Brits abroad

Wednesday 4 June 2014

What can London learn from tall buildings being delivered abroad from practices with offices in the capital?

A special international showcase event held at the NLA last week sought to find out, with Farrells’ design partner Peter Barbalov kicking off by asking if we can make tall buildings more sustainable and showing some examples from Hong Kong and beyond.

The examples he showed aimed to work less as individual markers and more as part of the urban fabric. The practice’s masterplan for Kowloon station and its environs is, said Barbalov, ‘a stack layered city’ with rail, road, retail and residential on the West Kowloon reclamation area. The KK100 development in Shenzhen, China, meanwhile, involved an unusual deal for the site’s original residents facilitating the development. The scheme involves the creation of a new tower on the site of Caiwuwei Village, with seven other towers for the reprovision of residential and commercial space for the villagers, and three of the seven for the villagers to rent out. Farrells’ Jinan Tower in Shandong Province – billed as the second tallest tower in China at 560m tall – aims to maximise views and create open space which relates to the city, said Barbalov. Beijing’s distinctive Z15 tower, meanwhile, will be over 120 storeys and more than 500m tall, maximising its valuable upper spaces by splaying out its surface area from the midpoint, and figures as part of a 30 ha masterplan and development of a whole city block. ‘An iconic tower can bring this place to life’, said Barbalov.

RTKL director Jorge Beroiz said that ‘when it comes to making sustainable towers we find it complicated and difficult’, since they represent one of the most energy hungry building types around. But schemes such as its 40-storey Brickell World Plaza in Miami proved that, with its LEED Platinum rating (one of only 13 given to similarly sized buildings in the world), it could be done, achieving an 18 per cent energy reduction and 30 per cent water use reduction. The value of the ground plane in such schemes was ‘fundamental’, added Beroiz, and it was crucial to create a public space, while mixed use towers should be ‘embraced’ because although they are more complex they are also more interesting and sustainable from an investment point of view. Around a half a percentage point of value, said Beroiz, could be added for every level, with a figure 75% higher at the top than in the middle of tall buildings, he suggested, and many projects fail to properly utilize their ‘hats’ or upper reaches, the 828m Burj Kalifa in Dubai (the tallest building in the world) featuring some 244m of its structure with no use. So in one 400m offices scheme in Nantong RTKL is designing it is creating a city art gallery, club house and city garden roof to open up that tower and maximise the value of its upper reaches.

Finally, Broadway Malyan director Peter Vaughan emphasised the importance of place in a competition-winning scheme that includes two 46-storey tall towers the practice is designing in Istanbul near Galatasary FC’s stadium and a trans European motorway. The scheme includes a five star hotel and five levels of shopping built – including dining areas where ‘there is a cultural need to be seen to be dining next to your Bentley – over a mixed podium. ‘You know you get it right when you get a warm hug from your client’ said Vaughan.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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