Monday, January 28, 2008

Tower Construction

[image courtesy of]

Just browsing some info on the construction of the Burj Dubai, by SOM, I found this on a forum for, which was really interesting: "To ensure the structural stability of the Burj Dubai during construction, the tower’s vertical and lateral movements are tracked with the help of a satellite-based global positioning system. During construction, any change in load distribution of the building is closely monitored in real time through the use of more than 700 sensors embedded in its structure."
Sounds a little overkill, but this process has been used quite commonly in recent times, and in earlier years, used aircraft bombsights for the same quality control.

[image courtesy of]

Another interesting fact about the tower is its foundation. "The 800-meter (1,827 feet) Burj Dubai will need the mother of all foundations to support a super-structure that is expected to weigh 500,000 tons. The tower will rest on a 3.7m-thick triangular frame foundation supported by 192 rounded steel piles or support cylinders measuring 1.5m in diameter and extending 50m (164 ft.) below the ground."
It's hard to measure up foundations with other buildings because it all depends on the depth of bedrock. With Dubai, I'm not sure of the bedrock depth, but if so many skyscrapers are popping up so plentifully in the past decade, then it can't be at too much of an inconvenient depth. In comparison, the glorious Petronas Towers has an extremely deep foundation which may or may not still be the deepest. Composed of "barrettes" (like a bored pile or a drilled shaft, rectangular instead of circular), these structural members go as far as 130m deep! With the Petronas Towers, they had to improve of the karstic limestone below ground by filling all voids in the rock with grout for additional strength. The actual depth of the barrette foundation there is about 120m!

Tower Concept

I've momentarily completed a draft of my tower will likely get chewed apart tomorrow, but I might as well celebrate that for the world wide web to gawk at.

Schematic Tower Concept:
Colliding Particles
A dialogue of: destruction and creation, stability and agitation, the fantastic and pragmatic.

The block grid of New York represents the rational human imposition on topography. Both city and tower combine their destructive energy to create a purely human environment that directly reflects his/her total desires. The skyscraper is the radical emergence out of the rational grid order into a realm of irrationality and fantasy.

The Colliding Particle tower will attempt to disrupt the man-made topography by means of broad tears in the proposed deck over the rail yards and affect other neighbouring towers by a radial-explosive gesture. The tower will terminate the Hudson corridor and redirect pedestrians through a fragmented landscape towards the water and ferry terminal or eastward to the Farley corridor. Pedestrians will experience entry to the tower by crossing numerous bridges over the exposed rails passing under or through the tower below grade.

* * *

Split-Core Tower Program:
Approximate Floor Area = 4200 sq/m, 70 floors total.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Top Ten [Green] Skyscrapers

Have a look at some new projects under construction or on the drawing board for [green] towers. Uber-Eco-Towers: The Top Ten Green Skyscrapers

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Museum Plaza, OMA

Here's another interesting tower video I wanted to share. This is by OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture) where Rem Koolhaas has burrowed himself. As is often the case, Koolhaas' writings from Delirious New York have not been best translated into real architecture. The same applies for a number of writer-architects. Can't blame them, that's tough to do -- Delirious New York is still one of the best written treatises on architecture. Anyhow, in this video, don't bother with the actual design -- it's nothing special, just enjoy the funky vid. Nice tune too.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sustainable Tower

There's a great emphasis in our studio to design a sustainable skyscraper. Our prof is extremely emphatic in mastering sustainable energy systems (i.e. photovoltaics, wind turbines, passive heating and cooling). A skyscraper should not require air conditioning, being so easily accessible to wind as ventilation. Bearing in mind that architecture is responsible for 48% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, it seems appropriate to learn how to cool a building without chemicals and electricity. At the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of knowledge to be learned in the energy control of a 60-storey building. The image below is just a tiny fraction of some of the things to consider. I'm not sure how far we'll go into details for this project, but we do at least have to architecturally integrate wind turbines and solar panels into the building.
[Image from 'The Architecture of Everything' blog]

Some of the basic issues to consider as benefits to the sustainable skyscraper include:

+Utilizing a minimal footprint to multiply floorspace. This is in many ways a counter-balance to suburban sprawl through densification

+Reducing transportation costs by servicing a high-density building with a major public transportation artery

+Desiging 'vertical landscaping' to add to a city's green space.

