By Carter B. Horsley
Unlike some other recent international surveys
of skyscrapers that highlight many spectacular and exciting projects
by world-famous architects, this one will introduce many readers
to some not so famous architects. There are some truly spectacular
projects, some modest but intriguing projects and some that are
uninspired, a reminder that the real world is not always the best
of all possible worlds.
This interesting volume contains illustrations
and short essays on more than 70 major projects, some of which
are still on the drawing boards and may, in fact, not get off
them, but are important to the study of this spectacular building
type. Most of the projects have more than one illustration, some
of which are excellent and some of which are not.
This book was compiled by John Zukowsky and
Martha Thorne, curator and associate curator, respectively, of
the department of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago,
which will hold an exhibition based on it from August 19, 2000
to January 15, 2001.
Probably the most phenomenal project adorns
its cover, the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, shown above,
designed by Ellerbe Becket of Minneapolis and the Omrania Corporation
of Riyadh for HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud
and estimated for construction completion in 2001. The top third
of the 984-foot-high-tower, which is the same height as the Eiffel
Tower in Paris, is only "sculptural’ to conform with
the city’s planning ordinance that limits the number of occupied
floors to 30, but its "handle" top does contain an observatory.
Ove Arup & Partners are the project’s structural engineers
and this silvery, reflective glass tower that rises from an elliptical
plan that ends in an inverted parabolic curve beneath the shallow
arch of the observatory is a high-tech marvel of stunning sculptural
The building’s description in the book
notes that the mixed-use tower will include the "Prince’s
business headquarters, a first-class hotel, the three-story Kingdom
Mall, a wedding and conference Center, office space, a sports
club and luxury condominiums." "One entire floor of
the Kingdom Mall - reached by a separate entrance and elevator
- reserved for women only, where Islamic veils are not obligatory,"
This tower’s "arch" is certainly
the most modern arch since von Spreckelsen and Andrew’s Grande
Arche arch at La Defense in Paris and its observatory promises
to be even more spectacular than the Umeda Sky building in Osaka,
Japan, designed by the Hiroshi Hara Atelier (see The
City Review article on Francisco Asensio Cerver’s book, "Architecture
of Skyscrapers" with an illustration of the Umeda project).
The cladding of the tower gives no indication, during daytime,
of its internal structure and number of floors by its blanket
uniform appearance, a visual device first used to great effect
by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates in the United Nations
Plaza project across First Avenue from the United Nations in Manhattan
a generation earlier.
The scale of the arch here is breathtaking.
Cut-outs have been used before, rarely, but this "eye"
of a giant needle stuck in the ground is awesome and an extravagant
gesture that harkens back to the Pyramids. Cut-outs, or voids,
are signature design elements of Arquitectonica, the famous Miami-based
architectural firm, which is represented in this compendium with
two projects, the Shanghai Information Town and a project near
Times Square in Manhattan. The former consists of a 25-story tower
completed in 1998 and a 50-story tower due for completion in 2002.
The two towers are at right angles with each other and each have
large square sections cantilevered from the cores, "visually
destabilizing the otherwise static, rectangular forms," the
Some of the other ambitious projects also include
unusual forms such as the design of M3 Architects in London for
a 1,495-foot-high mixed-use tower for a suggested site along the
eastern approach to London that is in the shape of a sail and
is designed to include wind slots to prevent turbulence at its
base and to harness the wind to drive turbines that combined with
50 percent photovoltaic cell coverage of the facade is expected
to provide up to half the building’s power consumption. The
project’s principals are Ken Hutt and Nadi Jahangiri, who
worked together previous on the London Millennium tower and the
Commerzbank in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, with Foster and Partners.
The notion of stacked atria, which Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill used in several projects over the last generation,
has been employed by Jean-Paul Viguier for the Jakarta (Indonesia)
Tower, a 1,186-foot-high structure that is 150 feet in diameter
and consists of five 25-story modules that the authors say "look
like Dixie cups stacked on top of one another - separated from
each other by spacious sky lobbies." The 1995 design, the
authors added, remains "in the concept stage."
