This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines the Gherkin, the London office tower designed by Foster + Partners, showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In parts two and three, Massey examined the building’s treatment of risks associated with climate change and terrorism. In this final installment, Massey concludes by addressing the building’s engagement with risks posed to the City of London by globalization.
Unlike New York and other cities in which zoning codes entitle landowners to some kinds of development “as of right,” the City of London regulates property development through case-by-case review by planning officers, who judge how well the proposed construction conforms to City-wide plans and guidelines regarding factors such as building height, development density, access to transit, and impact on views and the visual character of the area. In order to develop the Gherkin, the property owners and Swiss Re had to secure planning consent from the City Corporation through its chief planning officer, Peter Wynne Rees. The review and permitting process that culminated in the granting of planning consent in August 2000 spanned the planning office as well as the market, the courts, and the press. Rees brokered a multilateral negotiation so intensive that we could almost say the building was designed by bureaucracy. Part of that negotiation entailed imagining and staging risk: climate risk, terrorism risk, and, especially, the financial risks associated with globalization.
This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines the Gherkin, the London office tower designed by Foster + Partners, showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In part two, Massey examined the building’s treatment of climate risk. In part three, below, he explains how the Gherkin redesigned the risk imaginary associated with terrorism.
Mornings the Zamboni scrubs the plaza. Moving across the pavement in parallel lines connected by tight turns, the sweeper cleans the stone of cigarette butts and spilled food and beer left the night before by the underwriters and bankers who patronize the bar and shops in the building’s perimeter arcade as well as the adjacent restaurant that in fair weather sets up outdoor tables and chairs.
By pulling away from its irregular property lines, the tower achieves almost perfect formal autonomy from its context. The gap between the circular tower base and trapezoidal site boundaries forms a privately owned public space, a civic and commercial amenity in this densely built part of the City.
This four part series (originally published on Aggregate’s website) examines The Gherkin, the London office tower designed by Foster + Partners, showing how the urban icon engaged and leveraged perceptions of risk. In part one, author Jonathan Massey introduced the concept of “risk design” to describe how the Gherkin’s design managed the risks posed by climate change, terrorism, and globalization. In part two, below, Massey examines the Gherkin’s enclosure and ventilation systems in detail to explain how the building negotiated climate risk.
In a poster promoting London’s bid to host the Olympic Games, the Gherkin supported gymnast Ben Brown as he vaulted over the building’s conical peak. The image associated British athleticism and architecture as complementary manifestations of daring and skill, enlisting the Gherkin as evidence that London possessed the expertise and panache to handle the risk involved in hosting an Olympic Games.
But a poster created three years later offered a very different image. Created by activists from the Camp for Climate Action to publicize a mass protest at Heathrow Airport against the environmental degradation caused by air travel, this poster shows the Gherkin affording only precarious footing to a giant polar bear that swats at passing jets as its claws grasp at the slight relief offered by spiraling mullions and fins.
How does design change the nature and distribution of risk? In this, the first of four installments examining the Gherkin, the London office tower and urban icon designed by Foster + Partners, author Jonathan Massey introduces the concept of “risk design.” The series, originally published on Aggregate’s website, explains how the Gherkin leveraged perceptions of risk to generate profits, promote economic growth, and raise the currency of design expertise.
Back the Bid. Leap for London. Make Britain Proud. Emblazoned across photomontages of oversized athletes jumping over, diving off, and shooting for architectural landmarks old and new, these slogans appeared in 2004 on posters encouraging Londoners to support the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Featured twice in the series of six posters—along with Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the Thames Barrier—was 30 St Mary Axe, the office tower known colloquially as the Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle, or as the Swiss Re building, after the Zurich-based reinsurance company that commissioned the building and remains its major tenant.
The New York Times has published “A Short History of the Highrise” – an interactive documentary that explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. Organized in four short films – “Mud,” “Concrete,” “Glass,” and “Home” – viewers are given the option to “dig deeper” into each subject and explore additional archival material while viewing the film. Check out the film here.
In a recent article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote explores the ‘Skyscraper Index’, an informal term that suggests a correlation between the construction of a big company’s ambitious headquarters and subsequent financial crisis: “Think of the Empire State Building opening into the Wall Street crash of 1929, the Twin Towers being completed as New York City was flirting with bankruptcy or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur taking the mantle of the world’s tallest building and presaging the Asian financial crisis.” Heathcote goes on to describe the latest generation of headquarters being constructed for our current, tech-oriented goliaths – like Apple‘s monolithic “donut”, by Foster + Partners, and Facebook‘s Gehry-designed Menlo Park campus - and wonders: “if skyscrapers can tell us something about the temperature of an overheating economy, what do these groundscraping new HQs say?” Read the full article here.
Although known for their iconic skyscrapers of glass and steel, SOM has begun to redefine our idea of the high-rise by pushing for wood as an alternative material for tall buildings. Not only could it help solve the worldwide problem of housing for those who are or will live in cities, but wooden skyscrapers could also address climate change by reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Click here to read about the structural system that SOM has come up with and don’t check out our previous coverage on the equally fascinating Timber Tower Research Project!
What was once a symbol of Caracas’ bright financial future is now the world’s tallest slum: Venezuela’s Tower of David. Squatters took over this unfinished 45-story skyscraper in the early 1990s, after its construction was stopped due to a banking crisis and the sudden death of the tower’s namesake, David Brillembourg.
