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Best Tall Buildings 2009

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 167 pages

Linked Hybrid by Holl
Linked Hybrid Project in Beijing by Steven Holl

By Carter B. Horsley

Every year since 2007, the 40-year-old Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat based in Chicago publishes a book on the year's best buildings in four major regions: the Americas. Asia and Australasia, Europe, and the Middle East & Africa.

In each region, it declares one "winner," but also adds finalists and nominees, in varying numbers.  In total, the 2009 edition discusses in good detail 54 tall buildings.

In his introduction, Antony Woods, the council's executive director, noted that the council's jury "felt there was a lot more risk-taking and pushing of boundaries in the Asian and European categories, which had resulted generally in more adventurous forms, aesthetics, material palettes, structural solutions and the embrace of sustainability."

"Conversely," he continued, "in the Americas category, the jury felt that the nominations were generally more commercially driven, with many elegantly-designed, glass, rectilinear boxes that provided good, efficient usable floor area returns for the developer, but didn't necessarily advance the typology of tall buildings beyond what has been typical in the western hemisphere for the pas few decades."

Mr. Wood has considerable praise of the Linked Hybrid Project in Beijing designed by Steven Holl:

"As we make the push for ever-taller, ever denser cities to cope with major rural-to-urban population migration in developing countries, and rejection of the resource-wasteful model of suburbia in developd countries, it seems nonsensical that the sidewalk remains the sole physical plane of connection between these buildings.  The predominant office-hotel-residential functions that constitute the vast majority of tall buildings internationally is also not very reflective of diversified, multi-functional cities.  If we are serious about creating denser cities on smaller, more concentrated parcels of land as a response to climate change, then we need to being all the facets of the city up into the sky with the buildings - the parks, schools, retail, hospitals, cinemas - the social spaces to allow community to flourish; the neighborhoods to accommodate diversity.  And we desperately need multi-level connections to make sense of this new strata of differing functions - not at the expense of the ground plane but in support of it, because twice as many people concentrated on the same parcel of land need twice as much of the support facilities, including circulation.  There are many other benefits to be had of these skybridges - not least the energy savings in reducing the need for everyone to travel down to the ground plane to move horizontally through the city, and the alternative routing options skybridges give in the event of emergency.  The city of the future needs to evolve in ambition much further beyond where it is now, and the Linked Hybrid building - with its connections and multiple functions - realizes the future perhaps more than any built building in existence today."

Plan of Linked Hybrid
Plan of Linked Hybrid by Holl

The project has 8 residential towers, a hotel tower, all mid-rise, and several low-rise structure housing  movie theaters and retail spaces.

The windows are deeply iinset and have red and orange framing.  Most are square but a few are intersected angularly.  The skybridges have brightly colored undersides.  The ground level has pools and sculptural structures.

The book's description offers the following commentary:

"The pedestrian-oriented Linked Hybrid complex, sited adjacent to the old city wall of Beijing, aims to counter current urban development in China by creating a new twenty-first century porous urban space, inviting and open to the public from every side.  A filmic urban experience of space; around, over and through multi-faceted spatial layers, as well as the many passages through the project, make the Linked Hybrid an 'open city within a city.'  The project promotes interactive relations and encourages encounters in the public spaces that vary from commercial, residential and educational to recreational; a three-dimensional public urban space....On the intermediate level of the lower buildings, public roof gardens offer tranquil green spaces....a multi-functional series of skybridges with a swimming pool, a fitness room, a cafe, hotel bar, and an art gallery connect the eight residential towers and the hotel tower, and offer views over the city....Geo-thermal wells - 600 in number - at 100 meters (328 feet) deep, provide Linked Hybrid with cooling in summer and heating in winter, and make it one of the largest green residential projects in Beijing.  In the winter, the pond freezes to become an ice-skating rink."

Trump Tower in Chicago

Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago

The 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and when completed in 2009 was the tallest building to be completed in the United States since the Sears Tower, also in Chicago, was completed in 1974.  The Trump Tower, which is on the site of the former Chicago Sun Times building, is 1,396 feet high and was a "finalist" in its region's group.

Its hotel has 339 rooms and the tower also has 486 condominium apartments, 100,000 square feet of riverfront retail space, 960 parking spaces, as well as restaurant, banquet and health club spaces and a riverfront promenade.

Base of Trump Tower iin Chicago
Base of Trump Tower in Chicago

The tower relates to its neighbors through a series of setbacks, the first of which occurs on the east side at a height that is essentially the same as the cornice line of the Wrigley Building.  The next setback, on the west side of the tower, relates to both the height of the residential tower to the north and Marina City, to the west.  The third and final setback is on the east side of the tower and relates to the height of the IBM Building immediately adjacent.

Solar Chimney in Winnipeg

Solar Chimney in Winnepeg

The winner in the Americas region was the Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg, Canada.