While Viguier’s design has its main structure
support in its center, Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn, Inc., the Chicago-based
architectural firm, has designed a square-plan, 48-story building,
known as the 21 Century Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, People’s
Republic of China, that has four nine-story, triangular atria
at one corner where the design does not call for structural support.
The building’s "braced-tube" design "clearly
references Chinese architectural traditions by the liberal use
of red onits structurally expressive elements," the authors
note. The East China Architectural Deign & Research Institute
is the associate architect and Maunsell Consultants Asia Ltd.,
and Werner Sobek Engineers GmbH are the structural engineers for
the project, which is being developed for the Shanghai 21 Century
Center Real Estate Co., Ltd., and is due for completion in 1901.
A 1,007-foot-high building known as Telekom
Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur employs large, open sky gardens that
are supported by prefabricated steel trusses that project up to
107 feet and are dramatic elements in the design on the east and
west ends of the structure that consists of two conical and convex
slabs that "appear to overlap and roll up on one side and
unfold on open up on the other side, replicating ‘[a] new
sprout shooting up from the earth, with solid roots to anchor
it and the beauty of an unfurling leaf," the authors wrote.
Designed by Hijjas Kasturi Associates of Kuala Lumpur for Telekom
Malaysia Berhad, the project was influenced, according to the
architects, by "the work of the Malaysian sculpture and painter
Latiff Mahidin. Construction of the almost completed tower has
been "delayed indefinitely," according to the authors.
Ranhill Bersekutu is the structural engineer.
More gardens in the sky can be found at the
Commerzbank Headquarters building in Frankfort/Main, Germany,
designed by Foster and Partners of London and completed in 1997.
This 849.73-foot-high building is the tallest in Europe and has
a 49-story atrium and nine 4-story-high gardens, each acting as
a "village green. The triangular-plan building has motorized
window to permit the circulation of outside air when the offices
are warm. Ove Arup & Partners were the structural engineers.
Another high-rise tower with "garden"
floors, this time double-height, is the Sheraton Tower at Wall
Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Scheduled for completion
in 2001, the 450-foot tower was designed by Busby + Associates
of Vancouver and will be the tallest building in the city because
it stands on the highest point of the downtown penisula. Glotman
Simpson is the structural engineer. The 45-story tower joins a
34-story hotel and a 29-story apartment tower at the complex and
has gently curved glass facades that have photovoltaic cells for
energy conservation and efficiency.
One of the most beautiful designs is 155 Macquarie
Street Tower in Sydney, Australia, designed by Renzo Piano Building
Workshop of Genoa, Italy, and Ove Arup & Partners, structural
engineers. The building is on the site of the former State Office
Block, designed by Ken Wooley, that was erected in 1976. The Piano
building is a 34-story office building and a 16-story apartment
building that are linked by a public plaza beneath a transparent
glass canopy that is suspended by steel cables between the two
towers. Each of the 62 apartments will have when the project is
completed in 2000 its own glass-louvered balcony and the office
tower is topped with glass sails to "pay tribute in form
and shimmering material to Jorn Utzon’s famous Opera House
(1957-1973) only 2,600 feet away," the authors write. "Additionally,
the tower’s corners, where the elliptical core is exposed,
are covered with terra-cotta panels whose color and texture is
similar to Sydney’s native, yellow sandstone,’ they
added. The tower gets larger as it rises.
Not surprisingly, Chicago has several new buildings.
At first glance, 300 East Randolph appears to be a relatively
modest, by Chicago standards, office building. Completed in 1997,
it is 30 stories tall, but the design by James Goettsch of Lohan
Associates of Chicago envisions its possible expansion in two
more phases, a second phase that would add 12 more stories and
a third that would another 12 stories to bring it to a height
of 731 feet. "Vertical expansion is possible because the
roof is removable, allowing new steel columns to be connected
to those directly below, continuing the building’s structural
design. The increased need for vertical circulation will be served
by two more passenger elevator banks, now reserved on the building’s
north side as a dramatic vertiginous atrium space adjacent to
the two passenger elevator banks now in service. The building
is occupied by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois. Chris Stefanos
Associates is the structural engineer and Costentini Associates
is the mechanical engineer. The building is quite elegant with
a broad expanse of windows and fine detailing. The same architect
has also designed another simple but elegant 52-story tower for
John Buck Company/ERE Yarmouth Inc., at One North Wacker Drive,
that is due for completion in 2001.
