Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

The architect’s turquoise copper complement to the revered institution is set to open next month.

By William Hanley

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

Pre-patinated copper cladding wraps much of the new building.
Image © Nic Lehoux

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion  Fire stairs adorn the green facades.

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

A new gallery space features a variable-height ceiling.

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

Musicians play on the floor of the box-like performance hall.

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

Narrow balconies wrapping the performance space afford views of musicians below as well as other concertgoers.

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

Shown under construction, Piano’s addition moves the museum’s main entrance to a side street.

First Look: Piano’s Addition to Boston’s Gardner Museum Near Completion

The original 1903 building’s entrance faces the Fenway.

Six weeks before its scheduled opening, Renzo Piano’s addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has entered the final stages of construction, and on a recent visit it bustled with workers applying finishes in advance of the January 19th debut. Connected to the back of the museum’s original building by a 50-foot glass walkway, the addition only slightly alters the revered Boston institution—a faux-palazzo built in 1903 as a house for the society luminary Isabella Stewart Gardner and her vast and eclectic art collection. But the new structure relieves the original building of ancillary spaces that had been squeezed into it over 70 years as a public museum.

Piano’s 70,000-square-foot addition includes a performing arts space and a gallery, as well as a new entrance, a restaurant, administrative offices, education spaces, conservation labs, a greenhouse, and apartments for the museum’s artist in residence program. The older structure will be primarily devoted to displaying the collection, which includes important work by Rembrandt, Titian, and a who’s who of old masters through Impressionism.

The addition took two years to complete and was result of a $180 million capital campaign that allocated $114 million to construction costs and $46 million for operating costs and the museum’s endowment. Annual attendance is expected to increase by 15 percent to 230,000 visitors.

When it decided to go forward with the project in 2004, the Gardner’s board formed a selection committee, but Piano initially declined to enter the running. “Of everyone we asked, only Rafael Moneo and Piano said no,” says the museum’s director Anne Hawley. The group had compiled a shortlist of prospective designers—including Tokyo-based SANAA, Phoenix’s Will Bruder, and Boston’s own William Rawn—when Piano changed his mind. (According to Hawley, he was persuaded by Raymond Nasher whose eponymous Dallas sculpture center Piano designed.) After a trip to Texas to see the Nasher and the Menil Collection, the committee threw out its list and settled on the Italian architect.

Divided into four primary volumes stitched together by a stair, Piano’s new building reorients the main entrance from the Fenway to Evans Way to the east. It is clad in glass and ridged plates of pre-patinated copper. The turquoise finish, mottled in places with greens and yellows, was intended to echo the copper details found on bay windows throughout Boston’s historic neighborhoods. Piano placed the fire stairs on the building’s exterior. Attached by a suspended rod system, the catwalks create a pattern of silver ribbons across the greenish background.

One glazed section of the facade encloses a new 1,500-square-foot gallery. The white box rises a dramatic 36 feet and, in a reference to the courtyard in the original building, is covered by Piano’s signature top lighting. A scrim stretches across an armature that can be raised and lowered by a mechanical system, allowing the ceiling height to be adjusted from the full 36 feet down to 24 or 12 feet depending on curatorial needs. “It has the flexibility to go from a wide-open, slightly outrageous contemporary space to an intimate gallery,” says director of operations Jim Labeck.

The largest of the four new volumes is a concrete cube housing the performing arts space. A skylight, 42 feet overhead, allows scrim-filtered daylight into the room. Piano paneled the hall in perforated white oak, and has hung curtains between the wood and concrete to allow the acoustics of the space to be adjusted for different performances. Acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, who worked with Frank Gehry on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the New World Symphony in Miami, consulted on the scheme.

There is no stage in the hall, which seats 296. Instead, performers play in the center of the cube’s floor with rows of seating surrounding them. Three levels of galleries above contain one row of seating each. Beveled glass balustrades with wooden railings, allow unusual sight lines from the upper levels down to the musicians below—and voyeuristic glances at fellow concert-goers straight across the balcony.

