Page 1

33038155

AC 2.1 HISTORY

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

Gaven Webb


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

The past twenty years has seen the rapid growth of our cityscapes with ever taller, innovative, and sculptural sky scrapers, yet have these structures been designed purely for their form or has care and attention been paid to the way in which these buildings are to be used, and how they might impact the environment? In today’s sustainably driven design theatre, are these buildings still appropriate, and should the architect be more concerned about minimising the environmental impact, and overall cost of these structures? William Pedersen (of Kohn, Pedersen and Fox Architects) said that “[the skyscraper] alone will enable us to achieve the urban densities necessary to live sustainably on this planet” (2003, quoted in Höweler, 2003, p8), and, while this point of view is debatable it is still indicative of how the architect views the skyscraper; a necessary device for combating the current trends of urbanisation. By examining examples of both completed skyscrapers and those under construction, this essay will attempt to answer if modern architects are placing greater value in the form of their designs, whilst neglecting the context of its surroundings, the landscape, and the effects upon the local (surrounding buildings and spaces) or even with regard to the clients’ future needs. ,, The Burj al Arab (WS Atkins Architects, 1999) is a prime example of how form can dominate a project, while neglecting all other concerns. There is little doubt that the building is and of itself a stunning example of what architects and engineers can accomplish, even in the most hostile of environments, as long as there is sufficient capital to support them. It incorporates exciting features, and technologies that make it a modern day Wonder of the World, least of all the intelligent use of the Teflon-veneered glassfibre fabric “sail” that allows the interior space of the building to be truly well lit, whilst eliminating the harsh glare from the desert, and gives the building its clear definition and relationship to Dubai’s origins. Yet does this wonder live up to our current ways of thinking about design?


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

Dubai has up to 11 hours of daylight during the summer, and even has 7 hours in its wettest and coldest month, February (Dubai Information, 2007). Given this one would expect to find exceptional use of solar energy generation, tidal systems, and even wind power from Dubai’s desert and sea winds. Yet this is not the case; quite the opposite in fact. From the modern agenda of Sustainable Architecture, the Burj al Arab is woefully under equipped. The initial construction of the island upon which the Burj al Arab sits caused staggering environmental concerns, that will only get worse as the island will need to be maintained due to the natural forces. This is aside to the materials that were used in its construction, which while visually stunning from certain points of view, have come from various corners of the world, notably Italy for Cararra Marble and Mosaics, and Brazil for the granite. “In the age of global warming and declining fossil fuels, the entire airline industry is probably not sustainable. Dubai, of course, is not even remotely sustainable.” (Greenpeace, 2009) This was Greenpeace’s response when asked if Dubai could be sustainable. While the Burj al Arab is a work of art, it has failed to deliver sustainable practice, and only continues to be a symbol of how wasteful we can be as a society. Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are perhaps the radical end of the spectrum, yet there is such prolific development that it is near impossible to discuss the sky scraper without bringing them up; the Burj Khalifa being the tallest man made structure on the planet. The UAE can be described as an “Architectural laboratory” (Bellini and Daglio, 2008), and this is certainly true when it comes to form; but is this the direction we should be heading? By contrast, if we move from the vast wealth that is the UAE to London, we still see sculptural forms, and fantastical designs. 30 St Mary Axe (Foster and Partners, 2004) is one of the most uniquely formed structures in the world, with its spiralling facade transecting the City of London, is a “radical and highly evolved office design” (Glancey, 2006, p495).


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

As part of the design intent was the idea of “Climatroffice”; first proposed by Buckminster Fuller in the 1970’s this is the idea of a “harmonious relationship between nature and place of work” (Garetta, 2004 p.468). This is accomplished with the use of “sky gardens” that cut through the floor plan at six points around the circumference of the structure. These rotate with the floor plan by 5 degrees as the structure rises, and form a natural ventilation system that “act as the buildings lungs, distributing fresh air drawn in through opening panels in the facade” (Foster and Partners, 2004). The result of this is a large reduction in the buildings ventilation needs, for up to 40% of the year (Glancey, 2006). “The Gherkin” has been described as “the first environmentally progressive tall building in London” (Höweler, 2003 p68) and this is true, the design intent was to make the building more environmentally sustainable, reducing the consumption of energy, and responded to its surroundings. Its form, while radical in design, is a reaction to the limited space provided on site; the expansion from the ground floor allows for maximum pedestrian areas, while enlarging its internal floor space as it rises. The spherical shape of the building reduces the amount of wind deflection, which can be a problem with traditional designs. Here it is possible to see an architecture that is highly dynamic, expressive, sculptural and perhaps most importantly functional. It has not been designed simple to please the eye, which it does, but also to satisfy and begin the long, slow progress along the road to a more sustainable future. So does this need why does the need of form in some regions greater than others? In some countries where planning constraints are not as much of an issue, the architect is free to be as creative and innovative with their designs as they want, and perhaps do not have to concern themselves with the environmental impacts that they will have. The implementation of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification gave the whole construction industry a guideline for designing, implementing and creating measurable “green architecture” (USGBC,


