In the wake of a slew of criticisms on numerous glass skyscrapers' over-reflective properties, some architects and critics are asking if it's time to reassess our view on using glass facades in the future. Contemporary architecture today is at a crossroads: Do we continue to enamor the structures that reach up into the sky in a display of corporate might with reflective sheaths of glass? Take advantage of the new technology that is allowing the sun to power these buildings? Or do we take a step back and re-evaluate our position on the all-glass facade altogether? Fred A. Bernstein of the Architectural Record laments that today the "relentless repetition of glass facades leads to a numbing sameness." "Is that a building?" said a designer to Bernstein , "I thought it was a pavilion for a plexiglass convention." It's no surprise that the person, who was passing by Fumihiko Maki's creation at 51 Astor Place, feels disillusioned. At one end of the spectrum, you have cities like Bath in England where such glass behemoths are nowhere to be found. You are surrounded by the Georgian works of John Palmer, who's Lansdown Crescent, despite its scale, is not overwhelming. At the other end, you have cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, which are filled with an unprecedented amount of glass high-rise structures, their facades lost in the sky with light bouncing off one another. Where then, do we draw the line? With modern skyscrapers being the architectural product of an ever changing, neo-liberalist, globalization obsessed corporate society, such a line may even be impossible to draw. The case for glass—to pardon the pun—is clear. For companies, having floor to ceiling windows helps break down the stratified hierarchy that was once commonplace in such office buildings by giving all employees, not just the boss, a panoramic view. When used effectively, an elegant glass facade can convey honesty and open-mindedness and even perhaps financial transparency. This may be why the style is so popular amongst financial firms, despite the fact this isn't always the case. Developers are also under pressure to maximize space. Having a thin skin such as glass is an easy solution that enables the architect to sell the building's space as good value for money. Plus, the advancement of photovoltaic cells now means that they can be installed as windows, further advocating the facade style as an economically viable asset. PV company SolarWindow, which specializes in PV-based window solutions claims that when installed on four sides of a 50-story building, 1.3 gigawatt-hours of energy can be generated. Architect Ken Shuttleworth however, has different ideas. Despite being part of the team behind the glass clad Swiss Rae building in London, he has since done a U-turn by stating that he is "rethinking" everything he as done in the last 40 years. Shuttleworth's voice is echoed by many in what is an emerging discourse on the glass structures that run the risk of becoming the scourge of the skyline. "We need to be much more responsible in terms of the way we shade our buildings and the way we thermally think about our buildings," he told the BBC last year. The only thing that appears to be halting the perpetual rise of the glass facade in the United States is a shortage in the material. Failure of the market to produce however, has not stopped developers, who according to WSJ’s Robbie Whelan, have now delved into the glass manufacturing industry. Developer, Related Cos has even gone so far as to take production methods into its own hands—building its own glass factory to create the largest private development in American history. Bruce Beal Jr., Related’s president chose to embark on the endeavor for a handful of skyscrapers and apartments on Manhattan’s West Side as part of the Hudson Yards scheme. Across the Atlantic, the trade association "Glass for Europe" is understandably keen to dismiss the growing concern about the once ubiquitous glass facade and advocate the fact that glass is fully recyclable. Pressure from trade unions isn't enough it seems to sway architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff who, like Shuttleworth, isn't a fan of the glass skyscraper. Speaking to the BBC he said, "as someone who spends their entire life staring at buildings, I am a bit bored by the glass box. They were radical in the 1920s and now they are just cliches, expensive ones at that," he said. "Now we are having to be more thoughtful about how and where we use glass. Maybe architects will become more inventive in how they use windows, instead of plastering them across whole facades." Technological advancements may be the only way this question will truly be answered, but for now, money talks and that appears to be what governs the modern architectural style today.
