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Best Tall Buildings 2010

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 199 pages

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa in Dubai

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 2010 edition discusses in good detail 88 tall buildings as compared to 54 in 2009.

The most spectacular of the book's "tall" buildings is the 2,717-foot-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  It was developed by Emar Properties and designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The book provides the following commentary:

"Burj Khalifa has redefined what is possible in the design and engineering of supertall buildings.  By combining cutting-edge technologies and cultural influences, the building serves as a global icon that is both a model for future urban centers and speaks to the global movement towards compact, livable urban areas.  The Tower and its surrounding neighborhood are more centralized than any other new development in Dubai.  At the center of a new downtown neighborhood, Burj Khalifa's mixed-use program focuses the area's development density and provides direct connections to mass transit systems.

"Burj Khalifa's architecture has embodied references to Islamic architecture and yet reflects the modern global community it is designed to serve.  The building's Y-shaped plan provides the maximum amount of perimeter for windows in living spaces without developing internal unusable area.  As the tapering tower rises, setbacks occur at the ends of each 'wing' in an upward spiraling pattern that decreases the mass of the tower as the height increases.  These setbacks were modeled in the wind tunnel to minimize wind forces.  The design of the Tower was significantly influenced by its performance with respect to the wind, in both its shaping and orientation.  The building went through many wind tunnel tests and design iterations to develop optimum performance.

"The exterior cladding, comprised of aluminum and textured stainless steel spandrel panels, was designed to withstand Dubai's extreme temperatures during the summer months by using a low-E glass to provide enhanced thermal insulation.  Vertical polished stainless steel fins were added to accentuate Burj Khalifa's height and slenderness.

"The unprecedented height of the Burj Khalifa required it to be an innovative building in many ways.  Design techiques, building systems, and construction practices all required rethinking, and in many cases new applications, to create a practical and efficient building....

"An art program for the Tower was developed in wich over 500 individual pieces of art were placed and specified thoughout the Tower.  The premier featured art piece resides in the tower's residential lobby.  The sculpture, completed by the internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa, is entitlted 'World Voices' and is composed by 196 cymbals supported by stainless steel rods rising from two pools similar to reeds in a lake.  The cymbals represent the 196 countries of the world and reflect that the Burj Khalifa was a result of a collaboration of many people from around the world."

The jury statement declared that "undoubtedly one of the wonders of the modern world, Burj Khalifa is graceful and elegant as it reached upwards with seeming ease.  The building's iconic status reflects the aspirations of Dubai to estalish itself among the world's great cities.  Through its ambition, style and record-breaking height, it has instantly become one of the most recognizable buildngs of our time."

Its awesome height soars with a greatness only approached by the Eiffel Tower, until now the world's most beautiful structure.

Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower in Chicago

The sexiest and most voluptuous building in the book is the Aqua Tower in Chicago that was by the Magellan Development Group and designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architecture.   It is 859 feet high and was a finalist in the Americas region.

The jury's statement declared that the tower's "signature cantilevered balconies are breathtaking; it is exemplary of where concrete technology can take tall building design today.  When viewed as a whole, the balconies create a seemingly organic and free 'motion' across the tower's facades unlike anything before seen in tall building design, and yet are carefully planned to provide solar shading, views, and to correspond to the units within."  The book also notes that the balconies "disrupted" or "confused" the flow of wind negating the need for a tuned damper.  Its balconies extend further on the southern facade and the building employs six different types of glass: clear, tinted, reflective, spandrel, fritted and translucent.  "Fritted glass is used and combined with handrail design to minimize bird strikes."

Bank of America Tower

Bank of America Tower

The Bank of America Tower is 1,200 feet tall and is across from the northwest corner of Bryant Park on 42nd Street in Manhattan.  It was developed by the Durst Organization and designed by Cook + Fox.  With its distinctive angled top and tall spire, the tower is an important addition to midtown and to the developer's long heritage on the Avenue of the Americas.