The book notes that "a 115-meter (377-foot) tall solar chimney marks the north elevation and main entrance on Portage Avenue, and establishes an iconic presence for Manitoba Hydro on the skyline."

"The solar chimney is a key element in the passive ventilation system which relies on the natural stack effect to draw used air out of the building during the shoulder seasons and summer months.  In winter, exhaust air is drawn to the bottom of the solar chimney by fans and heat recovered from this exhaust air is used to warm the parkabe and to preheat the incomding cold air in the south atria."

Torre de Hercules in Cadiz, Spain

Thiis project consists of two 20-story cylinder towers connected by a crystaline bridge-hallways.  The developer was Valcruz and the architect was Rafael de La Hoz Castanys.  The two towers have concrete lattices made up of abstracted giant letters that form the sentence "Non plus ultra." 

Londn Broadgate
The Broadgate Tower in London
The winner of Best Tall Buildng Europe was the 585-foot-high, 35-story Broadgate Tower in London developed by British Land and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The book provided the following commentary:

"The Broadgate tower is the first developer-led speculative office tower to be built in the City of London and is part of the latest addition to the Broadgate development in the City.  The building creates a landmark for the northern gateway to the city and offers high quality office accommodation at an important location close to the key transportation hub of Liverpool Street Station.  The Broadgate Tower, along with its neighbor, 201 Bishopgate, occupies a newly created air rights site above the active rail tracks that service Liverpool Station.  The massing of the overall development was informed both by the structural complexities of the raft on which it is constructed, and by the height restrictions that affect the majority of the site.  The eastern portion of the site lies within a viewing corridor which projects views of St. Paul's Cathedral from King Henry's Mound."

Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers in Nagoya-shi, Japan
The Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers in Nagoya-shi, Japan was a "finalist" in the Asia region.  The 36-story, 558-foot-high structure houses three vocational schools.  It was designed by Nikken Sekkei Ltd.

The book notes that the design reflects the "strong vision of Masaru Tani, the president of Mode Gakuen, the developer.  The project has become a landmark for Nagoya City and it has a sunken garden
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Tokyo
This striking 50-story, 668-foot-high tower houses a university with three vocational schools and was designed by Tange Associates in 2008.   It also was a "finalist" it its regions towers.  A low-rise, egg-shaped  structure on the site houses to large auditioriums.  The building has many three-story-high atrium lounges and the building has a co-generational stysem that provides 40 percent of its eneregy costs.  The main  facades are gorgious lacy designs that continue around the tapering tower's pinched-in sides that have an elegant and more traditional fenestration pattern.

Court of Justice of the European Community in Luxenbourg City
This 24-story duo house the translaton service of the Court of Justice of the European Community in Luxembourg City.  It was designed by Dominique Perrault.  Their golden metallic mesh is made by anodized aluminum to that there is no risk of corrosion. 

The council's jury statement on this project said that "the Court of Justice towers demonstrate that the facade is much more than just a wall of glass.  There is a texture and scale to be found in it that is not seen in most tall building projects, achieved with a high level of elegance.  The skin goes beyond just aesthetic considerations, incorporating carefully considered sun-shading, thermal insulation, and lighting.  The overall effect is very much the creation of two jeweled boxes, which look out over the disparate built history of the court which has somehow finally managed to be connected by Perrault's hand.  It is refreshing to think that the future of tall buildings might not necessarily be in the quest for iconic form, but in reconsidering the facade as both environmental and aesthetic filter."

The Met in Bangkok

The Met is a 66-story, 768-foot-high tower in Bangkok, Thailand that was erected by Pebble Bay Thailand and designed by WOHA.  It was a "finalist" in its region's towers. The design is inspired by traditional Thai forms - ceramic tiles, textiles and timber paneling - abstracted and used as a way to organize forms.  The cladding, for instance, uses temple tiles as inspiration, while the staggered arrangement of the balconies recalls the teak staggered paneling on traditional homes.  The walls incorporate random inserts of faceted polished stainless steel, a contemporary interpretation of the sparkling mirrors incorporated into Thai temples, returning this delightful glittering effect at a scale appropriate to the vast city....All apartments are cross-ventilated, and all face north and south.

Tornado in Doba, Qatar

The book offers the following commentary for the Tornado in Doba, Qatar, that was the winning Tall Building in the Middle East and Africa.  The 656-foot-high tower was designed by CICO Consulting Architects & Engineers.

"The name Tornado was developed by the design team to describe the distinctive, hyperbolid shape of the building.  This form is enhanced by a unique lighting system, designed especially for the tower by renowned light artist Thomas Emde.  His kinetic light sculpture, by its movement of light, suggests the torsion of a tornado.  The lighting system is programmable and is capable of producing over 35,000 variations of lighting atterns to create a stunning visual effect at night."

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