+Harvest clean energy to create energy-autonomous buildings

+Design a 'vertical city' not just a high-rise development of compartmentalized spaces. Finding a hardware store and a fresh fruit market shouldn't be unusual in creating life in the sky.

As basic points, there are huge implications in the design process to tackle each of these possible solutions to improving a tower's efficiency.

Here's a video of Jacques Ferrier's 'Hypergreen' HQE building. This columnless tower is interesting in that the structure is entirely external, but also designed with varied opacity to control lighting and heat gain. This means that the south-facing structure will have tighter members to minimize harsh, direct sunlight, whereas the north side of the building is much more spread out to offer ideal office environments.

Another video on Sustainable Skyscrapers.

Initial Sectional Sketch

Here's the first sketch of what I'm imagining for this tower's programmatic use. It's all over the place at first, but that's okay -- the program and design will change continuously throughout the semester. The first touches however include some key programs such as a public school which is apparently in high demand for Manhattan. Also, a bird sanctuary extends the atrium use at the center of the building, and yes that's right, there's a ferris wheel mid-height. I think it would be pretty sweet to have a ferris wheel go through the tower's central atrium, graze a bio-dome and then overlook all of New York City. When we all get our assigned sites, I want to try and negotiate with the group to design a continuous rides park including roller coasters, drop zones, and outdoor water slides as part of the an overall sub-scheme for our towers. At the very top of my tower, I'm still trying to come up with a fun use for the best seats in the house. Our prof was all smiles at the thought of a crematorium at the top of the building, thinking of people's remains getting sucked up into the wind turbines. Bad joke, but true story. At the moment I have an insane asylum, again, playing up the black irony of entrapment at the very summit of New York City. Other ideas: american gladiators gym, a slaughterhouse, or a playboy mansion. I think I'd better let this one stew for a bit longer...all suggestions are welcome -- the blacker the humour the better!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Expandable Table

Credit to Uncle George for sending the clip. Thanks for sharing it!

Flight of the Conchords

Thanks Jono and Mathieu

Feature Tower

In fourth year, a classmate of ours, Venkatesh Prabhu made honourable mention for his design of a tower in Mississauga. That competition was won by MAD Design who revealed the Marilyn Monroe Building which we are familiar with. This is just some imagery to give you an idea of what is involved in this studio...and also sets the standard pretty high for us this term.

You can browse other tower projects at the Canadian Competitions Catalogue.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Tower Project

We are a couple weeks in to our new studio project. This semester, we are designing a 60-storey skyscraper in west Manhattan on top of the Hudson Yards. The Hudson Yards is the end of the rail line in Manhattan and represents the last frontier of development on the island. The scope of the assignment is huge as it is integrated into a formal urban regeneration plan issued by the New York Planning Department. This is the kind of proposal that New York developers and architects dream of. There's more floorspace in this project than Ground Zero and the site footprint covers two full blocks. Each student for this studio will be primarily concerned with one of 11 towers on a designated plot of land on either the east or west yard for their site which can embrace or reject the NYC planning proposal. At the end of the semester, each of the towers will snap into place on a giant site model.

The project has already gone through an official open design competition, but the city is requiring a second review of new submissions based on the initial lack of interesting proposals. Steven Holl has submitted the most developed of the schemes, and the design seems quite logical. The other proposals are done mostly by major New York developers and haven't quite struck the right chord with the site's potential yet, hence the second review.

Steven Holl's proposal:

Brookfield Properties’ proposal, led by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and Field Operations, with a large group of contributors including SHoP Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and SANAA:

The Tishman Speyer and Morgan Stanley proposal, designed by Helmut Jahn and Peter Walker:

Kohn Pedersen Fox, Arquitectonica, Robert A.M. Stern, and West 8 collaborated on the proposal from the Related Companies and Goldman Sachs:

From reading a number of different blog sources, New Yorkers can't stand any of the proposals. The general climate is a rejection of glass and steel buildings which are generally alien to New York, in place of the art-deco style masonry buildings. The reality is that concrete or masonry is way too expensive for this scale of project. At the very least, New Yorkers want to preserve the certain 'character' they know best, of which none of the proposals seems to grasp.