Jean-Paul Viguier also has a Chicago project,
the Hotel Sofitel, a triangular-plan tower that is due for completion
Another French architect, Christian de Portzamparc,
is represented by his LVMH Tower on 57th Street between Fifth
and Madison Avenues in Manhattan and nine design schemes for the
modest but flamboyant tower are shown. The 23-story tower conforms
to the city’s complex zoning but has an indented and curved
facade with a setback for a blue-glass element and, the author’s
noted that "the plastic expression of the building is emphasized
at night, when concealed neon lights tint the facade with a palette
of soft colors and while lights illuminate the underside of the
floor slabs. The evolution of the design is interesting from a
plain, clean-cut modern facade to a post-modern stacking of differing
geometric shapes, to a Deconstructivist angularity to the final,
svelte design with curves.
The LVMH Tower looks best at night when its
facade colors change as during the day its pearlescent white is
a bit weak although the dramatic, sculptured lines of the building,
which opened in 1999, are fine.
Another modest, by New York standards, project
is an expansion of the building at 350 Madison Avenue for Max
Capital Management that is due for completion in late 2001. Here,
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are adding several floors to the
building that will be clad in frosted glass, stainless steel mesh
and polished concrete in dramatic contrast to the existing building’s
brown masonry. The new floors will cantilever out at an angle
over the building’s lobby in the middle of the block on the
avenue and the lobby will be rebuilt and its floor and ceiling
will be of glass with floodlights beneath the floor directed upward
to reflect off the new metal mesh surface of the south facade
of the building. The asymmetrical addition looks a bit like the
architects have taken a small scale version of Christian de Portzamparc’s
famous Credit Lyonnais Tower of 1995 in Lyons, France, and tiled
it on end and shove it down through the roof of the existing older
building on this site. The form of the addition is very dramatic,
but it remains to be seen how well its high-tech surfaces meld
into the masonry fabric of the existing and surrounding buildings.
The overall effect would appear to be ungainly and awkward, yet
this sleek hammer may prove to be quite riveting in this location
close to Grand Central Terminal. Gilsanz, Murray Steficek is the
Not all of the projects in the book are gigantic
towers. In Montevideo, Uruguay, Carlos Ott International has designed
a 520-foot-high building known as the ANTEL Telecommunications
Tower that is not only very colorful but also arises from a very
complex base that includes an inverted conical structure. The
tower combines a triangular plan with curved facades. "The
irregular and shifting facades as well as the alternating black-and-gray
granite exterior cladding, tri-colored aluminum curtain wall,
and green, blue-green, and silver glass all contribute to the
dynamic expression," the authors wrote. Marcelo Sasson is
the structural engineeer and the project is due for completion
in late 2000.
Similar complexity can be found at Olympia
Plaza in Hong Kong, a building designed by Wong Tung & Partners
of Hong Kong for Ka Chee Co. Ltd., and completed in 1999. Only
26 stories and 387 feet high, the building concentrates its design
flourishes at its base rather than its top. The lower three floors
are shopping arcades and these are topped by eight levels of restaurants
and 14 stories of offices. The office floors project over the
base in a convex facade and "linear trim along the silver,
reflective curtain wall emphasizes the horizontal breadth of the
building - a design feature that is reiterated even in the horizontal
bands around the glass cylinders and elevator enclosures - and
compresses vertical movement. This underlines the architect’s
intention…to give the overall composition a ‘coherent
and dynamic form,’ which emphasizes the ‘streamlined’
qualities of ‘horizontality and transparency,’"
the authors noted.
The building combines the polished sophistication
of Hans Hollein and the bold sculptural gestures of Shin Takematsu.
