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Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat Volume 2

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 315 pages, 2019


CITIC Tower in Beijing

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.

Last 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.  This year, the book is Volume 2.

In past years, it declared one "winner," but also added finalists and nominees, in varying numbers.  In total, this edition includes 104 projects buildings in 12 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.

This 1,713-foot-tall tower in Beijing was developed by CITIC HEYE Investment Co., Ltd, and designed by TFP Farrells and Kohn Pedersen Fox.  It is known as the CITIC Tower and its simple gracefulness makes it one of the world's most beautiful skyscrapers.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"Its gently rising and curving form embodies the capital's gracefulness, and resembles an ancient Chinese ceremonial vessel, called the zun....The articulation techniques of the zun is distilled and applied throughout the design of the tower form, envelope, canopy, entrance portals, ground floor lobby, and observation hall interiors....At the bottom, tower thrusts into the ground with massive corner supports, while the exterior shell is lifted up and stretched forward along each side."

Morpheus by Hadid

Morpheus Hotel in Macao by Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid is represented in the survey with three major projects.

The most spectacular is the Morpheus Hotel, a 505-foot-tall tower in Macao, China, with three major holes, each with a different spaital configuration, and a dizzying exoskeleton.  The asymmetric composition is one of the architect's most startling and dramatic.  It was developed by Melco Resorts & Entertertainment.  The hotel was commissioned in 2012 atop foundations for a condominium tower that did not progress.

The council's book notes that the building's exterior has hardly any horizontal lines "which would have made for a visually prosaic elevation pattern.

Opus by Zaha Hadid

The Opus in Dubai, United Arab Emirates by Zaha Hadid

The Opus is a 21-story building that is 308 feet tall in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.  It was developed by Omniyat and designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"The free-formed fluidity of the eight-story void contrasts with the orthogonal geometry of the surrounding cube....Ther 6,000-square-meter dark blue facade of the Opus' free-form central void is composed of 4,300 separate glazing units, a majority of which are irregularly-shaped, curved, double-glazed and custom-made insulating glass panels.  The lower section of the void is bordered by the free-formed glass roof over the hotel atrium."

Jumeriah by Hadid

Jumeirah Nanjing Hotel & International Youth Cultural Centre in China by Hadid

The third design in the book by Zaha Hadid Architects is the Jumeirah Nanjing Hotel & International Youth Cultural Centre in China that was developed by Hexi New Town Planning Council. 

The complex consists of five buildings including a 1,033-foot-tall office and hotel tower and a 837-foot-tall cultural centre.  The towers are similar with a dark glass towers with uneven tops and light-colored central spines rising over angled and highly patterned bases whose fenestration geometrically is stylized after the large fenestration patterns of the angled and illuminated low-rise buildings clustered about a sunken plaza.  The complex exudes beaucoup de verve.

La Marseillaise

La Marsellaise in Marseille by Atelier Jean Nouvel

The very colorful and startling, 31-story La Marsellaise is a 443-foot-tall tower in Marseille that was built by Constructa Urban Systems and designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel.

The facade has 30 colors.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"La Marsellaise is part of the Quai d'Arence development within Euromediterranee, an urban renewal project on a former industrial wasteland on the Marseille harbor.  It houses the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis governing body, as well as nine market-leading commercial firms....La Marseillaise rests on pilotis, bringing an atmosphere of lightness to the whole complex...It stands tall as a totem of the new business district under construction....The aesthetic of the tower is intended to capture and epitomize Marseilles, without locking viewers iuto a single interpretation.  Operating in the tradition of impressionism and Op Art, it thus uses a spray of color that plays both on the light and on a grid frame that reads differently based on orientation and time of day. 

Detail of La Marseillaise

Detail of La Marseillaise

"It plays on the red roofs tiles of the local roofs, the white of clouds, and the blue of the sky and the sea, occasionally dematerializing into the surrounding elements.  The building itself is designed to look unfinished, to looke like a sketch, with lines missing....The industrial look and color palette also reflects the local built environment, from the nearby ferries to the bascule bridge in the harbor."


