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Best Tall Buildings 2014


Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 280 pages


The Interlace

The Interlace in Singapore by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture


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 2014 edition discusses in good detail 104 tall buildings as compared to 54 in 2009.

This year inaugurated the Urban Habitat Award which was given to very impressive, very dramatic and sprawling Interlace complex in Singapore designed by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, which is headed by Rem Koolhaas.

The book provides the following commentary:

"The Interlace is a 1,040-unit apartment complex consisting of 31 apartment blocks, each six stories tall and 70 meters long, stacked in hexagonal arrangements around eight large-scale, permeable courtyards.  The stacking of the volumes creates a topographical phenomenon  more reminiscent of a landscape than of a typical building.  An extensive network of communal gardens and spaces is interwoven with amenities,  providing multiple opportunities for social interaction, leisure and recreation - both on the rooftops of, and in between, these stacked horizontal blocks."

Vertical view of The  Interlace

Vertical stacking at The Interlace

"The unusual geometry of the hexagonally stacked building blocks creates a dramatic spatial structure.  Partly resting, partly floating, the blocks hover on top of each other to form open, permeable courtyards that interconnect with one another and the surrounding landscape and city.  An expressive, interlaced space emerges that connects the multiple parts of the development into an open, inclusive community."

Just what is needed for large swaths of the Lower East Side, East Harlem, Harlem and parts of the outer boroughs!

De Rotterdan by OMA

De Rotterdam by Office of Metropolitan Architecture

Another majestic and great work by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture is De Rotterdam that is named after a Holland America Line oceanliner.  The 495-foot-high project was named the "winner" of "Best Tall Building" for the Europe region.  It was developed by MAB and OVG Projectontwikkeling.

The development has three interconnected mixed-use towers accommodating offices, apartments, a hotel, retail and conference facilities.  The book notes that "unlike a typical tall building, where the programs are stacked one on top of another, in De Rotterdam, the functions come in side by side

It suggests that a jumbling of the bland buildings of Rockefeller West or Embarcadero Center could create an interesting, perhaps exciting, shifting "barcode" of urban aesthetics.

The book notes that "De Rotterdam's stacked towers are arranged in a subtly irregular cluster that refuses to resolve into a singular form, and produces intriguing new views from different perspectives."

The jury statement offers the following commentary:

"De Rotterdam subverts accepted notions of how a skyscraper is supposed to behave.  While the collective massing suggests a refined and simple monolith, the slightest change of perspective reveals secondary and tertiary complexities.  Sunsets cascade through the small gaps between the offset upper volumes, as if the building is some king of ancient timekeeping device.  In certain lights, the towers are shimmering and immutable, at dusk, they are translucent revealing the K-braces and other structural interventions required to achieve the impression of shifted solidity.  The translucence also lends levity to the otherwise massive building, re-confirming its daytime appearance as the sail of a large ship while re-inventing it at night as a box lantern at the harbor's end."

The book's introduction also added:

"The Europe winner, De Rotterdam, is a deceptively straightforward project that appears as a reinterpretation of a multi-tower project from the High Modern era in North America, but then reveals myriad subtleties as one's viewing angle changes, and as day changes to night.  The Netherlands' now largest building breaks down its scale by shifting the upper portions of its three towers slightly off-center, which seems a curious  and minor intervention until nightime backlightning reveals the structural acrobatics required to accomplish this.

Wangjing Soho

Wangjing Soho in Beijing by Zaha Hadid

Built by SOHO China Co. Ltd., the spectacular, three-towered Wangjing Soho in Beijing is one of Zaha Hadid's greatest creations.  All three towers, the tallest of which is 656 feet tall, are clad with bright alumimum thin bands that horizontally recall the voluptuous pleats of fashion designer Fortuny. "Wangjing SOHO creates some of those stop-dead moments for the Beijing visitor - sculptural mountains in the middle of the city," according to Antony Wood, one of the council's jurors.  The building was a "finalist" in the Asia and Australasia regions.

Jockey Club by Hadid

The Jockey Club Innovation Tower by Hadid

Another "finalist" by Hadid in the Asia and Australasia region was the Jockey Club Innovation Tower in Hong Kong.

Erected by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as a school for design, the 15-story building has external sunshades of different heights  and widths that are stacked vertically and give the tower the image of track star crossing the finish line. 

The fluidity of the design is marred only by the incongruous base that is composed of a gray concrete bottom beneath a narrow white perforated band.  Some of the building's varied-height louvers are perforated, which adds to the "texture" of the facade.  Despite such nit-picking, the building, which has interior and exterior courtyards, conveys a very strong sense of thrust and motion.

One Central Park in Sydney

One Central Park in Sydney


The TOne Central Park Sydney 2

One Central Park in Sydney 2 and its large cantilever of reflectors to redirect sunlight below

The "winner" of the Best Tall Building Asia and Australasia is one Central Park in Sydney that was developed by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia.  It was designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel.  The building was also a "finalist" for the council's Innovation Award.