(See The City Review article on "New
Forms, Architecture in the 1990s," a book by Philip Jodidio,
which illustrates Takematsu’s great Kirin Plaza in Tokyo.)
This building is much better than most of the new buildings in
Shin Takematsu is one of the world's greatest
architects and this book illustrates his proposed ELA Tower in
Tel Aviv, Israel, that he designed in 1995-6 in association with
Eliakim Architects. The book, unfortunately, does not provide
further information on this rather amazing design, shown above.
Indeed, the major shortcoming of this book is the brevity of the
information about some of the projects.
The construction binge that began in the 1990s
in Shanghai continues apace. One of the handsomer projects is
Wan Xiang International Plaza, a 1,056-foot, 52-story office tower
designed by Ingenhoven Overdiek und Partner of Dusseldorf, Germany.
Due for completion in early 2003, the tower is distinguished by
its tall antennae and the diagonal struts of its concrete-filled
steel frame. The East China Architectural Design and Research
Institute is the associate architect and Buro Happold is the structural
Nikken Sekkei Ltd., of Tokyo designed the Shanghai
Information Center for the Shanghai Information World Co., Ltd.,
and this 926-foot-high tower is very complex with a finned roof,
angled wings and a 109-foot-high atrium with a huge sphere suspended
from a seventh-floor truss containing a telecommunications museum.
The project is due for completion in late 2002.
Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership of Toronto
has designed two towers in Shanghai, the China Insurance Building
for the People’s Insurance Company of China, and the Shanghai
Pudong Development Bank. The former is a 38-story tower that is
notable for its stunning top of twin beacons and masts as well
as its large exposed facade trusses and its generally happy countenance.
It was completed in 1999. The latter is due for completion in
2000 and its considerably more sedate, but does sport a large
rooftop lantern and spire.
The best new Shanghai project is the 1,380-foot-high
Jin Mao Tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago
for the China Shanghai Foreign Trade Centre Company. Completed
in 1999, this building consciously adopts the pagoda tradition
of China in a memorable and very beautiful modern monolith of
great delicacy and power. The 88-story building has an octagonal
concrete core surrounded on four sides by a pair of supercolumns
and "three sets of eight-two-story high outrigger trusses
connecting the columns to the core at six floors provide additional
support to prevent the core’s collapse," according to
the authors. Adrian Smith was the partner in charge and the East
China Architectural Design and Research Institute was the associate
architect. The tower has 13 flaring setbacks and four receding
ones and is topped with a fine sculptural skyline ornament that
is appropriate to the very complex, almost pine-cone design of
the tower, whose complexity rises as it ascends. The base of the
building contains a hotel with a huge barrel-vaulted, skylit atrium.
This may well be the world’s finest skyscraper
since the Chrysler Building.
The twin towers of Cesar Pelli’s Petronas
Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the world’s tallest at 1,483 feet
is are shown in a fine night photograph that makes the two braces
for the bridge between the towers a stunning and surprising focal
point. Featured prominently and spectacularly in the movie, "Entrapment,"
this tower has a sensational facade although the proportions of
the towers is not too satisfying because of the shallow setbacks.
Of course, the towers’ design "was generated by a floor
plan whose geometric circle-and-square design symbolized the principles
of harmony in Islam," the authors note. Adamson Associates
was the associate architect for this project, which was completed
in 1998 and Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers were the structural engineers.
Frilly, intricate, dazzling and awesome, the
Petronas Towers are cultural icons of great power and Pelli has
successfully given them an Asian beauty that may be a put too
fussy for some purists and Westerners. Individually, they are
not as elegant as the slightly smaller Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai.
The notion of twin towers perhaps stems from the days of Gothic
cathedrals, but most of those were merely the fronts to large
structures that sported a central or rear tower of even greater
height. The World Trade Center in Manhattan is, of course, the
other famous twin-tower project but Minoru Yamasaki’s sleek
and sheer designs were minimalist despite some frills at the bases
and his towers had no connecting bridges.
Why only one bridge? Why such a relatively
thin bridge? Why such dramatic, large and angled braces? Why not
three towers of different heights? No matter how one answers such
questions, the Petronas Towers are an impressive achievement and
the generic facade is the best since Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s
"Lipstick" building at 885 Third Avenue in Manhattan.
