By Carter B. Horsley
of recent skyscrapers is short on theory, but includes many interesting
and important projects with many illustrations by different architectural
illustrated volume focuses on just 23 high-rise projects, but
each is presented with several color photographs as well as site
plans and drawings.
the most fabulous project in the book is the Sea Hawk Hotel and
Resort, completed in 1995 in Fukuoka, Japan, and designed by Cesar
Pelli. The photographs by Taizo Furukawa, Osamnu Murai, Cesar
Pelli and Yukio Yoshimura are spectacular, as is the project,
Pelli here has added a twist,
literally, to his famous scheme for the wonderful Wintergarden
at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. The Wintergarden
is essentially a giant atrium with a telescoping form facing towards
the Hudson River. In this project, Pelli has cascaded a similarly
scaled atrium along a curve in a far more interesting and dramatic
form. This pavilion is the centerpiece for a high-rise tower,
clad in ceramic tile, that is a magnificent form that is far superior
to his nice, but rather boxy towers at the World Financial Center.
Here, Pelli has returned to his sculptural brilliance that first
brought him fame with his Blue Whale building at the Pacific Design
Center in Los Angeles.
tower is a sharp-edged, knife-like form that is 34 stories tall
with 1,052 rooms and is located close to a baseball stadium. Its
prow faces Hakata Bay and the prow edge and the arc of the roofline
are brightly illuminated at night.
side of the tower has a large curved base with a large circular
Petronas Towers project in Kuala Lumpur is also included in the
book and its stainless steel cylindrical facades are shown to
good advantage, but the Sea Hawk project outshines the twin skyscraper
project in sculptural and artistic quality although it is, of
course, dwarfed by it in height.
the Wintergarden at the World Financial Center may well be the
New York's greatest public room that in time will be as loved
as the lamented and demolished Penn Station was, the horn-shaped
atrium at the Sea Hawk resort is much better and Pelli now must
be regarded as one of the great architects of the 20th Century.
of course, continues to be the most exciting architectural place
in the world as evidenced by the incredible Umeda Sky Building
in Osaka, photographed here by Tomio Ohashi and Anna Puyueto.
Completed in 1993 and designed by Hiroshi Hara Atelier, this 40-story
building instantly conjures images of the famous Grande Arch by
at La Defense in Paris, the 330-foot-high almost hollow cube designed
by Otto von Spreckelsen.
project, which houses the Ministry of Equipment, private offices
and The Foundation for Human Rights, was an engineering marvel
and spectacular, albeit controversial, public sculpture on a monumental
scale. With its fabric tent clouds beneath its slim roof separating
its equally slim two side wings, the Grande Arche was sleek and
its opening very large.
project is much bulkier and more complex and its opening is much
its roof has an enormous circular opening penetrated by two escalators
set at angles with each other, as shown at the right, looking
up from the ground.
planned not just two towers as were built here but "a whole
series of them stretching into infinity and forming a new city."
Such a vision extends the daring of von Spreckelsen greatly and
harks back to the early days of megastructural thinking and the
Japanese Metabolists who dreamt immense urban vistas.
At a time
when cities are competing for the world's tallest structures,
it is reassuring to some extent to see some of the thunder stolen
from them by such "mid-rise" projects as this. The roof
here is a major public, open-air observatory, and one can only
be awed by such intrepid "observers" whose fear of heights
is only slightly lessened by the project's extensive streetscape
are clad mostly, but not entirely, in reflective glass, which
gives the project a bit more vertiginous appearance. A bridge
at the 21st floor connects the two towers and the level beneath
the huge opening has many small, brightly colored structures of
is far too complex for one photograph to convey and happily the
book is quite lavish in its detail pictures. The circular opening
at the top of the project, for example, is ringed with a slanted
window wall and topped with a large, modern balustrade. The high-tech-looking
rectangular elements that penetrate into the opening actually
contain escalators enclosed in curved glass.
the General Electric Company that several years ago inexcusably
closed the open-air, roof-top observatory of the former RCA building
at Rockefeller Center, the Japanese developers of this project
understand that public likes thrills and likes to be enthralled
by architecture and a city. Hopefully, General Electric will repent,
or move to New Jersey, and the public can once again fall in love
with that building's fabulous observatory and contemplate how
New York can get Hara to design more such awesome places.
Sky Building has been published elsewhere, but this book has several
projects that have not been widely published such as the remarkable
Torres Puerta de Europa twin-towered project in Madrid designed
by Burgee & Johnson and Dominguez and Martin.
1996 project, shown at the left in a photograph by Robert Royal,
is a great example of "gateway" development, a notion
that ancient cities often practiced but which has been largely
forgotten in "modern" times.
1985 Plan General de Madrid assigned to this particular
site certain limits, which in the end suggested the possibility
of building two isolated tower blocks adjacent to the Plaza Castilla.
These would have to be separated by a strip of land large enough
to avoid the existing metro stations and their corresponding pedestrian
subways, and also to take into account access rights to an as
yet undeveloped neighboring street. On the basis of these restrictions,
architect John Burgee proposed the construction of two towers
that would incline toward each other at an angle of 15 degrees
and whose common meeting point would be the axis formed by the
Paseo de la Castellana. This solution served to modify
the role that the urban planners had assigned to the two blocks,
and also allowed the towers to stand out from their neighbors
in a unique fashion. The inclination of the towers solved the
problem of the excessive separation between them, which would
have diluted their impact on the profile of the city," the
buildings, which are clad in stainless steel and, as usually with
projects by John Burgee and Philip Johnson, a very fine fenestration
pattern of black reflective glass with red accent lines. The buildings
also have helicopter pads on their roofs.
other major projects highlighted in this fine book are Norman
Foster & Partner's fine, high-tech, 1997 Commerzbank Building
in Frankfurt, Nikken Sekkei's good 1995 Osaka World Trade Center,
T. R. Hamzah & Ken Yeang Sdn. Bhd.'s Menara Budaya, which
graces the book's cover, and Central Plaza projects, both in 1996
and in Kuala Lumpur, Carlos Bratke's Plaza Centenario in Sao Paolo,
Brazil, in 1995, Kisho Kurokawa's very impressive Melbourne Central
project of 1991, the stupendous, pagoda-like Jin Mao Building
in Shanghai this year of Adrian D. Smith of Skidmore, Owings &
Merrill, Kohn Pedersen Fox's totemic and fine, as usual, Shanghai
World Financial Center that is scheduled for completed in 2001
and its poetic DG Bank Frankfurt that was completed in 1993 with
its enormous, soaring, curved cornice, a couple of interesting
Helmut Jahn projects including the Endless Towers and Brancusi
Tower proposed for Singapore in 1995 and his recently completed
Generale Bank Tower in Rotterdam that is quite eclectic with huge
cornice and cantilevered, slanted wing, Kenzo Tange's great OUB
Center of 1986 in Singapore and even greater 1991 Tokyo City Hall,
Rocco S. K. Yim's sleek 1992 Citibank Plaza in Hong Kong, Tsao
& McKoun's huge Suntec City in Singapore in 1997, Dominique
Perrault's rather disappointing but sleek French National Library
of 1996, and Bruce Graham's high-tech, but rather busy design
for the Hotel de les Arts in Barcelona in 1992.