The jurors' statement provided the following commentary:

"One Central park is a breathtakingly beautiful building that captured the imagination of the jury.  The living facades in One Central Park provide fantastic visual tactile, aromatic, and auditory experiences for the occupants of the apartments and deliver significant urban heat island reductions and other benefits to the local neighborhood.  This also a tall building that welcomes the sun and treats it as an asset to be managed.  In addition to the shading itself and increasing its own value, the neighborhood is further enhanced by the project's 42 heliostats that reflect sunlight onto the shaded streets."

The book notes that the heliostats on the lower building redirect sunlight up to 320 reflectors on a cantilever off the taller tower, which then beam the light down into areas that would overwise be in permanent shade.  "The system adapts hourly and seasonally to the need for brightness and warmth, redirecting sunlight to a heat absorbing pool of water atop the glass atrium in summer, which can be drained to assist with heating in the winter....During the day, dappled lights move on the ground in a precisely programmed choreography.  At night, the heliostat becomes a monumental chandelier and appears in the dark sky like a floating pool of tiny LED lights that merge into a giant screen and simulate reflections of glittering harbor waters."

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort in China

Developed by the Feizhou Group, this "ring" shaped,  335-foot-tall structure was designed by MAD Architects.  It was a "finalist" in the Asia and Australasia regions.

The jurors' statement provides the following commentary:

"With its smooth curves and improbable proportions, this surreal concrete-tube structure evokes endless contemplation.  Seen against the water, it does seem to be an expression of continuity with something below the surface that beguiles the tower's standoff with gravity and speaks to invisible forces.  It is rare that a tall building can be both an artifact of human ingenuity and seem eternal and naturalistic, but the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort accomplishes this."

Fake City
Fake City in Beihai, China

Another project by MAD Architects, is Fake City in Beihai, China.  the 348-foot-high structure has a very long undulating roof with gardens, tennis courts and swimming pools.  The project was developed Beihai Xinpinguangyang Real Estate Development Co.

The book notes that the project's "arched entryway and cut-out hole provide visual and spatial continuity between the oceanfront and the valley behind the building," which was a "finalist" in the Asia & Australasia regions.


Guangzhou Circle 1    Guangzhou Circle 2

Guangzhou Circle in China


The 453-foot-high Guangzhou Circle building in China was developed by Guang Dong Hong He Construction and designed by AMproject. 

The book contains the following commentary: 

"The 'Bi' disc is one of China's most enduring symbols, with a history going back 5,000 years.  Here, set alongside the Zhujiang River, the reflections of the disc-shaped structure forms a figure '8' in the water, also an enduring symbol of good fortune....It is the south gate of Guangzhou, and by extensions, for all of China, as the city is a terminus for ferry boats and high-speed rail."

The building's form conjures a frozen ferris wheel.



Portland Before          Portland Edith

The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, before, left, and after, right


A dramatic renovation of the 18-story Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, was named the winner in the Americas region.  The developer was the General Services Administration and the architect was Cutler Anderson Architects.  The original building was erected in 1974.  The "raw bones" brutalism of the original building's main facade has been replaced by a seven-part curved-screen set at varying angles that is almost "dainty" in its detailing. 

DC Tower in Vienna

DC Tower in Vienna

This black 732-foot-high building is known as the DC Tower and is the tallesst in Vienna.  It was developed by Wiener Entwicklungsegesellaft fur den Donauraum AG and designed by Dominique Perrault Architecture.  It was a finalist in the Europe region.  Antony Wood, a juror, is quoted as stating that "The ribbons of the main facade of DC Tower give the building a kinetic energy and dynamism that hints at an ability of the building to actually move." 

The book provides the following commentary:

"The 220-meter building can be compared to an entirely new urban district with a diverse range of functions: offices, a four-star hotel, apartments, a sky bar, a public open space, restaurants, and a fitness center.  A subtle game of flat and folded facades affords the glass and steel tower a sensual identity.  the facade folds give the tower a liquid, immaterial character, a malleability constantly adapting the light, a reflection or an event.  The folds contrast with the no-nonsense rigor of the other three facades, creating a tension that electrifies the public space at the tower base.  Dancing on its platform, the tower is slightly oriented toward the river, turning its back on no one, neither the historic nor the new Vienna."

The jury's statement maintained that "DC Tower's onyx form and tesselating facade are like a lightning bolt striking a bolt in the ground - Donau City is Vienna's sister, but has its own identity.  Now the metropolis has a solid, definitive, vertical conduit of commerce, next to the horizontal one that has nourished it for centuries."


Cayan Tower in Dubai

Cayan Tower in Dubai

The 1,005-foot-tall Cayan Tower in Dubai was developed by Cayan Investment & Development and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.  Every floor is the same and it contains 495 apartments in six different configurations.  It has recessed windows and the top six levels of the tower "disintegrate" randomly, a fine touch.  The tower was the tall building "winner" in the Middle East and Africa regions. 