The Gardner’s tapestry room, which for decades had hosted concerts and other events, has been restored with furnishings organized according to archival photos. Layers of grime have been cleaned from the tiled floor. Other galleries in the original building still show some deterioration from years of public use. A jewel box of art and architectural elements from Europe and Asia, all installed to specifications set out in Gardner’s will, the museum is also a major cultural touchstone for the city. The theft of 13 works in 1990 was regarded as a public tragedy, and the museum met resistance from some community groups over the expansion.

The Gardener tore down a 1908 carriage house and a greenhouse added later to make room for the Piano wing, in addition to moving a sarcophagus from its original location, a process that required approval from the Massachusetts State Supreme Court. “As a matter of Gardner’s will, we had to go to court,” says Hawley. “But a small community group without an immediate connection to the museum also took us on.” The museum persevered, and at the end of the day, Hawley feels the addition crucially eases the strain on the revered palazzo. “It was impossible to deal with the wear and tear—now we can really preserve the original building.”

December 27, 2011

shenzhen international airport under construction | massimiliano + doriana fuksas

‘shenzhen bao’an international airport’ by massimiliano + doriana fuksas, shenzhen, china
image © designboom

designboom recently visited the construction site for the terminal 3 extension at the ‘shenzhen bao’an international airport’
by italian architects massimiliano and doriana fuksas. won by competition in 2008, the 400,000 square meter addition
will make the airport the fourth largest in china following beijing, shanghai and guangzhou.

the undulating and fluid exterior is generated with a triple layer structural system to support the clear spans of the interior’s
80 meter width. a deep space frame connects to the outer honeycomb skin and inner box frame trusses which undulate independently of
external form, producing one supporting unit. extensive computer analysis was needed to generate the custom measurements for
each hexagonal metal panel and operable glass window on the 300,000 square meter surface area. the steel framework is attached
to a series of supercolumns, diverting heavy loads into the concrete substructure and foundations.

designboom was given a tour through the construction site, led by tian fang, project manager and a few shenzhen-based members of the fuksas team
image © designboom

sectioned into three levels, the ground floor will accommodate passenger arrivals and the first floor will be reserved for departures.
the upper platform will facilitate public services for transient visitors. the project’s expected completion date is in 2015.

exterior of the terminal
image © designboom

terminating edge of the concourse
image © designboom

workers installing the roof
image © designboom

outward view from the terminal
image © designboom

interior steel structural layer undulates independently of the exterior form creating a deeper section for additional space frame
image © designboom

arched box frame trusses span the 80 meter wide concourse
image © designboom

arched box frame trusses span the 80 meter wide concourse
image © designboom

third level of main concourse will contain public services
image © designboom

upper level services floor
image © designboom

upper level services floor
image © designboom

horizontal outrigger secures to concrete substructure
image © designboom

interior layer of steel structure undulates in a varied form creating a deeper structural cross section
image © designboom

space frame structure secures the skin of the curtain wall
image © designboom

outward view through the facade
image © designboom

construction workers installing the facade
image © designboom

structural system connects to a series of supercolumns in the future check-in area
image © designboom

structural system connecting to supercolumn
image © designboom

top of the supercolumn
image © designboom

scaffolding to install skin
image © designboom

aerial view of the terminal
image © designboom

structural system at the roof
image © designboom

installation of skin framework and panels on the roof
image © designboom

view of wing extending from main concourse
image © designboom

view of wing extending from main concourse
image © designboom

installation of skylight
image © designboom

extensive steel structure is secured to a series of supercolumns
image © designboom

steel space frame holds outer skin into place
image © designboom

uniquely sized glass panels
image © designboom

the fuksas team leading the group through the building
image © designboom

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

image courtesy studio fuksas

project info:

object: shenzhen bao’an international airport-expansion t3
project: massimiliano and doriana fuksas
structural + facade engineering: knippers helbig – advanced engineering, stuttgart – new york
date: 2008-2012 (first phase)
client: shenzhen airport (group) co., ltd
area: 400.000 mq in phase 3
type: on going project
interior design: fuksas design
general contractor: china state construction engineering corporation, beijing
architect of record: biad (beijing institute of architectural design), beijing
lighting consulting: speirs & major associates, edinburgh, london

