After roasting cars and carpets, London's 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie Tower, has itself been roasted as the winner of the Carbuncle Cup, British architecture's least desirable award. Building Design magazine, which organizes the award, described the tower as a “gratuitous glass gargoyle.” The structure, designed by Rafael Viñoly, has struggled for any form of critical acclaim since it opened in 2010. “It is a challenge finding anyone who has something positive to say about this building,” said BD editor Thomas Lane. The Guardian's architecture critic, Oliver Wainwright, was just as unforgiving when he likened the structure to a "sanitary towel." Londoners have claimed that the Walkie-Talkie, nicknamed for its visual resemblance to the handheld communication device, has blown them away—and into the street. Twenty Fenchurch Street's embarrassing wind problem has prompted the City of London to look at "changing the way it works with developers." Knocking people off their feet isn't the only accusation lobbed at Viñoly's design. In what is becoming a growing list of misdemeanors, developers of 20 Fenchurch Street have had to pay £946 ($1,500) in compensation after the tower burnt a Jaguar and a hole into a shop carpet. A screen has been built to halt the reflective death-ray. In its turbulent start to London life, the building's reflective power has been harnessed by the locals, as one resident was able to fry an egg with the building's glare. That led to another nickname, the "fryscraper." "When I once described Rafael Viñoly as a menace to London," tweeted ex-RIBA president George Ferguson, "I didn't think he was going to burn it." The architect's proposal has prompted equally vicious responses during its planning stages. UNESCO voiced its distaste for the design and English Heritage bestowed it as a "brutally dominant expression of commercial floor space" with an "oppressive and overwhelming form." Peter Wynne Rees, chief planner of the City of London, has since admitted he made a mistake for the building's location, saying that he was persuaded by the project's public element, a 525-foot-high garden. Even this signature feature has been the subject of scourge. Wainwright, who is clearly not the building's biggest fan, wrote in the Guardian that it "feels like you’re trapped in an airport, you can barely see the city because of a steel cage – and the more money you shell out, the worse it gets." Twenty Fenchurch Street's issues with sun glare are nothing new to modern architecture however. In Las Vegas, the Vdara Hotel startled Bill Pintas, a Chicago lawyer and businessman, when he started to smell his hair burning. "I actually thought that, Oh my God, we've destroyed the ozone layer because I am being burned," Pintas told NBC's TODAY show back in 2010. "My head was steaming hot... I could actually smell my hair burning." In Dallas, too, the Museum Tower by Scott Johnson has been subject to criticism as it fried artwork at its neighbor, the Nasher Sculpture Center. And of course, Gehry's Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, drew international attention for sizzling surrounding buildings and blinding drivers. Blustery conditions from skyscrapers are also no new problem. New York City's Flatiron Building caused an "ankle-revealing sensation" in the early 20th century with winds it sent rushing to the sidewalk. In 1983, engineering consultant Lev Zetlin asked for laws to halt the wind-tunnel-effect termed "downdraught" in New York.
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With the real estate market drifting through a relative recovery, one prominent Chicago developer seems to be saying, "Come back in, the water's fine." The team behind Chicago’s Aqua Tower is gearing up for another high-rise nearby. Chicago-based Magellan Development Group hired Studio Gang Architects for another tower in the 28-acre master-planned neighborhood of Lakeshore East. Gang’s 82-story Aqua Tower, 225 North Columbus Drive, opened in 2009 to international acclaim. Its organically rippled balconies suggest the movement of wind across water. The undulating balconies are functional, too, providing sun shading and eliminating the need for a tuned mass damper. Design details for the new tower are forthcoming, but the developers said it could work on either of two sites in the Lakeshore East area. Five years after the mixed-use tower opened, Aqua saw its last unit sold February 21. Dennis Rodkin reported the 3,200-square-foot town home at the building's base sold for $1.7 million. Aqua’s 262 condominiums, 474 apartments, nine town homes and 334-room hotel are a landmark for the Lakeshore East neighborhood, which is now home to more than 5,000 residents. Development there has taken off since Millennium Park’s 2004 completion. Magellan’s master-planned community include a Dubai-based private school's first U.S. location, a six-acre park, and towers from the likes of SOM, DeStefano + Partners, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and Steinberg Architects.
You might know Renzo Piano as the architect behind many of the world's leading museums, but get ready to meet Renzo Piano, wind-turbine expert. Testing has commenced on Renzo Piano’s small-scale wind-turbine blade at the Molinetto Test Field near Pisa, Italy. Piano’s turbine blade resembles a dragonfly’s wing and incorporates elements from the insect that promote stability in flight in order to allow the turbine to tolerate gale-force winds. Piano's slender, two-blade turbine differs from the customary three-blade scheme and has proven to operate successfully in low-intensity wind. To avoid spinning too quickly during storms, larger turbines typically use particular blades that stall at too-high speeds, or computerized systems that regulate the blade angles according to wind speed. Such systems are too costly to use with small-scale turbines, as they do not generate enough power to justify the price. The dragonfly turbine, which benefits from tough, lightweight composite resources, takes advantage of even the slightest breeze—it utilizes winds of only 6.5-feet-per-second for rather endless power. It can also be used effectively even at lower elevations than its larger counterparts. Designed with transparent plexiglass panels that emphasize the internal carbon structure, the turbine has minimal visual impact. While not in motion, the blades align with the mast to blend in with the environment. Held to the ground by cables, the tower is just 65 feet tall and 13 inches in diameter. The dragonfly has generated over 1200 KWh of energy over the course of a couple months. The prototype will continue to be tested for a few more months, followed by mass production as part of a groundbreaking approach that aims for advanced performance on all renewable technologies.
So we've got schools with green roofs sprouting in D.C., Manhattan, the Bronx, and who knows where else across this fine country of ours. (If you've got more, email us, we'd love to hear about them.) Not content simply with the mantle of "country's oldest public school," Boston Latin has decided to add a green roof as well. Designed by Studio G Architects, this one's a whopper, covering 50,000 square feet with areas dedicated to growing crops for the cafeteria and providing lab space for science classes. At that size, maybe they could even find some room up there for some mini golf or a tennis court. More renderings and details after the jump. From the school:
The oldest public school in the nation, Boston Latin’s green roof is significant in that it was conceived by a group of students who, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, formed BLS YouthCAN (Climate Action Network), lobbied BLS administration to implement the green roof concept idea, participated in the development of designs, and are spearheading fundraising efforts for the $5 million project. Studio G Architects of Boston was so impressed by the energy and commitment of the students that they donated design services for the project. The roof’s numerous program areas will create a variety of new learning opportunities for BLS students and schools across Massachusetts. State-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, math & engineering) labs form the backbone of the design, enabling students to observe and measure data related to the school’s environmental technology, like calculating the amount of energy being generated by the PVs or the wind velocity of the turbines. A cafeteria garden, greenhouse and orchard demonstrate the accessibility of fresh local produce and help encourage healthy eating habits. A contemplative garden offers a space for repose or for language, art and music classes. Besides the inherent sustainability of training urban kids to be good stewards of the environment, the green roof will lower BLS’ carbon emissions through its planted microclimates, while PVs and turbines will offset its energy consumption. These diverse programming opportunities have inspired an entirely new sustainability curriculum, which is being piloted at BLS this fall and will be available to the other 17 YouthCAN chapters throughout Massachusetts, thereby extending the impact of this revolutionary program space to students beyond BLS.