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.”
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The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) last night named Atelier Jean Nouvel's One Central Park (OCP) in Sydney the year's best tall building. OCP turned the site of a former brewery into a residential high-rise lush with hydroponic hanging gardens and a massive mirror cantilevered over the building's courtyard that harvests sunlight for heat and lighting year-round. One Central Park, considered the world's tallest vertical garden, bested projects from SOM, OMA, and Cutler Anderson Architects for the award. Those buildings—a twisting tower in Dubai, a melded mass of high-rises, and a midcentury office tower reborn as a green icon—each won regional awards from CTBUH. But One Central Park's use of greenery by botantist and green wall guru Patrick Blanc won the day. “Seeing this project for the first time stopped me dead,” said juror and CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood. “There have been major advances in the incorporation of greenery in high-rise buildings over the past few years—but nothing on the scale of this building has been attempted or achieved.” Accepting the award in Chicago on behalf of his firm, Atliers Jean Nouvel Partner Bertram Beissel said the project increases the visibility of sustainable design. "If we do all these sustainable things and no one can see them, do they really exist?" Beissel said. "The choices we make for a sustainable future cannot be made in the future. They must be made today.” Read more about the building on CTBUH's website. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition.
In September, The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for their Shanghai symposium, entitled “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism.” I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. The first supercut of those interviews is available here, in which six people answer the question, “How can cities adapt the forms of tall building design to avoid homogeneous skylines?” The respondents are: Mounib Hammoud, Jeddah Economic Company; Zhaohui Jia, Greenland Group; Peter Kok, Shum Yip Land; Stefan Krummeck, TFP Farrells; James Robinson, Hongkong Land; and Junjie Zhang, ECADI. Read more about the conference here and at CTBUH's website.
In September the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) gathered high-minded designers, developers and engineers for a conference in Shanghai. CTBUH, which often partners with AN on conferences, including our own Facades+ events, invited me to serve as a special media correspondent for the conference, held September 16–19. I spent most of the time conducting video interviews with the symposium guests, which we'll post here on the AN blog as they become available. For now, here' a quick overview of the topics discussed. The theme of this year's conference was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism.” It was an especially relevant topic given the venue—held in the elegant, SOM-designed Jin Mao Tower, the conference looked for lessons (and warnings) in the kind of supertall, super-dense development that turned the Lujiazui area of Shanghai's Pudong district from farmland into a world financial center in just 20 years. Symposium presenters tackled sustainability from several angles. Matthew Clifford, head of energy and sustainability services for North Asia at JLL, stressed building operation and management is as important as design when it comes to energy use and building performance. Cathy Yang, manager of Taipei 101, recounted how “greening” the 101-story building did not turn a profit until the initiative's sixth year, but then made up for it in just three years. The Taiwanese supertall remains the largest LEED Platinum–certified building in the world. Jianping Gu of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development espoused the benefits of the “stereoscopic” form of his building, which at 2,073 feet is set to become the tallest building in China upon completion next year. “If you compare Shanghai Tower to Taipei 101, Petronas Towers, those were all isolated," Gu said. "There were already two towers in the vicinity when we started. We had to pay particular attention to harmonizing with those buildings. We consider this an issue of sustainability.” But towering, monumental architecture may not be for everyone. David Gianotten, an OMA partner heading the firm's Hong Kong office, told me OMA gets so many briefs seeking “iconic” design that the word has begun to lose its meaning. “If everything's special, then nothing's special,” he said. That debate continued onto the conference floor, where developers discussed how China's third- and fourth-tier cities should embrace the tall building boom—or whether they should at all. On the conference's final day, Mun Summ Wong of Singapore-based WOHA talked about the psychological environment of horizontal cities, and how tall buildings should better embrace the human scale. “The idea is to inject more urban life into the high-rise city,” Wong said. “We introduce horizontal movement in the high-rise building because it changes the dynamic. When you talk to the people next to you in an ordinary high-rise, it is considered rude. But in the street, you talk to people, build relationships and bonds.” Similarly, Yang Wu of the Bund Finance Center warned of the risks of homogeneous skylines. “When I open my eyes in the morning and I am in Shenzhen, I still think I am in Shanghai because they look the same,” he said. “[China is] duplicating buildings and the mistakes of the West. There is focus on building bizarre and tall buildings but ignorance of the connotations–resulting in cold buildings for cold cities. As a developer, I call on architects: you need to have your own independent ideas that bring vitality.” You can read more about the conference on CTBUH's website. Check back here as we post video interviews.
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. See AN's past coverage for more on all the award-winners. 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.