the 2011 SZHK biennale

in shenzhen, china runs from december 8th through december 11th 2011.
the scale of certain projects is such that the architect becomes not only a designer of buildings but also city planner and landscape
architect and the shenzhen & hong kong bi-city biennale of urbanism \ architecture reflects this in its theme:
architecture creates cities – cities create architecture.
the SZHK biennale is the first to focus on urbanism as an ongoing theme to explore issues of the city as an active agent in contemporary culture.
the program included more than 30 exhibitions, symposiums, panel discussions and performances.
terence riley has been appointed chief curator (he is the first international curator for the event).
the hong kong edition will work to complement the shenzhen biennale in an integrative way and is curated by gene king and
anderson lee currently under preparation and due to open in february 2012.
designboom is the principal international media partner of the SZHK biennale.

‘shenzhen builds’
designboom was given the opportunity to visit the construction site of the terminal extension, as part of the program ‘shenzhen builds’.
the buildings being built in shenzhen today are setting international standards for most of the building types:
the ‘shenzhen builds’ exhibition, curated by terence riley, focuses on 5 new and upcoming buildings in the city by coop himmelb(l)au / wolf prix,
massimiliano and doriana fuksas, OMA / rem koolhaas, urbanus, and atelier FCJZ / yung ho chang.
on show are models, animations and drawings, including other developmental materials to demonstrate how these projects were conceived.
designboom will cover this exhibition in upcoming articles, please stay tuned for more to come.

December 27, 2011

new stuttgart library | yi architects

‘new stuttgart library’ by yi architects in stuttgart, germany
image courtesy yi architects

korean-born germany-based architect eun young yi has completed the design of ‘new stuttgart library’,
a cubic facility conceived as a part of the master development plan for the european quarter in stuttgart,
germany. influenced by the structure and organization of the ancient pantheon, the design features
a linear-shaped ‘heart’ which serves as a central, multi-storey meeting space that draws in natural light
through the roof.

exterior view
image courtesy yi architects

clear and geometric in volume, the library’s exterior is defined by a series of regular openings
that provide a grid-like effect to the elevations. an arrangement of 9 x 9 glass bricks held within
a concrete frame serves as an outer shell to a double facade which shelters a narrow promenade space
circumscribing the building. four entrances which correspond to the size and shape of the grid
provide access points on the ground floor and lead collectively to the circular entrance hall and ‘heart’.

grid-like facade
image courtesy yi architects

promenade space
image courtesy yi architects

continuing on the language and motif of the facade, the ‘heart’ of the library features a series of
small interior windows that wrap around the four walls and ceiling of the multi-storey volume.
a central oculus located above a 1 m2 ground fountain illuminates the interior while providing a
visual focus point for the white space. located above the skylight is the library itself which takes on
a funnel-shaped form through five staggered levels. the gallery hall is connected through a series of
staircases that are arranged to promote a spiralling circulation around the books.

interior view of ‘heart’
image courtesy yi architects

funnel-shaped library
image © vipgavin

images © vipgavin

sectional model
image courtesy yi architects

site map
image courtesy yi architects

floor plan / level 0
(1) ‘heart’
(2) entrance hall
(3) offices
(4) sorting area
(5) entrance
image courtesy yi architects

floor plan / level +8
(1) reading room
(2) media presentation
(3) workstations
(4) graphotek
(5) cafeteria
(6) offices
(7) sorting area

image courtesy yi architects

image courtesy yi architects

image courtesy yi architects

December 22, 2011

Z9 CBD Beijing | KCAP


‘Z9’ is an international headquarter tower at the south-eastern corner of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD) core. The commission asked for a characteristic office tower for an international media company that respects this highly prominent location at the main east-west axis of the city. The 171 m high tower offers on 39 storeys 70.000 m2 of office space and 14.000 m2 mixed-use functions such as a restaurant, exhibition hall and roof terrace.