The Central Bank of Kuwait New Headquarters Building in Kuwait City

This 782-foot-high tower is the Central Bank of Kuwait New Headquarters Building in Kuwait City.  It was designed by HOK

A truncated pyramid, the tower's base has several angled  protusions in light-colored stone beneath its blue-glass cross-hatched facade with a centered indentation.

Kuwait 2

Other side of the Central Bank of Kuwait New Headquarters Building

The southeast and southwest elevations are clad in limestone and are mostly opaque.  The council's book notes that "these solid facades are a contemporary reflection of Kuwaiti vernacular buildings, and this purposeful monumentality expresses permanence and dignity."


Salesforce tower in San Francisco by Pelli

The Salesforce Tower in San Francisco is 1,070 feet  tall and was developed by Hines Interests and Boston Properties.  It was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"The building has the simple, timeless form of an obelisk, giving it a slender, tapering silhouette.  The walls are composed of clear glass with pearlescent metal accents.  These horizontal and vertical accents gradually taper in depth to accentuate the curved glass corners....The walls rise just past the top floor to form a transparent crown that appears to dissolve into the sky; at night it features 11,000 LED lights that project a lighting artist's rendition of moving images from photos taken around the city.  Carved into the tower top is a vertical facet, also lit at night."

Harbour in Toronto

Harbour Plaza in Toronto

This mixed-use comple in Toronto is known as Harbour Plaza.  Its two residential towers, one 764 feet tall and the other 735 feet tall, and one office building, which is 514 feet tall, rise above a four-story podium with about 19,000 square feet of retail space.  Menkes Development was the developer of the residential towers and Oxford Properties Group built the office tower.  Alliance designed the residential towers and Sweeny & Co., designed the office tower.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"The Harbour Plaza Residences are an iconic pair of slender towers, cast in a stark white 'woven' skin of pierced aluminum, the first use of this material in a Toronto residential development. combining ease of maintenance, visual impact, and an innovative use of recycled construction material."


China Resources Headquarters in Shenzhen, China, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox

The 1,288-foot-high tower that houses the China Resources Headguarters in Shenzhen, China, was desinged by Kohn Pedersen Fox.  At its base, the tower is connected to a small glass pavilion with retail space, museum, a perofrmance hall and auditiorium.

The book provides the following commentary:

"Inapired by the organic form of the bamboo shoot, the building's 56 stainless-steel clad exo-columns converge into 28 pillars at the top and bottom, creating a diagrid system and further emphasizing the tower's verticality and tapered composition."


888 Boylston Street in Boston

This very handsome, 325-foot-tall building at 888 Boylston Street in Boston is notable for its use of wind turbines.  It was developed by Boston Properties and designed by FXCollaborative.

The book provides the following commentary:

"888 Boylston Street fills the last site of the Prudential Center complex and creates a new front door for one of the world's most successful urban developments.  Crowned by photovoltaics and wind turbines, the building is also a compellting symbole of sustainabilitiy on the skyline, and a welcome conclusion to an important urban ensemble."

Wind turbines at Boyleston

Rooftop Wind Turbines at Boyleston

The 14 wind turbines are quite fancy and conjure Chinese calligraphy and the base's four-story V-shaped angled piers are thematically repeated, albeit with a variation, beneath the protruding photovoltaic "cornice."


Arte S in Penang, Malaysia

Arte S is a two-tower residential complex in Penang, Malaysia developed by Nusmetro and designed by Spark Architects.  Tower 1 is 610 feet tall and Tower 2 is 4`0 and both siit atop a kiwrise podium  Tower 1 has two "pod"-like. "peeble-form" recreational clubs for the residents and each is several stories tall but contained within the tower's undulating floor-plates that ripple up and down the towers with slightly setback glass balcony railings.  The "pods" are about three-quarters up the taller tower and face the smaller tower.  At night, the pods "glow" creating a beacon visible across the island of Penang.

The voluptuous forms of the towers can induce "Saturday Night Fever" for fans of John Travolta and others.

All units are column- and beam-free and are naturally ventilated and skylit.


