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Best Tall Buildings 2015

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 280 pages

World Trade Ce nter in New York

The World Trade Center in New York

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 2015 edition discusses in good detail 150 tall buildings in six categories as compared to 54 in 2009.

The council's winnter of Best Tall Building in the Americas was the 1,776-foot-high World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan (see The City Review article), which was completed in November, 2014.  It was developed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and The Durst Organization.  It was designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The book provides the council's jury statement:

"The completion of One World Trade Center marks a definitive moment in skyscraper history far more than just a symbol of progress, wealth or success.  The tower embodies the resilience of a city, the trajectory of a nation, and the unity of a globalizing world that tracked its progress with bated breath.  As such, the design expectations for the building were extremely high, and were dutifully met and exceeded in its final form.

"This is a tower with many personalities.  From afar, its elegant, tapering form evokes a contemporary interpretation of other great New York City icons such as the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.  From below, notions of slenderness give way to feelings of permanence and heft - a theme imparted by its massive concrete base and intricate facade detailing on levels.  Light bounces off the tower to stunning effect with its sharp angles and multiple surfaces of glass and steel creating an appropriately glimmering texture that matches the vibrancy of its locale.  As the World Trade Center complex approaches its full realization, One World Trade Center provides a firm basis on which an entire district will reinvent itself."

wtc3base    wtc3base detail

Base of One World Trade center, left, and detail, right

The council's book offers the following commentary about the tower:

"Rising from the northwest corner of the 6.5 -hectares World Trade Center site, One World Trade Center recaptures the New York skyline, reasserts downtown Manhattan's pre-eminence as a business center, and established a new civic icon for the United States.  It is a memorable architectural landmark for the city and the nation, and will connect seamlessly to its surroundings with entrances on all four elevations and linkages to an extensive underground transportation network.  Extending the long tradition of American ingenuity in high-rise construction, the design solution is an innovative mix of architecture, structure, urban design, safety and sustainability.

"The tower's spire reached the symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 meters), a nod to the year that the United States declared independance, and is topped with a large revolving beacon.  The height of the parapet is similarly symbolic, matching the exact height of the original One World Trade enter.  Sited north of the National September 11 Memorial, the tower rises from a cubic base; its edges are chamfered back, resulting in a faceted form composed of eight elongated isoceles triangle.  At its  middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon in plan and then culminates in a glass parapet that is a 46-meter-by-46-meter square, rotated 45 degrees from the base.  A luminous glass curtain wall sheathes the tower on all sides from the first office floor to the observatory....

"The cubic base is 57 meters tall and made entirely of reinforced concrete....To enhance the virtual appeal of this feature, small stainless-steel panels are fixed to the exterior.  Pivoted glass fins are arranged over these panels at varying angles, bouncing light in different directions and created a corrugated texture...."

Baccarat on 53rd Street

Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York

Another elegant design by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the Baccarat Hotel & Residences tower across 53rd Street from the Museum of Modern Art.  It has 32 floors of apartments with 59 condominium units, a public library, amd 114 hotel rooms.This 605-foot-high apartment and hotel tower was developed by TriBeCa Associates.

Base of Baccarat tower

Crystalline base of Baccarat tower with marquees

The book notes that "three canopied bronze portals are cut into the surface, providing separate entrances to the residences, hotel and [barrel-vaulted] restaurant," adding that "illuminated from within the podium glows like a chandelier at night."  The tower is setback considerably on its podium and the podium has a very handsome, faceted glass facade that "clinks" with its thematic reference to the crystal products of Baccarat.

One57 viewed from the west

One57 viewed from the West

The first of 57th Streets SuperTalls, One57 was developed by the Extell Development Corporation and designed by Atelier Christian de Portzamparc.  It was a "nominee" for best tall building in the Americas as was his rakishly and very dramatic three-towered, 475-foot-high  apartment tower at 400 Park Avenue South, which was also a "nominee."

'Podium facade of One57    Rippling marquees at One57

Podium facade on 57th Street of One57, left, and rippling marquees, right

One57' facade on 57th Street is across from Carnegie Hall and is notable for its large and deep rippling marquees beneath the undulating stainless steel curves of its lower podium that create perhaps the city's most "fluid" engagement with the street. 

The curves, of course, are thematically related to the building's top that has a large curved surface on its southern side and an angled front facing north and Central Park.

If the entire building were clad in stainless steel, the tower would be a stellar shiny piece in the new midtown skyline.  It is not, sadly, and is clad in two shades of blue randomly, giving it a very mottled appearance that detracts severly from its other design niceties.
  The tower includes a Park Hyatt hotel.


Adobe 318 in Melbourne

This 614-foot-high Adobe 318 tower in Melbourne was developed by PDG Corporation and Schlavello Group and designed by Elenberg Fraser and Designo Australia. 

Adobe 318 full    Adobe 318 facade detail

Adobe 318 in Melbourne, left, and facade detail, right

The book offers the following commentary about the building that was a "nominee" in the Asia and Australasia region:

"The rippling design forns an undulating, self-shading facade, and also serves to tie the modules together to create a cohesive community.  Each of the horizontal and vertical waves consist of individual rooms articulated as protrusions, creating the effect of a set of drawers pulled out at random."

It is an impressive, calm, pixelated ocean in gentle motion.

The Leadenhall Building

The Leadenhall Building in London

This very dramatic, 735-foot-high office skyscrapter in London is known as The Leadenhall Building.  It was developed by The British Land Company PLC and Oxford Properties Group.  It was designed by Rogers Strik Harbour + Partners.