Another twin-towers project is the Emirates
Twin Towers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates designed by NORR Limited
of Toronto for HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
The towers, however, are not twins as one is 1,154 feet high and
the other "only" 991 feet high, but the design of both
is otherwise very similar. The taller building is for offices
and the smaller is for a hotel. "The nearly identical towers
rise from an equilateral triangle plan. This Islamic-inspired,
geometric pattern is repeated through the building, from sloped
glass roofs and triangular skylights and canopy structures, to
various interior and exterior paving designs. The rigid geometry
is balanced by the curvilinear and terraced podium, which includes
a cascading waterfall at the hotel entrance and circular glass
drums which enclose the lower eight levels - an architectural
motif that is repeated in the upper segments of the towers. The
project is due for completion in 2000.
Foster and Partners of London have designed
two major towers in London, the Swiss Re London Headquarters and
the Millennium Tower. The former design was completed in 1998
but the book does not indicate when construction is planned. It
is a 590-foot-high, 41-story structure that is diagonally braced
and in the form of a pill with one end stuck in the ground. "By
rotating each successful floor, Foster and Partners have created
voids at the edges of each floor plate which will form a series
of spiral atria. To assist in ventilation, they have incorporated
horizontal slots into the atria which will draw in natural air
at each floor. Additionally, they have enclosed the atria at every
sixth floor to allow for gardens and social spaces for the tenants,"
the authors wrote. The intricate design combines triangles and
diamonds and curves that wrap the structure in a lace. The building
bulges a bit in its lower portions. The high-tech helical design
is very impressive, but also rather ungainly in its proportions.
Two years before, Foster and Partners unveiled a scheme for a
1,265-foot-high tower that was "promoted by the Norwegian-based
business group, Kvaerner," and the proposed mixed-use building
would have an observatory and the "top of the building would
divide into two tail fins of differing heights."
Both of these projects look they have been
on steroids and do not manifest a great deal of gracefulness,
whereas the firm’s Millennium Tower project for Tokyo is
exquisite. Designed for the Obayashi Corporation, the 170-story,
2,755-foot-high tower has been proposed for an island in Tokyo
Bay. "Using a helical steel cage, woven like a basket, the
Millennium Tower has a conical shape that offers both an aesthetic
and structural solution to the design limits of the very tall
building. In laboratory studies, the conical shape proved the
move stable, since potentially destabilizing winds move safely
around the building’s contours," the authors wrote.
Another beautiful design, slightly less ambitious,
is "a proposal for the heart of downtown Chicago, initiated
by European-American Realty Ltd., [which] aims to put the city
again in the running for the world’s tallest building."
"The mixed-use building will measure 2,000 feet…in height
including its antenna…and include a retail concourse, thirteen
floors of parking, approximately thirty floors of offices, 350
residential units on forty-two floors, and communications levels.
The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is designing
the building which is a sleek, rectangular, steel-and-glass tower
with curved corners, divided into six sections, which step back
as the building rises. The entire top is devoted to communications
floors, mechanical systems, a cooling tower and the Tuned Mass
Damping system….The tower is constructed of a concrete tube
structure, which forms the spine from which floors cantilever
out twenty to thirty feet….This means that the upper residential
floors have no perimeter columns dividing the space, and the lower
office floors have open plans with additional support provided
by external columns," the authors wrote. The S.O.M. design
is rigorous and fine.
In Melbourne, Australia, developer Bruno Grollo
has been planning a major tower for several years. In 1995, he
commissioned a design for a 1,625-foot-high structure from Harry
Seidler and Associates that was very dramatic with slanted corners
and exposed diagonal braces with an asymmetrical top. The hexagonal
tower had a tapered profile supported by only six exterior columns
and a triangular central core and the facade was going to have
embedded photovoltaic cells to use solar energy. "Due to
a lukewarm public and governmental response to the original design,
developer Bruno Grollo commissioned a second design for a specific
site in the Docklands area of Melbourne. For the second scheme
he chose the Australian firm of Denton Corker Marshall. Their
proposal is a glass, multi-use obelisk, 113 stories - or 1,820
feet…- high, containing shops, offices, apartments, and a
hotel….The basic structural elements are four pairs of columns
that raise the tower off the ground, creating space for a park
more than 100 feet …high at its ground level and the symmetrical
central core which contains circulation and services. The building
has three main parts, each separated by a triple-level sky lobby.