Posts tagged with "skyscraper":
Daniel Libeskind is the latest high-profile architect to unveil a pyramid-shaped skyscraper, this time in Jerusalem
Jerusalem's municipal committee has approved the construction of The Pyramid, a 26 story building by starchitect Daniel Libeskind that will become the city's second tallest building. Libeskind worked alongside Israeli architect Yigal Levi in designing the 344-foot-tall luxury high-rise that is set to break ground by 2019. The structure will be built above the ruins of Israel's century-old Eden Theater and across from the famed Mahane Yehuda Market, also known as The Shuk. The Pyramid's facade, with its half-stone, half-glass tessellated panel and embedded Star of David, is placed atop colossal colonnades that connect shops located around a public plaza. The tapering characteristic of the Pyramid gravitate towards the sharp, open tip that will serve as both a roof-top observatory and a restaurant. Besides retail, the project features 200 apartments and a boutique hotel. "The Pyramid mediates between ancient traditions and myths, while providing a 21st century reinterpretation of that great form,” Libeskind said in a statement on his website. "The design complements the context and gives the neighborhood a vibrant public space in the heart of the ancient city." The project was proposed by Libeskind and Levi back in 2011 with a different design. The original included a curved, wave-shaped tower with Jerusalem-style gates. "We want to bring to the city center the revolution that Mamilla spurred in its area," Levi told Hareetz in a 2011 article, referring to the luxurious mall on the Alrov Mamilla Avenue strip. "There are a lot of new projects in the city center, but they don't create a meeting place where people can linger and meet." Jerusalem is currently in the midst of a transformation into an even more bustling business and tourism region with at least eight other high-rise projects proposed since 2011, spurring some architects, politicians, and urban planners to caution that so much development could damage the city's known historic heritage. Pyramidal shapes have been growing in popularity for high-rise design in recent years, with Bjarke Ingels' under construction Via "courtscraper" under construction in Manhattan and Herzog & de Meuron's pyramid tower in Paris moving forward.
Piggybacking off the axiom that sex sells and anything Beyoncé-related has the potential to break the Internet, Australian architecture firm Elenberg Fraser has nabbed planning approval for a “Beyoncé tower” inspired by the superstar’s hourglass form. The Premiere Tower in Melbourne features an undulating shape that swells in and out at various points – purportedly a concession to “structural efficiency” in response to climate, wind, and “the limitations of the site.” To develop the unique form, the architects used parametric modeling, a type of responsive, computer-guided design where users can program in site-specific data so that the design corrects itself proportional to site constraints. “This project is the culmination of our significant research. The complex form – a vertical cantilever – is actually the most effective way to redistribute the building’s mass, giving best results in terms of structural dispersion, frequency oscillation and wind requirements,” Elenberg Fraser insists in a statement. More specifically, the 68-story structure is inspired by the dancers in Queen B’s music video, Ghost, released separately from her single ‘Haunted’ off her 2013 self-titled album. In it, naked dancers attempt to escape from cocoons of stretchy white fabric that adhere to their svelte figures, creating – if one were to really push it – amorphous towers of curve and sinew. Jokes have abounded over the Internet about the appealing possibility of living in Beyoncé's famous posterior. “For those more on the art than science side, we will reveal that the form does pay homage to something more aesthetic. We’re going to trust that you’ve seen the music video for Beyoncé’s Ghost,” say the architects. Located at 134 Spencer Street at the west end of Melbourne’s central business district, the tower will contain 660 apartments and 160 hotel rooms. The entire structure will be mounted on a stepped podium to be occupied by retail tenants. Public house the Savoy Tavern, which reopened in 2014 after being derelict for nearly 20 years, will be demolished to make way for the tower. Presently, the entire precinct will be replanned, with the goal of respecting its heritage buildings. “The whole precinct is designed with a more long-term view to urban design, creating a self-sustaining development,” says Elenberg Fraser. Construction for the $350 million project is estimated at 40 months, with no completion date yet announced. Meanwhile, controversy has ensued over the building’s potential to overshadow nearby Batman Park and the north bank of the Yarra River. The skyscraper, whose “spiraling curves recall the twists and turns of a woman dancing in black cloth,” joins the dubious leagues of MAD’s curvaceous, twisting skyscrapers in Mississauga, Canada, dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe towers” by local residents. The Chinese firm insists that the design arose as an “organic” antithesis to the boxy typology of urban buildings. With backup dancers becoming the architectural inspiration du jour, perhaps we can next expect a building modeled after Katy Perry’s Left Shark, AKA the Super Bowl Halftime Shark, which recently spawned a lookalike iPhone case designed by Perry herself.
