Looking up

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In the second of a two-part, series Glass explores the world’s skylines and the sustainable future of high-rise buildings

High rise buildings, skyscrapers and supertall structures
Nowadays the responsibility for the shaping of skylines is in the hands of a very few architects. Their role, however, is crucial in creating high density and high quality living space able to provide sustainable environments. While skyscrapers require the embodiment of considerable amounts of energy during their construction, the economic imperative places them on the most valuable land served by mass transit. Their construction has the potential to dramatically reduce energy consumption by improving the energy efficiency throughout their life cycle.

Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) and Pelli Clarke Pelli (PCP) are some of the leading international practices that have continuously developed this typology. They are responsible for some of the tallest buildings in the world that not only have become iconic but also have refashioned views of high performance workplace, lifestyle and sustainability. The John Hancock Centre (Chicago, 1969) by SOM was a pioneer in incorporating commercial and residential activities in the same structure; KPF’s 333 Wacker Drive (Chicago, 1983) articulated two major zones of the city; and the Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, 1998) by PCP quickly became a symbol of the Asian economic boom of the 1990s. Each gives their view on the skyscraper:

Skidmore Owings & Merrill – founded in Chicago, 1936
“For the first time in history, man is more urban than rural – though a sense of community and its relative density has always been the hallmark of advanced civilisations through the ages. It is our collective evolution towards a more urban existence that has us seeking ever more density and connectivity along with the convenience, diversity and cultural richness that urbanisation provides.

Skyscrapers are inherently sustainable. In their urban context, they are often located near mass transit systems, which helps keep thousands of cars off of our roads. Centralised mechanical systems can be highly efficient from both energy and indoor air quality points of view. Coupled with other innovative high performance design strategies, these buildings can achieve the highest measures of sustainability, including approaching zero energy.”

Kohn Pedersen Fox – founded in 1976 in New York
“KPF believes that increasing density at city centres is more effective in preserving land resources and reducing energy usage. High-rise buildings should incorporate multiple uses into a single tall tower, creating ‘vertical cities’. Combining uses also allows for economy of scale in terms of resource usage: one structure is more effective than multiple structures as energy usage is shared so distribution is easier, and spaces and systems are multifunctional. In this way, individual buildings form part of a larger ecosystem of vertical centres linked by horizontal networks of public transportation.

Examples of building high-rise density atop rail stations, such as New York’s MetLife Building over Grand Central Station (1960) and more recently KPF’s JR Central Towers in Nagoya, Japan (2002), established fundamental principles for integrating the tall building with transit. In Hong Kong and mainland China, with the recent completion of International Commerce Centre and the upcoming Chow Tai Fook Centre and Ping An International Finance Center, a high level of integration has been achieved. This is made possible by the combination of strong central planning, a powerful transit authority and an innovative development culture.”

Pelli Clarke Pelli – founded in New Haven, 1977
“Sustainability is determined first by decisions made before a project reaches an architect’s office. These are basic choices, like where a developer chooses to build. They are the choices a city government makes when it implements policies that encourage particular types of development. Most importantly, however, there are the choices a society makes about the ways it wants grow, and the legacy it wants to leave to future generations. In this context, the individual architect has limited power. To produce a sustainable project, an architect must be a part of a larger team committed to sustainable goals. This requires the attention and energy of everyone – architects, developers, politicians, tenants, and the public at large. To be truly effective, sustainable strategies must be used on a national and international level, not just with individual buildings.”

by Christian Parreno

Taken from the Glass Archive  – Issue Five – Dreams

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