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

2011), yet while this certification is internationally recognised, it is not enforced upon by any political body; it falls to the clients, designers and contractors to choose this path. One of the key issues with LEED is that there are no polices regarding the form of the structure. As such many new built sustainable structures have tended to be less satisfying the flowing, beauty of these monolithic UAE skyscrapers. This trend is starting to fade; new developments with exquisite detailing and form are starting to emerge across the globe. They are not only designed for beauty and to stir thought, imagination and the soul, but also to know that it is being developed to give back to the world. London Bridge Tower, or ‘The Shard’, by Renzo Piano is currently under construction, and when complete will be the tallest structure in the United Kingdom. It has been designed with the intention of achieving an excellent BREEM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rating, which is currently the UK’s leading method of environmental assessment. This project is a meeting point of form, sustainability and context. Along with the main body of the building it will also integrate with the existing infrastructure of the adjacent London Bridge Station, a hub for London Tube, Rail and bus networks. Up to 95% of the materials used in the construction can be recycled, along with 20% of the steel work used coming from recycled sources. It will even have a combined Heat and Power system that should improve the efficiency of the building, with a predicted saving of CO2 emissions of 10%. (Sellar Group, 2011) It will also include familiar features such as the “Sky Gardens” used at 30 St Mary Axe, using the “fractures” between the shards as natural ventilation, providing the much needed link to the external environment which is often unavailable in sealed structures (Renzo Piano Building Workshop, 2011). This holistic approach to design is the way that all architects should be heading with regard to their designs. The past twenty years has been an amalgamation of ideas and innovations that have enabled both the development of fantastical forms, and the implementation of sustainable architecture. It is unfair to say that all Architects have focused purely on form for the past few decades, and if we were to examine the entire portfolio of just one office we would see a vast difference in both the application of form and its relationship with the environment


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

and context. Is it perhaps that it is the client that is determining the general design parameters, and that they (or we) dissuade the architect from being more concerned about the impact of the building? It is certainly true that as a whole, the Sky Scrapers of the past two decades have been primarily concerned with the form of the building, not with how it will affect the environment, but as a reaction to society more than for their own personal choices.


AC2.1 History – 33038155

Over the past twenty years, has there been a trend amongst Architects to place form above all other concerns, with specific regard to the Sky Scraper?

Bibliography http://www.atkins-me.com/ProjectDetail.aspx?ProjectID=127 http://www.atkinsdesign.com/html/projects_hotels_burj_al.htm http://progressivetimes.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/dubai-the-nemesis-of-sustainability/ https://sites.google.com/site/palmislandsimpact/environmental-impacts http://www.dubai-information.info/dubai_weather.html http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/deep-green/deep-green-sepoct-09/ http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/1004/default.aspx http://www.rpbw.com/ http://www.bsria.co.uk/services/design/breeam/ http://www.bsria.co.uk/news/breeam-or-leed/ http://the-shard.com/offices/office-space/sustainability

Campi, M. 2000, Skyscrapers: A Architectural type of modern Urbanism, Birkhauser, Berlin HĂśweler, E. 2003, Skyscraper: Designs of the recent past and near future, Thames & Hudson, London

Glancey, J. 2006, Architecture, Dorling Kindersley LTD, London

Garreta, AA. 2004, Skyscrapers, Atrium Group, Barcelona

Wells, M. 2005, Skyscrapers: Structures and Design, Laurence King Publishing LTD, London

Bellini, OE. & Daglio, L. 2008, New Frontiers in Architecture: The United Arab Emirates between Vision and Reality, WS White Star Publishers, Vercelli

AC2.1 History  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you