Count ’em: Zaha Hadid is planning to build a whopping five sinuous skyscrapers in Brisbane, Australia
Pritzker Prize laureate Zaha Hadid recently unveiled plans for twin towers fronting Mariner’s Cove along the Gold Coast of Brisbane, Australia. The two 44-story mixed-use towers will combine 370 highrise living units and a 69-suite boutique hotel with what developer Sunland Group bills as the region’s “first privately-owned cultural precinct.” An art gallery, museum, and outdoor sculptural gardens overlooking the broadwater are just a few of the arts-supporting facilities on the docket. For her second skyscraper in Australia, the Iraqi-British architect envisioned two tapered towers with sculptural curved glass recalling muscle sinew, which will be raised up pedestal-like by a curved podium to reduce the building’s footprint. “Each residential tower is designed as if it were an organic, living form, with sinuous lines interlacing upwards from a tapered base, creating a sense of flow and movement,” said Dr. Sahba Abedian, Managing Director of Sunland Group, which commissioned Hadid for the designs. “This vibrancy is further brought to life by the reflection and interaction of the glass facade with its stunning setting.” The podiums will house ground floor retail and dining as well as a waterfront promenade and underground aquarium. “At the ground plane, the towers merge seamlessly with the public spaces dedicated to culture and the arts via an art gallery and museum, outdoor sculptural art precinct, and conference center. The underground aquarium, organically integrated in the landscape and plaza layout, completes the master plan,” Abedian continued. Sunland Group has lodged a planning application with the Gold Coast City Council, which is also looking over proposals for another Hadid-designed and Sunland-backed mixed-use complex: a proposed three-tower $420 million Grace on Coronation in Toowong, Brisbane, occupying the former site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Mariner’s Cove towers, meanwhile, are adjacent to Marina Mirage on Sea World Drive, and form part of redevelopment plans for Mariner’s Cove, home of the Sea World Resort. “This proposal has the capacity to enable the Gold Cost to further define cultural identity not only through defining architecture but also through the cultural aspects it will provide to the city,” said Sunland Executive Chairman, Dr. Soheil Abedian.
Last year, AN's Midwest Editor Chris Bentley reported on the advances being made in wood construction and how we were on the verge of seeing tall timber towers sprout up around the world. The AEC community has been talking about building high-rise structures with wood for years, but there obviously hasn't been a major revolution with the building type just yet—the tallest modern wood building doesn't even top 100 feet. Well, that record is about to be shattered by a new tower in Vienna that could usher in a new era of high-rise development. The Guardian is reporting that a 276-foot-tall wood tower, known as the HoHo project, will start to rise in the Austrian capital next year. The designer of the project, Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, says the building will be made of 76 percent wood, saving 2,800 tons of carbon when compared to a similar concrete structure. Obviously, the creation of a wood building, especially a tall one, has people worrying about the elephant in the room: Fire. Since the building would be unprecedented, the Vienna fire service is reportedly working very closely with the architects to make sure everything is up to code and then some. “They have to carry out special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood," a spokesperson for the fire service told the Guardian. "We also want to develop a more fail-safe sprinkler system. I expect they will pass the tests but if they develop the building as they say they will, it will be a serious project.” While somewhat counterintuitive, timber can actually be quite resistant to fire. As Bentley explained: "Heavy timber and cross-laminated timber actually have built-in fire protection; dense wood will burn slowly, charring instead of catching fire all at once. Part of bringing a wood building up to code is providing enough wood so that even after fire produces a 'char layer,' there is still enough left to support the structure."
Paris’ stringent urbanism laws triumphed yesterday in the city council’s vote to reject plans to build what would be the third tallest skyscraper in the city and the first such towering structure in over four decades. A breach of the secret ballot terms, however, has prompted socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo to reject the vote after it came to light that opposition council members had revealed their decisions, with one official later tweeting a picture of himself brazenly holding his yellow ballot up in the air. “The law has not been respected,” said Hidalgo, who plans to present the matter to an administrative court. The proposed glass, pyramidal shaped building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, would rise up to 590 feet in the 15th arrondissement, and become the third tallest after the Eiffel Tower (1,0653 ft) and the Montparnasse tower (686 ft). Those in favor of the so-called Tour Triangle argue that it will create 3,000 construction jobs and economic activity. The controversy surrounding the decision epitomizes the ongoing struggle plaguing new development in Paris: Whether architecture should be contextual to fit within the scale of the historic city or push the bounds. From this decision, it will likely be a slow march towards the latter.
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.
Goettsch Partners landed its largest project in China, a cluster of five towers on 15 acres in Shenzhen’s Qianhai district. China Resources Land Limited (CR Land) hired the Chicago-based Goettsch to design 5.4 million square feet of space for offices, apartments, a five-star hotel, and retail. U.K.–based Benoy is the masterplanner, and is designing a shopping mall and retail areas at the towers’ base. CR Land and Goettsch have worked together before, including on two hotel towers at Shenzhen Bay. Shenzhen’s Qianhai district is in a “special economic zone” targeted for development by the Chinese government, which envisions the 5.8-square-mile area as the “Manhattan of the Pearl River Delta.” Goettsch’s towers will rise in “Neighborhood 2,” the most recent Qianhai parcel to host development that Chinese authorities say will total $45 billion by the conclusion of the area’s overhaul. Their announcement has spurred a small frenzy of building and land speculation, attracting billions of dollars of investment from real estate developers in this boom town about an hour from Hong Kong. Goettsch’s design plays off the blue glass of nearby buildings with a metallic-painted aluminum frame, using horizontal fins on the hotel and apartment towers to differentiate them subtly. As with many such megablock developments in China, ground-level shopping and pedestrian paths will link the five towers. Since it was designated a special economic zone in the late 1970s, Shenzhen has seen its population balloon from 30,000 to more than 8 million. Its reputation as China’s “instant city” has brought an influx of foreign investment, but it also speaks of the city’s struggles with pollution and dangerous working conditions. Perhaps best known in the West for making Apple products, Shenzhen is a manufacturing hub that has been called "China's Silicon Valley." In the wake of a “suicide crisis” at Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer in charge of Shenzhen’s most notorious Apple factories, the company moved most of their jobs north to Zhengzhou.