The book offers the following commentary:

"It is located across from the Lloyd's building, and near 30 St. Mary Axe, as well as several protected historic buildings including a former bank designed by Edwin Luytens, and two Grade 1 protected churches, from the 12th and 16th centuries.  The tower's distinctive wedge shape was an imaginative solution responding to a requirement to protect views of the historic St. Paul's Cathedral, which ensures that the cathedral's dome is visible from key vantage points, in particular from Fleet Street....Although the structure occupies the entire building site, a 2,475-square-meter landscaped public space is located on a raking diagonal to create a large, seven-story public space that opens to the south.
The building was a "finalist" for Best Tall Building Europe.

Swanston Square in Melbourne

Swanston Square in Melbourne

The 377-foot-high Swanston Square Apartment Tower with 536 apartments in Melbourne was developed by Grocon and designed by Arm Architecture.

It has an extremely bold and very distinctive facade composed of irregularly shaped white fiber-composite bands that constrast with the black cladding of the tower and form the face of Aboriginal artist and civil rights leader Elder William Barak, whose clan, the book, noted, once owned the land.

The podium parking garage also has an "interpretative facade" of polished aluminum disks that are arranged within a grid of portholes to spell "Wurundjeri I am who I am" in Bralle, "referring to Elder William Barak's clan."

The building has a roof deck with dining facilities, spas and a 20-seat theater.  The building also has a gym, bicycle storage and retail space as well as parking for 222 cars.

Sunny Isles

Regalia in Sunny Isles by Arquitectonica

This 485-foot-high tower in Sunny Isles, Florida, is known as Regalia and was designed by Arquitectonics.  It was developed by Regalia Beach Developers.

It has undulating balconies that wrap around all four sides of the tower and each is different.  Each floor has one apartment.  

Regalia facade

Regalia facade detail

The book notes that "from a distance, the balconies appear to imitate the sinuous movements of waves breaking along the beach.  The building was a "nominee" in the Americas region.


Sunrise Kempinski Hotel in Beijing

This 297-foot-tall building is the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel located an hour outside of Beijing on the shore of Yanqi Lake.  The elliptical, scallop-shaped building has 322 luxury hotel rooms.

The book provides the following commentary:

"Its rounded shape is meant to represent the rising sun....In Chinese culture, sunrise imagery represents vitality, hope, and strength.  Symbolizing cooperation and luck, 20 vertical wraps bisect and wrap around the facade at even intervals.  From the side, the building is meant to look like a scallop, another symbol in China, representing luck.  Finally, the entrance to the building is shaped like the mouth of a fish, representing prosperity."

The building was a "finalist" in the Asia & Australasia region.

Skyterrace at Dawson

SkyTerrace @ Dawson

The 467-foot-high apartment complex known as SkyTerrace@Dawson in Singapore was developed by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore and designed by SCDA Architects Pte Ltd.

Its five towers are arranged in two groups, each connected by two skybridges.  It is constructed with precast concrete modular elements constructed off-site and hoisted into place creating "an interlocking design that is evocative of traditional Chinese patterns, inspired by ancient Chinese pottery and scripts.  The project includes numerous duplex apartments to accommodate multi-generational teanants and the towers and the skybridges have distinctive geometries.

The projects was named a "finalist" in the Asia & Australasia region.


D'Leedon in Singapore by Hadid

Another large residential complex in Singapore was D'Leedon, which was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and developed by Capital and Singapore Limited.  It was named a "finalist" for the council's Urban Habitat Award and consists of seven towers and 12 semi-detached villas with a total of  1,715 housing units. 

The site has been divided into bundled bands created by the positions of the towers, each tower meets the ground with an extended petal shape to form private gardens...The pedal-shaped floor plans change their form along the height of the tower, in relation to the various configurations of residential unitsw....Car circulation is minimalized by routing part of the main driveway into the basement level....The towers taper inward as they reach the ground...their petal-shaped layout allows for windows on three sides


Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid in Abu Dhabi

This 1,251-foot-high tower is known as Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid and is located in Abu Dhabi.  The second tallest tower in the world when it was completed in 2014, it was developed by Aldar Properties and designed by Foster & Partners.

It has a ventilated three-skin facade and operable windows.

20 Renchurch Street by Vinoly

20 Fenchurch Street in London

The 525-foot-high tower at 30 Fenchurch Street was developed by Land Securities PLC and the Canary Wharf Group.  It was designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects.  With its inverted taper form and bulbous top, the building has a three-story skygarden, which became London's first free high-rise observatory.  It was a "nominee" for Best Tall Building Europe.

Evolution Tower in Moscow

Evolution Tower, right, in the International Business Center on the Moscow River

The 807-foot-high Evolution Tower at the International Business Center on the Moscow River was developed by the Snegril Group and designed by Gorproject.

The jury statement noted that "Even those with little interest in architecture will gaze upon the structure's double-heli form with a sense of awe."  The tower has a two-story mall with a family entertainment and educational center for children and a connection to the pedestrian Bagration Bridge and a metro station.  It has an observation deck on its 52nd floor and a rooftop heliport.  Each of its 55 floors are rotated 3 degrees.

Turning Torso by Calatrava in Malmo, Sweden

A far more dramatic and interesting "twisted" tower, "Turning Torso" in Malmo, Sweden, was erected in 2005 and was declared the "winner" this year of the council's 10-year award.  Developed by HSB Malmo, it was designed by Santiago Calatrava and the 623-foot-high was the world's first twisting skyscraper.  It rotated 90 degrees in 9 pentagonal sections connected by a steel exoskeleton.

The council's annual Lynn S. Beedle Award for Lifetime Achievement was given to Minoru Mori, the Japanese developer best known for his Shanghai World Financial Center in 2008 that is 1,614 feet tall

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