Now, as the government is grappling with a citywide housing shortage, many residents have spent most of their life within the walls of David. And despite the tower’s reputation as being a hotbed of crime, residents have managed to build a self-sustaining community complete with a communal electrical grid and aqueduct water system.
Few cameras have been allowed into the depths of the tower, so watch as Vocativ captures a rare in-depth access to residents’ daily lives.
A recent profile in Architectural Record highlights the career of Peter Wynne Rees, the chief planner of the City of London: the famous ‘square mile’ which contains the major financial district of Greater London, as well as some of its great tourist attractions, such as St Paul’s Cathedral.
The profile focuses on the new crop of skyscrapers which Rees has ushered in in his 27 years as chief planner, something which has been contentious for preservationists. When he came to the job in 1985, the City of London had just one skyscraper: Tower 42, built in 1980. With the success of the Gherkin in the early 2000s, the surrounding area has seen many more high profile skyscrapers, such as the Heron Tower, 122 Leadenhall Street (The Cheesegrater) and 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie-Talkie).
Dutch architecture firm UNStudio has announced that their proposal for the Yongjia World Trade Center Competition has been selected as the winning entry. Unlike the typical world trade center—which usually represents only a concentration business or financial programs—UNStudio has incorporated recreational and cultural facilities and residential units into their plan. For the site in the riverside city of Wenzhou, located in the southeastern Zhejiang province of China, UNStudio identified the driving force behind the project as the “notion of precious objects on a tray…where the continuous podium landscape occupies the entire site and serves as a tray-like, green plain for the towers.”
Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, architect Michael Green says build it out of wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it’s not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it’s necessary.
Read more about Green’s ‘Case for Tall Buildings’ here and share your comments below.
Southwark planners have recommended an ambitious proposal by international practice Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) and engineer Adams Kara Taylor (AKT II) to add 11 floors to an existing 30-story tower in London. The “incredibly complicated” feat, which would be the world’s first of its kind, would extend Richard Seifert’s 1972 King’s Reach Tower on the South Bank by 44 meters, more than a third its original height.
David Mirvish, founder of Mirvish Productions, and Toronto-born starchitect Frank Gehry have released updated models of their massive, mixed-used project planned to transform Toronto’s downtown arts and entertainment district. The Mirvish+Gehry vision will include a triad of residential towers perched on top a six-story, wooden podium inspired by the site’s industrial past and covered in a ‘cloud-like’ sculptural skin.
The towers, rising over 80 stories each, will house condos, a new OCADU campus, and a gallery space to house the Mirvish’s collection of modern art.
More renderings after the break…
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has named four distinctive towers from Canada, China, the UK and UAE as the best tall buildings in the world for 2013. Each winning project, judged by a panel of industry executives, has been selected for their “extraordinary contribution in the advancement of tall buildings and the urban environment, as well as for achieving sustainability at the broadest level.”
“The winners and finalists include some of the most striking buildings on the global landscape,” said Jeanne Gang, awards jury chair and principal of Studio Gang Architects. “They represent resolutions to a huge range of contemporary issues, from energy consumption to integration with the urban realm on the ground.”
The 2013 winners are…
Scheduled for completion later this year, Bosco Verticale, by Boeri Studio, will be the world’s first vertical forest. The project’s inspired many supporters, but also many detractors. Speaking to its controversiality, Lloyd Alter, the architect, sustainable design enthusiast, and managing editor of Treehugger, called it “the rendering that launched a thousand blog posts.”
And perhaps no blogger caused more stir in the architecture community than Tim De Chant, who implored “can we please stop putting trees on skyscrapers”? De Chant’s article set off a maelstrom of comments from ArchDaily users, who vigorously debated both for and against the idea of putting trees on buildings.
To get to the bottom of this, we talked with Lloyd Alter himself about vertical forests and the real challenges and benefits they present. Lloyd is a regular contributor to Inhabitat, The Huffington Post and numerous other publications; he also teaches at Ryerson University School of Interior Design. Read on for Lloyd’s take on this controversial trend, after the break.
The architecture world has been abuzz over news that a Chinese construction company plans to build the world’s tallest building— and to do it in just 90 daysusing a proprietary prefabrication technique.
Construction on the 838-meter highrise in Changsha, called Sky City One, is expected to begin this month.
After the project was announced, we reached out to Christian Sottile, the Dean of the School of Building Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design,who gave us his takeon why the project is a terrible step for architecture and urban living.
But not everyone is skeptical about Sky City One.Stan Klemanowicz, an architect and planner in Los Angeles with Project Development Associates, reached out to tell us why the project is actually revolutionary. He has allowed us to publish his response to Mr. Sottile’s critique.
Read Sottile’s and Klemanowicz’s conflicting opinions, after the break…
Finnish elevator manufacturer KONE has unveiled a new hoisting technology that will enable elevators to travel heights of one kilometer – twice the distance than currently possible. The new development implies that the Burj Khalifa, whose longest elevator travels a distance of 504 meters, will not remain the world’s tallest building for very long.
Join us for more after the break.
SOM has come up with a structural system for skyscrapers that uses mass timber as the main structural material and minimizes the embodied carbon footprint of the building. The firm believes that their proposal is technically feasible from the standpoint of structural engineering, architecture, interior layouts, and building services and would revolutionize the traditional skyscraper as we know it.
Read on to learn more about The Timber Tower Research Project.