French architecture firm Chartier-Corbasson has hopped on the green-building train with their recently unveiled green skyscraper concept. Renderings of the Organic London Skyscraper show a towering, pyramid-shaped building comprised of panels made from recycled plastic material. But this tower takes a radical twist—it would be built from the trash of its inhabitants and grow over time. Designers have unveiled a bevy of such radical green buildings have recently seen a sharp rise in popularity and demand, whether they take the form of skyscrapers or floating islands. One such project, Hy-Fi, a green structure that just debuted at New York City's MoMA PS1, is be built with bricks made from corn stalks and roots. Following this trend, Chartier-Corbasson has provided their own plan for a green supertall building. The Organic Skyscraper's usage of recycled plastics as a building material would hypothetically reduce building costs and make building maintenance relatively simple as well. The proposed tower collects recyclable waste from building tenants and the then forms panels from the waste with which to grow taller. The structure of the building is influenced by bamboo scaffolding commonly seen in areas of Asia, but with a slight twist. The scaffolding will remain once construction is completed as a part of the building. These scaffolds consist of hollow tubes and serve a dual purpose: to provide wind resistance and to generate electricity for the building via small wind turbines incorporated into the design. An elevator could possibly be powered by the electricity generated from these turbines.
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.”
An unusually vertical Frank Lloyd Wright building in Wisconsin will open its doors to the public for the first time since its construction in 1950. The Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin has housed SC Johnson for 32 years, anchoring its 153-foot tall mass with a distinctive “taproot” foundation. Its tree-like core and wrap-around windows will now be open to visitors, beginning on May 2. Tours will run on Fridays and Saturdays through September 27. SC Johnson’s Wright-designed corporate campus is a glimpse of what the architect’s ambitious urban planning vision might have looked like had it taken root beyond a few scattered examples such as the site of the 15-story Research Tower. That building, as well as the company's 1939 Administration Building, are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum of Modern Art in New York is mounting an exhibition on Wright's radical approach to urbanism, which included seemingly contradictory bids for a sprawling “Broadacre City” and mile-high skyscrapers that pushed density to the brink of absurdity. The show is called Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal. Research Tower is not the only bit of Wright’s portfolio to see some sunshine lately. In December the architect’s first independent commission—the William Winslow House in River Forest, Illinois—went on the market. Weeks later the balcony over Wright's studio in Oak Park announced it would open for public tours for the first time in decades.
Despite its collection of near-misses in California (LACMA, The Broad, Universal, etc.), OMA and Rem Koolhaas keep trying to land a headlining project in the Golden State. And it looks like they're about to design a high rise in San Francisco to accompany their (currently on hold) winning scheme for a mixed use project in Santa Monica. San Francisco’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (the successor to the city’s Community Development Agency) has given the firm initial approval to design a 550-foot-tall residential tower on Folsom Street, between First and Fremont streets, in the city’s Transbay area. The project features OMA's tower on one end of the block with podium buildings and townhouses filling the remainder of the block. The tower, and the accompanying row of low rises designed by Fougeron Architects on Block 8, will be a mix of 4,400 condominiums and rental apartments, with at least 27 percent of them affordable. CMG will be the landscape architect, and the developer is Related California. OMA said that it could not yet release images of the design, although several press outlets have released a rendering (at top), including the San Francisco Chronicle. OMA becomes the second starchitect-firm in a matter of weeks to take on a skyscraper in the city, after Jeanne Gang recently signed on with Tishman Speyer to design a tower in the same neighborhood. Both towers will be located near Cesar Pelli's Transbay Tower, now underway. The 40-acre Transbay area has been witnessing major developments since the city and county of San Francisco adopted plans to redevelop the area in June 2005. Under the plan, the city divided the area into two sections. Zone One encompasses a ten-acre segment of vacant public land where a portion of the Embarcadero Freeway once stood and will include a mix of residential, retail, and public open space, as well as a one-acre park. Zone Two will include the new Transbay Transit Center and the 1,070-foot-tall tower by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects. The plan is set to expire in 2035. More planning details on Block 8 in a report by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure here. And more on the Transbay redevelopment project here.