Above the top, or hotel section, are observation decks, a restaurant,
shops and recreational facilities. The uppermost 350 feet…is
the "Light Pinnacle," a beacon filled with telecommunications
equipment and capped with an open viewing platform," the
authors wrote. The top of the slender building, surprisingly,
has a flat top.
Haines Lundberg Waehler was commissioned by
the Chongqing National Garden City Inc., to build a 1,693-foot-high
tower of at least 100 stories in Chongqing, Sichuan, China. The
building will have a eight-story-high lobby, offices and a hotel
as well as an observatory and its top, the authors wrote, "is
designed to reference traditional Chinese imagery."
In Denver, W. Scott Moore has commissioned
Richard Keating of DMJM Keating Architects to build a 86-story,
wedge-shaped tower that would be known as the Trango Tower and
would be clad in honed and polished granite and the shaft in ochre-colored,
striated stone and dark glass trips. "Although no specific
schedule has yet been set, the developer looks optimistically
towards 2004," the authors remarked.
Some projects lack the design cohesiveness
of the Jin Mao Tower but have some very fine elements such as
the Nadya Park project in Nagoya, Japan, designed by Kaplan McLaughlin
Diaz of San Francisco, and completed in 1996. This building has
a 14-story Design Center that is connected by a 165-foot-high
glass-enclosed atrium with angled facade walls, to a 23-story
retail and office tower that is topped by a 40-foot-high mellatic
screen and elliptical crown with three very distinctive fins.
The asymmetrical project has many design flourishes such as convex
facades, indented facades, screens and curves that are very interesting,
although the overall effect is something of a jumble.
Ken Yeang of the Selangor, Malaysia architectural
firm of T. R. Hamzah & Yeang has designed a "bioclimatic"
21-story tower known as Menara UMNO for the South East Asia Development
Corporation of Berhad in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. Completed in
1998, this tower is unusually complex and has large panels to
direct wind around it for maximum environmental efficiency and
a balcony pattern that is different for every floor but design
Another small, but interest project is Scotts
Tower in Singapore by Ong & Ong Architects Pte Ltd., of Singapore
for the Far East Organization Pte Ltd. Expected to be completed
in 2001, this 22-story, 299-foot-high apartment building has a
plan that is mostly elliptical, except for one side that houses
its elevator and staircase core. "Its facade is defined by
a number of interlocking elliptical bodies that recall the dynamic
designs of early twentieth-century architects such as Erich Mendelsohn
and members of the Bauhaus….The lower half of the tower is
defined by horizontal ribbon windows that are set in wide, protruding
frames and wrap around the building’s corner. Aluminum fins
at the shifting of the ellipse function as visual extensions of
these horizontal components. On top of the tower, the mechanical
plant is hidden behind elliptical louvers which are, in turn,
crowned by a metal-clad, hyperbolic plane that is pierced by a
ast. With its striking architectural forms and full-height, blue-tined
glass windows, the Scotts Tower vividly invokes the streamlined
design favored by architects at the beginning of the twentieth
century," according to the authors. Steen Consultants Pte
Ltd., was the structural engineer.
Scotts Tower has almost too much intriguing
design. The framed windows are very strong. The hyperbolic plane
pierced by a mast is sensational and the fins are, well, fantastic,
especially since they grow in length the higher they are. Is the
mast for flags? What’s the view, if any, from behind the
Another modest-size apartment building is the
SEG Apartment Tower in Vienna, Austria, designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au
of Vienna for the SEG Stadterneurerungs- und Eigentums - wohnungsgesellschaft
m. b. H., and completed in 1998. This is notable for its slanted
edge and mix of facades.