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.
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High-performance concrete creates new possibilities for a community college facade.A new generation of concrete, called Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC), is changing the way architects and designers think about the material. Usually composed of cement, fine grain sand, silica fume, optimized admixture, and alkali-resistant glass fiber reinforcement, UHPC offers high ductility, strength, and durability with a fine surface appearance. A new UHPC product called TAKTL, launched last year, shows the many additional applications that are possible with the right material mix, including facade panels available through its sister company VECTR. Recently chosen by Milan-based Wilson Savastano Venezia Architecture Studio for its Dukhan Community College (DCC) project in Qatar, the company is in the research and development phase for perforated and solid panels to clad the school’s sculptural facade. In addition to shading an inner layer of solar glass, the 90,000-square-foot facade will provide dissipative cooling for the DCC’s classrooms, accommodating 1,500 pupils and 250 staff. TAKTL is working with both the architect and substructure engineer Guido Berger to develop the modules. Though their opacity will vary—the building design calls for solid forms at the top of the structure and perforated pieces for occupied floors—each panel will be ¾ inches thick and cast to fit the sculptured facade. The panels require no post-processing, no coating, and no cutting, resulting in minimal waste during production. The company’s manufacturing process is also modular and mobile. For the DCC project, they will establish a facility in the region where the panels will be cast using concrete components sourced from within a 200-mile radius. The same setup can be arranged almost anywhere in the world. “There aren’t any magic ingredients,” said Dee Briggs, the design strategist for the Glenshaw, Pennsylvania-based company. “It’s the mix ratio and process that is proprietary.” TAKTL’s UHPC mix is distinguished by its high matrix density. Developed in partnership with German UHPC specialists, the company’s formula relies on an ideal particle size for each application to insure a densely packed concrete matrix, creating stronger chemical bonds and lower water absorption. The finished product, whether used in VECTR panels or other products from the company’s second sister company, SITU, has high compressive, tensile, and flexural strength. Unlike conventional precast concrete and Glass Fiber Reinforced Cement, the mix incorporates reinforcing fibers and mesh only as a backup strength component—they are not required to meet strength standards. Products can be cast in a variety of textures and colors, all of which resist water, salt, and other environmental corrosives. The material has also caught the attention of the architects at Snøhetta, who recently unveiled the design for Ryerson University Student Learning Center in Toronto. According to project lead Michael Cotton, VECTR panels are being considered for the large lobby (or entry “dome”) wall, which will be suspended from the ceiling and continue onto the building facade. While also considering architectural terracotta, the team is particularly interested in TAKTL’s ductility and finish options. “What we understand about TAKTL is that they can mold it into virtually any shape,” said Cotton. “We are going to need multiple modules; there could be ten facets to each module.” Snøhetta has also visited the company’s facility to discuss options for achieving the vivid, non-homogeneous reflective surface they envision for the Ryerson lobby wall.
BYO Cloud. Not since the Romans stretched the vela around the Coliseum has there been such a radical solution for stadium shading. Qatar plans to create man-made clouds ("a lightweight carbon structure carrying a giant envelope of material containing helium gas") to float over the stadium where the World Cup will be held in the summer of 2022. More details in The Daily Mail. Fatal attraction? Why do we live in dangerous places? Scientific American investigates their allure and the ecological consequences--good and bad--for both plant and animal life. ESI 2 DC. The Washington Post reports that President Obama has tapped New York's own Edwin Schlossberg, founder of the interactive design firm ESI, to serve on a federal panel that helps oversee the architecture and design of the nation's capital. (Schlossberg is the more designer-y half of Caroline Kennedy and also one of the founders of the not-for-profit desigNYC.) More rigor, less speed. At Slate, Witold Rybczynski makes the case for slow architecture: "No wonder that Renaissance architectural treatises often seem cerebral; architects spent a lot of time thinking before they started drawing."
Fresh from landing the commission for the Serpentine Gallery’s annual summer pavilion in London, French architect Jean Nouvel was in New York yesterday for the official unveiling of the new National Museum in Doha, Qatar. Designed as a ring of low-lying, interlocking pavilions encircling a large courtyard, the 430,000-square-foot structure is created from sand-colored disks that define floors, walls, and roofs, almost as if growing out of the desert landscape. The inspiration for this poetic construction was the desert rose, a formation of crystallized mineral petals found in the briny layers just beneath the desert surface. “It is a kind of architecture in itself already,” Nouvel told AN at the project launch at the Museum of Modern Art. “It surprises you, it is a mystery that nature can create such a thing--and I like architecture that is mysterious, that makes you wonder.” The bladelike petals became the starting point for a monumental building that unfolds “in a rhythm of asymmetry,” according to Nouvel. The disks are of varying curvature and diameter, made of steel and clad in glass fiber reinforced concrete panels. Columns concealed within the vertical disks carry the loads of the horizontal members, while glazed facades fill the voids between them. Built for the Qatar Museums Authority, the museum will address three major themes in its exhibits: the natural history of the Qatar peninsula, the country’s social and cultural history, and the history of Qatar as a nation. Within the 12 permanent gallery spaces, exhibits will feature architectural artifacts, jewelry, and costumes, as well as displays about the modern oil industry and the region’s rapid urbanization. The new pavilion, which Nouvel also described as a modern-day caravanserai, will adjoin the Amiri Palace, a historic structure that has served as a museum of heritage since 1975. A landscaped park that interprets the Qatari desert landscape will surround the ensemble. Groundbreaking is set for this spring, with completion scheduled for 2013. When AN asked which of his current projects has inspired him the most, Nouvel hesitated, saying he has many “babies in his belly.” However, the Qatar museum appeared to be the front-runner. “This project is very exciting, because it fits exactly here and now,” Nouvel said. “It’s ici, et maintenant.”