Le Architecture in Taipei, Taiwan, designed by Aedas

This 235-foot-high project in Taipei, Taiwan was designed for the Earnest Development and Construction Corporation by Aedas for a site adjacent to the Jilong River.  It is known as Le Architecture and is an office building.  Its design, according to the council's book, "draws inspiration from the shape of river pebbles, developing the unique aesthetic that simulaneously conveys ideas of elegance and softness, as well as strength and character."

"The building's egg-like shape casts it as an incubator of knowledge and a metaphor for intellectual revival, which integrates well with the dynamics of the revitalizing Nangang district.  On the south side, a minature version of the pebble-shaped tower contains a retail banking brnach....Due to the desired organically shaped form, the team explored using curved glass, but as this would have covered 27 percent it deemed too expensive."

Sao Paulo

Forma Itaim in Sao Paulo

This very colorful, 279-foot-high residential tower in Sao Paulo is known as Forma Itaim and was developed by Huma Desemvolvimento Imobilario and designed by b720 Fermin Vazquez Arqitectos.

The council's book notes that the project seeks to "highlight itself as a 'singularity of good manners," without stridency, across the monotonous sea of undifferentiated skyscrapers of Sao Paolo....The main part of the facade is composed of color-coated terracotta cladding, creating a mostly opaque ventilated facade that is open to the balconies, which are made from coated aluminum extrusions and glass balustrades....The tower podium is elevated above street level..."

Greem Pool

Wish Signature @ Midtown Siam in Bangkok

Wish Signature @ Midtown Siam in Bangkok is a very elegant 47-story tower that is 504 feet tall and was developed by Siamnuwat Co. Ltd., and designed by Tandem Architects (2001).  The tower has two 10-story wings and it resembles a high-backed chair.

The tower has a outdoor swimming pool that is cantilevered at the 37th floor.

Crystal Laputa Towers in Chengdu, China
Thismulti-tower residential complex in Chengdu, China, is known as Crystal Laputa Towers and was developed by Wide Horizon and designed by 5 + Design.  Its tallest tower is 368 feet tall.

Rising from white-roofed bases, the towers have protruding and receding two-story high elements faced with light-blue glass and dark grey balconies connecting separate sections of each tower, two of which are slightly angled with one another.  The balconies are not on every floor, giving the center of each major tower a substantial "see-through" window that combined with the "push-pull" of most of the unit spaces creates a very rigorous and rugged appearance that is more inviting than ominous.  In the high-rise towers, three units "stem outward from the core, connected by sky terraces, and share one infinity pool between them.....Portions of each unit cantilever outwards from the building, providing sweeping 270-degree views on three sides, two balconies per unit, and in some unit, a spiral staircase in the living room."


King Power MahaNakhon in Bangkok

This 1,030-foot-high, mixed-use tower was developed by PACE Development Corporation PTC and designed by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture.  It has 200 apartments, 150 hotel rooms, a rooftop Sky Bar and a link to the Skytrain.

The council's book provides  the following commentary:

"The design of the project dismantles the typical tower and podium typology, creating a skyscraper that merges with the city by gradually 'dissolving' as it flows downward to meet the ground....The tower has been carefully carved to introduce a three-dimensional ribbon of architectural pixels that coil up the tower's full height to reveal the inner life of the building...."

Duo in Singapore

Duo in Singapore

The two towers of the Duo Project in Singapore was developed by M + S Pte Ltd and designed by Buro Ole Scheeren.

The council's book provides the following commentary:

"Vertical facades rise skywards along the adjoining roads, while a net-like hexagonal pattern of sunshades across the skin of the towers forms intricate honeycomb texture that not only hints at the hive-like activity of the surroundings, but also serves as a functional element in the building's environmental strategy."

The towers have some concave stides and cantilevered sections and rise from a raised podium,  One of the towers contains offices and the other a hotel and residential units.

The project's aesthetic is dizzying but intriguing.


Baidu Headquarters in Shengzhen, China

This  striking, 43-story, 621-foot-high tower is the headquarters of the Baidu Group, one of China's leading technology companies.  Located in Shengzhen, China, it was designed by CCDI Group.

The glass tower is divided into two wings separated by a ladder-like central space whose box-like open spaces alternatiely shift a bit from side to side and contain angled and railed staircases in their lower sections.

The angled staircases provide the tower with a very strong dynamic.

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