The jury's statement provides the following commentary:

"The twisting form of the Cayan Tower is an unusually elegant statement.  The juxtaposition of the 75-story tower next to the water, and next to the nearby rectangular buildings helps to create a softer, inspirational and exciting urban environment that would not have been possible with a conventional tower.  The engineering is exceptional, and it is praiseworthy not only for its visual impact, but also for its material economy and appropriate responsiveness to a challenging urban and environmental condition.  The attention to detail, including the subtly angled perforated titanium screens that moderate the harsh desert light, transcends scale and is impressive from both inside and out.  In an environment where so many tall buildngs lined up in a row against a humid and reflective backdrop can make massive buidings seem like cardboard cut-outs.  It takes an extraordinary gesture to indelibly express the three-dimensionality of a building.  Cayan Tower makes that gesture; happening upon its dancing form in the skyline is like encountering a hula-hooper on a train full of grey flannel suits."

Anhui New Broadcasting Center in Hefei, China

Anhui New Broadcasting Center in Hefei, China

The 778-foot-tall Anhui New Broadcasting Center in Hefei, China was developed by the Anhui Broadcasting & TV Station and designed by New Design Architecture.  It was a "Nominee" in the Asia & Australasia region.

The center is distinguished by its very handsome, light-colored outer facade that resembles a gorgeous and very intricate lace that covers much of the structure but stops short of its "shoulders" and "legs."

The book provides the following commentary:

"The innovative structure showcases fluidity through its swift upward momentum, recalling an unfolding paper scroll.  The spiral shape conceptualizes ancient Chinese wisdom as physical representations of local Li style forms, traditional Chinese calligraphy adorn the outer skin of its double-layered facade."

The "lace" stands out against the dark blue, speckled background layer whose truncated flat top supports an antenna.  The "lace" is mesmerizing and the spiral form is attractive but it should have been applied universally.


Adademy 3 Hong Kong University

Academy 3 at the City of Hong Kong University

A complex plan distinguishes the sprawling Academy 3 addition to the campus of the City of Hong Kong University.  Its low-rise podium is raised above ground level to give pedestrians access to a park and the height of the podium varies from two to four stories.  It dramatically extends beyond its tower with an upwardly angled black "wrap" while at the other end it is slightly angled and has a long "green" roof garden.  The structure's mid-rise tower is also complex with a "barcode" light-colored facade with tall windows on one side and a more conventional fenestration pattern with some protruding corner balconies and an angled protrustion with an uneven roofline on the other.  The building was designed by Roland Lu & Partners and was a "finalist" in the Asia and Australasia region.


Habitat in Melbourne

Habitat in Melbourne

This 358-foot-tall building was a "nominee" in the Asia and Australasia region and was developed by Vicland Corporation Pty. Ltd.  It was designed by ROTHELOWMAN.  It has small, square windows on the main facade that faces a freeway.  They very in size and each story has two rows of windows.  The tower rises from a four-story base beneath an angled two-story setback.  The fenestration pattern on its main facade is zig-zag.  The building has 147 apartments and they are "clustered" around large three-story skygardens.

Peninsula Tower in Mexico City

Peninsula Tower in Mexico City

This very striking, 538-foot-tall tower was developed by Residencial Peninsula Santa Fe and designed by Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon.  The building has 39 residential floors, a two-level penthouse, three-amenity floors, a roof garden and a heliport.  The book notes that "the glazed envelope of the building is set back 1.27 meters from the surface of the chiseled white concrete perimeter columns.  The building was a "nominee"  in the Americas region.

Changzhou Modern Medical Center

Changzhou Modern Medical Center in China

The 840-foot-high Changzhou Modern Medical Center in China was developed by Changzhou Radiio & TV Realty Company Ltd., and designed by the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research Co., Ltd. 

The book provides the following commentary:

"The form of the tower is inspired by the 1,300-year-old Tianning Temple, wich is the most famous historic buildng in Changzhou.  The project intends to represent a pagoda, which in traditional Chinese culture is thought to being good fortune.  The lower part of the main taower is office space, and the higher section is a Marriott hotel.  The top of the tower consists of luxury apartments and an observatory."

The tower, which culminates in a tall antenna, has a facade of many bundled angles topped by numerous setbacks.  The building was a "nominee" in the Asia and Australasia region.


The council award its Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement award to Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization that developed the Conde Nast and Bank of America buildings on West 42nd Street in Manhattan.

The council awarded its Performance Award to the 1,588-foot-tall International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong that was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and erected in 2010.  A "finalist" for that award was the 1,380-foot-tall Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai that was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1999.

The "winner" of the council's 10-Year Award was the 533-foot-high Deutsch Post Tower in Bonn that was designed by JAHN in 2002.

"Finalists" for the 10-Year Award included Taipei 101 that was erected in 2004 and designed by C. Y. Lee & Partners, and the Torre Agbar in Barcelona designed also in 2004 by Ateliers Jean Nouvel.



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