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Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat Volume 1

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 284 pages, 2018

Marina One in Singapore

Marina One in Singapore

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.

This year, the council changed the name of its annual book from "Best Tall Buildings" to "Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat," and published it in a larger format while retaining some of its very small fonts.

In past years, it declared one "winner," but also adds finalists and nominees, in varying numbers.  In total, this edition includes 150 projects buildings in seven categories but not all have accompanying essays and multiple pictures, and it also did away with labeling the entries as "winners," "finalists" and "nominees." In 2009, it included 54 in five catagories with good descriptions and photographs.

Marina One in Singapore 2

Marina One in Singapore

This three-building, mixed-use complex is known as Marina One and was developed in Singapore by M & S Ptd Ltd and designed by Ingenhoven Architects of Dusseldorf, which won an international competition for the project.

Its 740-foot-high office tower is behing its two 462-foot-high residential towers that contain at total of 1,042 apartments.

The usable area of the project's green space is 125 percent of its site coverage.

The organic shape of the building complex with its iconic louvres and the generous planting contribute to an improvement of the microclimate and increase biodiversity. Inspired by Asian paddy field terraces, the green centre formed by the four towers - with its multi-story three-dimensional gardens - reflects the diversity of tropical flora and creates a new habitat. This "Green Heart" comprises over 350 different types of trees and plants, including 700 trees, on a landscaped area of 37,000 square meters.

The thin angled fence atop the office building mirrors the complex curves of the gardens below.


Ocasio Hotel Downtown in Singapore

The council's book has the following commentary on "Nature and Height Interwine" in its introduction:

"The Ocasio Hotel Downtown...literally wears its green heart on its sleeve, with a green plot ratio of 1,000 % - that is, the amount of greenery on the site is now 10 times what it was before the building was constructed. The perforated metal facade, painted bright red, is festooned with creeper vines, revealing itself in a dynamic dance with the changing growth, attracting animals and insects.  Offices, hotel and club rooms are located on different strata, each with its own sky garden."

The building was developed by the Far East Organization and was designed by WOHA Architects.

The book notes that "the permeable facade lets the interior light shine through at night, giving the tower the look of an illuminated abstraction of a Chinese lantern."

Ping An
ave this picture!

Ping An in Shenzhen, China

The 115-story, 1,965-foot-tall tower is known as the Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China and was the second highest in China and the fourth tallest in the world when it was completed.  It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

Ping An top

Ping An top in Shenzhen, China

The tower is slightly tapered at its bottom and top and its slim form has 8 corners that are highlighted by its angled bracing.  It is the world's largest stainless steel facade.

Lotte Tower

Lotte World Tower in Seoul

Another SuperTall by Kohn Pedersen Fox is the Lotte World Center in Seoul.  The 123-story tower is 1,819 feet tall and was developed by Lotte Property & Development. 

The council's book provided the following commentary:

The curved line of the building references the gracefulness of dynastic periods in Korean Art, inspired by the traditional Celadon ceramic vases, bowls and cups.

It has a 2,036-seat concert hall on the eighth floor of its retail podium and the top of the tower has wind turbines.  Its slightly "open" top appears as a flower just about to bloom.

Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre
Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in China
The Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in China is another SuperTall design from Kohn Pedersen Fox.  The 1,739-foot-high tower, the seventh tallest in the world at ttime of its completion.  has four angled parapets.

Urby in Jersey City
Urby in Jersey City

This very dramatic, 69-story apartment tower at 200 Greene Street between Morgan and Bay streets is the first of three planned for this site in Jersey City near the Hudson River across from Lower Manhattan.

It is also known as Harborside, 34 Exchange Place.

All towers will be similar with shifted floor plates creating “jenga” style silhouettes.  This 713-foot-high tower, which is known as Jersey City Urby, will contain 762 rental apartments and the complex will have a total of 2,358 units when completed.  This tower is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Ironstate Development, the Roseland Residential Trust and Mack-Cali Realty Corporation are the developers.

Concrete and HLW are the architects.

This “drunken” tower totters over its conventional neighbors in Jersey City and was the second tallest in New Jersey when completed.  The shifted stacks of the three towers planned in the complex will vary in height and position, but will share fašade treatments. 

Though not as wildly shifted and luxurious and as high in feet but not floors as 56 Leonard Street, designed by Herzog & de Meuron in Lower Manhattan, this is a sedate version of the new “crazy and wild” architectural aesthetic as exercised by SHoP Architects at the Domino Sugar waterfront site in Brooklyn or its “joined at the hip” American Copper Buildings near the Manhattan entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, which was also cited in this year's book by the council.

This tower and 56 Leonard are variations on the “jenga” concept of shifted blocks and that word is derived from a Swahili word for “build” and is the name of a game created by Leslie Scott with children’s wood building blocks acquired from a sawmill in Takoradi, Ghana and subsequently marketed by Parker Brothers.

The slight shifting here is not as pronounced as some cantilevered projects because the shifting alternates and reverses resulting in a relatively vertical structure with some bumps.

While eye-catching, the push/pull visual play of the tower is not terrifying, but terrific.


150 North Riverside in Chicago

With a pinched based only 12 meters wide, this very sleek, 724-foot-tall tower at 140 North Riverside in Chicago was developed by Riverside Investment & Development and designed by Goettsch Partners.  One of the handsomest  modern buildings in Chicago, it fronts on the Chicago  River and it has an angled, glass-enclosed lobby that has its cantilevered edge facing a long rows of 89 LED blades that vary in lengths and widths.  The floors in the tower are column free and the narrow site was long considered unbuildable because of its railroad tracks that have now been covered over.