The book notes that its crystalline form "suggests an appropriate natural analogue, both organic and urban in nature.  With the crisp, folded facade, the tower changes with the sun and sky; its southeast exposure, a deep double wall, orients the building its it full height toward Bryant Park, its namesake and the most intensively used open space in the US."

Pinnacle @ Duxton

Pinnacle at Duxton in Singapore

The "winner" in the Asia and Australasia region was the Pinnacle @ Duxton in Singapore with seven buildings with a total of 1,848 apartments.  The buildings have continuous skygardens on the 24th and 50th floors. 

The book provides the following commentary:

"Efficiently constsructed off-site, the pre-fabricated concrete building componenents were delivered and put together on site.  Residents were given an unprecedented choice of exterior faade treatments - planter boxes, bays, bay windows, windows and balconies.  The facade is atomized into modular panels strung together to form seven sets."

Rather than creating a "relentless" wall, the buildings curve and have very aticulated facades.  The jury's statement maintains that "the project has enlivening spaces and creates a quality experience for the users."

The developer was the Housing & Development Board of Singagpore and the architects was ARC Studio Architecture and Urbanism.

Marina Bay

Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort

This spectacular, 679-foot-high project was developed by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and is a major landmark in Singapore.  It was designed by Moshe Safdie.  Its three 55-story towers support as a 1,115-foot-long SkyPark.  The complex contains a casino, a 2,560-room hotel, a convention center, a museum, shopping and dining and theaters.  Each of the three towers is formed by two curved and splayed legs that lean into one arnother as they rise.


O-14 in Dubai

The 347-foot-high tower known as O-14 in Dubai  is table for its perforated exoskeleton that has more than 1,300 openings, mostly circular.  The project was developed by Creekside Development Corporation and designed by Reiser + Umemoto and RUR Architecture  P.C.
  The facade holes were made by "weaving  Computer Numerically Cut (CNC) polystyrene void forms into the reinforcement matrix of the shell, around which are constructed the slip forms of the internior and exterior surfaces of the shell.  Super-liquid concrete was then cast around this meshwork and once it was cured, the forms are loosened and moved up the tower to the next level."

Nanjing Greenland Financial Center

Nanjing Greenland Financial Center in China

This 1,476-foot-high tower is known as the Nanjing Greenland Financial Center and is triangular in plan with a very distinctive facade that has rounded corners and an asymmetrical configuration.  It was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.


100 11th Avenue

Each of this mid-rise tower's 1,650 windows are different sized and have unique orientation.  It was developed by Cape Advisors and Alf Naman Real Estate.  It was designed byAtelier Jean Nouvel.  It fronts on the West Side Highway in Chelsea and is just to the north of mid-rise building designed by Frank O. Gehry that utillizes a sail motif. 


Bumps in Beijing

This very handsome, mid-rise, 26-story project in Beijing is known as Bumps and was developed by the Beijing Xinfergxinde Real Estate Development Company and designed by SAKO Architects.  It is made up of four residential towers and a commercial complex. Every two floors are set as a "boxed" unit staggered 6.5 feet horizontally, and the facade repeats the staggered spacing.  The staggering is used for terraes and a restaurant on the sixth floor of one of the commercial buildings.  The windows are randomly placed.

Cetra Ruddy tower

One Madison Park

The 621-foot-tower known as One Madison Park has its entrance on East 22nd Street but extends through to 23rd Street where it became the quite distinctive visual "foot" of Madison Avenue overlooking Madison Square Park.  Developed by Slazer Enterprises, it was designed by Cetra/Ruddy.  Over a 5-story commercial base, the tower has stacked 4- and 6-story blocks that all protrude from the rear portion of the tower.  The spaces between the blocks provide terraces for full-floor apartments  It is almost as tall as the famous clock-tower design of the imposing Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building on block north on Madison Avenue.

The council's Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award was given to William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox whose better known designs include the curved riverfront 333 Wacker Drive in Chicago, the DG Bank Headquarters tower in Frankfurt, and the 1,614-foot-high Shanghai World Financial Tower that was named by the council as the "Best Tall Building Overall" in 2008.
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