This studio term will be the heaviest yet. Not only is the breadth of this project immense, but our prof is the most demanding in the school by reputation. We have an integrated life drawing course as part of the tower study as well as a trip to New York city. As our first assignment, we have had to draw up a site plan that adds a bit more spice and flavour than the developers' projects. Our prof truly is a no bullshit kind of professor. The more theory or cerebral mumbo jumbo in a building, the harder he hits. If he heard a peep out of me from last semester's project, he would have triple dropkicked me in a heart beat. Instead, he favours the one-liner, or one-word concept. Ultimately, it's what you show, not what you say that gets the best critique. So, my concept for this term is colliding particles. I found the following images which are quite seductive and inspiring for the site plan. It seems to capture the site's axial arrangement really nicely. The concept of creation that emerges out of destruction has interesting possibilities for an architectural project. While a bit too image specific for my liking, the image of collided protons appears like a city arrangement in itself and the patterns produced are beautiful arrangements of circles and squares, which is right up my alley. With these ideas in mind, I'm planning to rip open the proposed deck over the rail yards rather than seal it completely underground. I want the gashes in the landscape to allowing the towers and people to come right up to the rails.

Here is an image of my site plan to date. Eleven represents my tower footprint, with ten other classmates aligning with my tower. The cultural centre is essentially a horizontal skyscraper which another student will design. Hopefully you can get the feeling of collision from this scheme. The dark scrapes represent openings in the landscape to the train yard below. In our pin-up on Monday, it was seen as being too "candy-ass" so I need to run them right through the buildings themselves, no holds bars. The surrounding buildings also look too much like "little wimpy muffins", so that's up for changes as well. For next week, we have to hash out a 1:200 section of the tower (which happens to be enormous), all on vellum.

Check out these other sources on the topic:
//Urban Toronto//
//Link to all 5 Proposals//

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Semester 1 Finals

I've been meaning to post this for a while. Here's a shot of my final project for last semester's studio. You can see the church in the very center and above that is the Belgo Building on St. Catherine Street. Attached to the side of the Belgo is my intervention: a covered market that breaks through the center of the Belgo, bringing pedestrians through to the church. The idea was to have shops in the extension to evoke a feeling of an arcade. In the church however, I turned it into a community centre with a restaurant in one transept, a charity book store on the opposite transept and an auction hall/theatre right at the altar. You can see blue strips coming out of the sides of the church -- these are artists' studios. On the roof of the Belgo, I planned out a community garden, and to the left of the church, a small arboretum.

The critics appreciated the model, but felt the program was a little too stretched. Maybe I bit off more than I could chew. Alberto Perez Gomez, our guest critic made some interesting suggestions based on what I had told them in crits. He wanted to see the church completely disassembled and reconstructed inside the Belgo Building as a Galleria. He suggested an equally ambitious plan to alternatively lift the church (on stilts/piles) to turn it into an exterior space, again converting it into a galleria (commercial arcade). The general criticism was that the scheme was a little too shy -- not enough gusto in making an eye-opening statement. Fair enough -- I noticed after the model was finished that all my work was attached, on top or around buildings -- through this, the message seemed to get a little diffused. Above all else, the most important thing is making the idea communicable through the model or drawings. I felt that a lot of the projects in this semester relied heavily on verbal explanation, where few of the work spoke for themselves.

Nonetheless, the message that was well received by the critics was the idea that consumption/ shopping has become the new religion in our society. This, they felt was well communicated in the model. The central issue for this idea is that religion brought communities together in the ecclesia, whereas shopping has simply distracted people from the community. It's a condition where there really is no large-scale venue that brings people together in a consumer setting for the good of society - instead, shopping is all about the individual.

As a self-criticism, in trying to design a situation that combines charity with consumption, I came up with a half-cooked meal. The community garden seemed like the best situation where people can purchase a plot of land to harvest fruit/vegetables for themselves but also for charity. Soup kitchens exist, but rarely targeted at the masses. There's also second-hand stores that are fairly successful, but not really invigorating for this kind of project. Other students proposed turning the church into an art school, or using the open space as a community garden with people sharing tools and seeds etc.

Looking back however, I think that the studio could have made greater focus on dealing with the church itself. Charity, consumption, etc....these things are all secondary to the main problem of Quebec and their depopulated churches. What the heck can we do with all these incredible buildings? This question was really left on the backburner throughout the semester, but equally allowing us to freely explore all kinds of ideas, which can be unrelated, but extremely valuable to our personal thinking.

After the studio, we had a nice wind down period. We had dinner with our profs and shared some drinks and some stories from their days in Carleton. Torben might return to the school for a job placement, while Louis will be heading back to Montreal to continue with his professional practice.