Canaletto in London

This rugged, 314-foot-tall apartment building is known as the Canaletto and was developed in London by Groveworld and designed by UNStudio. 

It has an extremely strong facade texture what alternates two- and three-story groups with remarkable punctuation and sensational composition.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"The interplay of the balcony, the cowled overhang, and the asymmetrical floor plates create highly nuanced outdoor spaces for the individual units, some of which are rounded in three dimensions, that cleverly blend sensations of enclosure amd exposure."


Raffles City Hangzhou in China

Another, much larger design by UNStudio is the 845-foot-high Raffles City Hangzhou in China was developed by Capital and China. The mixed-use project has a heliport and retail.

The architects' website provides the following commentary:

"Raffles City Hangzhou is a sustainable urban hub for living, working and leisure located in Hangzhou, one of China’s most picturesque cities. It forms the eighth Raffles City development in China. Situated 180 kilometres south-west of Shanghai, Hangzhou is one of China’s most prosperous cities, especially renowned for its scenic landscapes. Located in Qianjiang New Town near the Qiantang River, this mixed-use development becomes a major landmark along the green axis of the city’s new CBD. A rich mix of 24/7 functions occupies almost 400,000m within two streamlined towers set atop a podium and landscaped plaza.

"As Capital of the Zhejiang province, Hangzhou is steeped in tradition with a view to the future. While the city’s heritage focuses on the picturesque UNESCO heritage-listed West Lake, its future points to a new economic, political and cultural centre orientated towards the river. With strong future ambitions especially concerning sustainability, economy and livability, Hangzhou is a city on the move.

Raffles City entrance

Raffles City Entrance

"In the design of the two towers, the urban face of the project twists towards the landscape, while the landscape aspect, in turn, acknowledges the urban context. Through this, the urban context and the landscape of the city are consolidated in one gesture. The main entrance to the south of the corner site appears as a prominent gateway from the city park and civic centre, as it borders both the urban built-up context and green axis/city park that connects West Lake to the Qiantang River. Reflecting the movement in the river, the tower design features a wave-like motion. These concentric waves increase in their dynamism, starting calmly at the base and building up more vigorously along the vertical axis."

Raffles City Hangzhou is not the only extraordinary mixed-use project of UNStudio as its V on Shenton in Singapore is another wild and surprising major project.

Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing

Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing

A more modest, two-tower complex is the Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing that was developed by the Beijing Jinga Properties Co, Inc., and designed by MAD Architects.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"The scheme expresses the 'Shanshui City' philosophy, derived from the East Asian perception of a world imbued with an affinity for nature.  The design translates natural elements found in classical Shanshui landscape painting into a large sculptural art form that evolves a spiritial resembalance to nature on a city scale. The two main towers reference 'the mountains'; the space between them 'the valley'; and the low-rise commercial and residential buildings, which are also part of the master plan, as 'rocks,' forming 'the creek.'  The towers' facdades are composed of single-curved, cold-bent, dark, reflective glass that gives the feeling that the architectural complex is naturally growing out of the ground, rather than having been built, while evoking the resonance of a Chinese ink painting."

The project has a top-floor atrium and several two-story "skyspaces".

Huangshan Mountain Village in China

Huangshan Mountain Village in China

The council's book contains this commentary on the Huangshan Mountain Village in China, which was developed by the Greenland Group and designed by MAD Architecture:

"A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the region of Huangshan in Eastern China borders many ancient villages using traditional architecture and embedded with a deep history.  The site of the Huangshan Mountain Village is on a hillside, with a rolling landscape that offers a great view toward Taiping Lake, and the famous Huangshan Mountain....The design team organized the buildings of this residential project in a linked configuration across the southern slope of the lake, so that they form a dynamic relationship with the site and each other, establishing a new type of village landscape: one where architecture becomes nature, and nature becomes architecture.

Each of the project's 10 buildings, the book continued, "has been composed in deference to the  local topography, whereby the contour lines of the landscape continue into the shape of each volume, so that they appear to be 'growing' out of the mountainous terrain."

Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town

Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa

The council's book provides the following commentary about the mixed-use building known as Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa, that was developed by Victoria and Albert Waterfront and designed by Heatherwick Studio:

"Since 1924, one of the most identifiable structures in Cape Town, South Africa, was a massive grain storage and silo complex, constructed by the South African Railways and Harbours Company on the downtown waterfront.  The building had sat unused since 2001....It was decided  that the grain silo could be transformed into a new home for the Zeitz Foundation's art collection....The top portion of the taller building was transformed into a luxury hotel....The two major parts of the complex were connected by a central atrium carved from the silo's cellular structure.  Main circulation routes are housed within the atrium, via cylindrical lifts that run inside two bisected concrete tubes....From the outside, the greatest visible change in the building's original structure is the addition of the glass windows inserted into the geometry.  These multi-faceted windows bulge outward as if gently inflated.  By night, this transforms the building into a glowing beacon in Table Bay."

Beirut Terraces

Beirut Terraces

Beirut Terraces is a 392-foot-tall waterfront residential project that was developed by Benchmark and designed by Herzog & de Meuron. 

The 27-story building has a very distinctive silhouette with each floor different with protruding, perforated terraces.

Larry Silverstein was named the council's Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award.

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