to finish in 2022. The HUB/30 Bay Street Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) Toronto, Ontario The recently-revealed design for The HUB, a 1.4 million-square-foot tower proposed for Toronto’s South Core neighborhood, is the result of an international design competition for a building that would have a major impact on Toronto’s skyline. The HUB will float over the adjacent Toronto Harbour Commission Building courtesy of a cantilevering base, and create what Senior Partner Graham Stirk describes as 'a harmony' between the two buildings. The use of external structural steel lends the tower a more industrial feeling, and RSHP is promising that the tower will contain column-free office space and a multi-story atrium as a result. Toronto’s Spadina Line expansion stations The Spadina Group Associates and All Design Toronto, Ontario Construction in Toronto is not limited to new towers. Humbler additions to public infrastructure have also been taking shape. Toronto’s largest subway extension in decades opened late last year with six new stations, including two colorful facilities from the late Will Alsop’s All Design. The boxy, zebra-striped second story of the Finch West Station cantilevers over the building's main entrance and is capped with an enormous red window at one end. A concrete 'skirt' floats around the station’s base and offers shelter to riders who are waiting for a bus outside. Inside, Alsop uses touches of color to lighten up the polished concrete interiors. For Pioneer Village, Alsop wrapped the cantilevering station in Corten steel. This station is much rounder than Finch West and uses a red band around the base of the building’s front to direct riders to the main entrance. A geometric canopy rises from the station’s back and creates a covered waiting area for the two regional bus lines that service the station. The same polished concrete seen at Finch West was used inside. Barclay Village Büro Ole Scheeren Vancouver, British Columbia Vancouver has also seen significant growth recently, including the Shigeru Ban-designed hybrid timber tower. Ole Scheeren’s recently-revealed twin towers sit in Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, and according to Scheeren, they use balconies, setbacks, and offsets to create a more welcoming face in contrast to the typical monolithic glass tower typology. All of the terraces are planted, and a rooftop plaza sits on top of the base that links the two towers. Scheeren claims that the driving concept for Barclay Village was to elevate the concept of the village skyward to match Vancouver’s overall verticality. The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre (IAC) Michael Maltzan Architecture Winnipeg, Manitoba This curvilinear four-story museum from Michael Maltzan broke ground in Winnipeg last month, and when complete in 2020, the building will become the largest Inuit art gallery in the world. A double-height glazed atrium at the museum’s base will be anchored by a central 'vault' protected by curved glass, and visitors can freely examine Inuit artifacts as they walk around the ground level. An 8,500-square-foot gallery on the third floor will display Inuit art. The sculptural facade of the building’s stone portion was reportedly inspired by the “immense, geographical features that form the background of many Inuit towns and inlets.” The IAC is an extension of the neighboring Winnipeg Art Gallery, and every floor with connect with the original building.
If you took Herzog & de Meuron's so-called "Jenga Tower" in New York City and combined it with NBBJ's so-called "Jenga Tower" in Cleveland, you would have something resembling Büro Ole Scheeren's proposed residential tower in Vancouver, which, sure, kind of looks like a game of Jenga. The firm's first North America project would land at 1500 West Georgia Street in Downtown Vancouver and rise 48 stories. The tower, with its cantilevering volumes, is intended to break up the monotony of the city's glassy skyline which the firm summed up as "extrusions of generic towers that don’t engage their environment and create isolation rather than connection." To change that, the tower has a unique massing that is supposedly intended to free up space at the street level for things like a public plaza and an "amplified reinterpretation" of the site's existing water feature. Unspecified "renewable energy sources" stuck into the building's crown would provide 100 percent of the power for these public amenities, helping the building hit its LEED Platinum target. The project is still in its early days as Ole Scheeren and Francl Architecture have only recently sent a letter of inquiry to the city about the redevelopment, which is being developed by Bosa Properties. [h/t Dezeen]
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.”