The central aspect of the design is to create a spatial experience for all users and visitors of the building to counterbalance the virtual world of the media industry. An atrium configuration merges four standard office slabs into an efficient structure. The central vertical hall creates an exceptional experience. Following a spiraling route up into Z9 a series of public functions bring the city life into the building: the red banquet hall, the exhibition space, a golden lounge. The route culminates in a green roof garden with views into the heart of the CBD.

The vertical façade elements of the tower strengthen the sculptural quality of the building and give the tower its highly elegant look. The special openings reveal a glass façade with a minimalistic construction, enabling the public program to shine outwards. The heavy, solid appearance of the main façade contrasts with the open and transparent glazed parts and enables the inside world to really turn to the outside. The powerful and sculptural building highlights the important corner of CBD core area.

SINO-OCEAN Land Holdings Limited, Beijing

84.000 m2 office tower of which 70.000 m2 offices and 14.000 m2 public functions, retail, mixed-use


Architect in cooperation with Beijing Institute for Architectural Design (BIAD)

December 22, 2011

Gefter-Press House | Michael Bell Design of [ EJ Eunjeong Seong / VISIBLE WEATHER ]

michael bell architect

michael bell architectmichael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

michael bell architect

Michael Bell Architect Gefter Press House

Michael Bell Architect Glass House Metropolitan Home

Michael Bell Architect Glass House Metropolitan Home

The Gefter-Press is sited on a twelve-acre property accessed by crossing a quarter mile expanse of farming fields before passing into a forested site. The slow approach to the house is the initial phase of movement that instigates the organization of movement and time in the building. A series of planar organizations, the pictorial depth of the approach and view through the house, is counter to the shallow spaces and movements of the interior where the buildings is as narrow as ten feet.

The programming of the building is coordinated with the visual depth—social relations are coordinated by floor heights, relations to grade (above, at or below grade) and diagonal vistas though the house and across the courtyard. The buildings structural glazing system—nine by fourteen foot wide insulated glazing units—allows a gaze to pass through the private as well as public spaces. The glazing has two details: it is either flush with the building volume and projected inboard of the structural framing (on the east/west elevations) or six inches outboard of the structural framing (on the north/south elevations). The sills are recessed two inches below floor level. The effect it to project the interior margins of the building volume outward and to asymptotically flatten the exterior view against the interior surfaces—the background is elastically pulled to the foreground and the sense of a middle-ground is diminished. The interior is precisely defined but also it dissolves  into the extended spaces and clearings in the forest. Vision is immediate and close and also distant. The simultaneity brings the space of the forest into the immediate circumstances of private life. The house can be opened to form a single volume: the two bedrooms open with interior sliding doors that match the glazing systems and form two oculus opening: when approaching the house they form a binocular effect that bifurcates the singular vantage of the house. The minor dimensions of a relatively small building cross a threshold opening to the wider field of the site.

Design Architect: Michael Bell Architecture

Project Team: Michael Bell, Thomas Long, Stephen O’Dell

Architect of Record: Stephen O’Dell

Structural Engineer: Nat Oppenheimer

Mechanical Engineer: Alteiri Sebor Wieber LLC

Photographs by Richard Barnes and Bilyana Dimitrova

December 12, 2011

Zac Seguin Office Building | ECDM Architectes

Zac Seguin Office Building (5) plan 01

The proposals by ECDM Architectes  for the Zac Seguin consisted of both a high rise and a non high rise building which were both designed as individual elements in an urban mixed composite, where residential, commercial and green spaces combine to form a whole. In their projects, there is a firm horizontal component which proposes a frame, defining the boundaries of the park, the Seine and its emergences, punctuations designed in resonance with other high points on the bend in the river, such as the Horizons tower or the buildings to come on the Seguin Island.

The creation of an emergent element is an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the new neighborhood of Le Trapèze and the Grand Paris area. This punctuation highlights the metropolitan character of the site by creating a landmark which can be viewed from afar. Because of its status, size and the culture, Le Trapèze is a unique area within Paris. The site is emblematic of the changes that have transformed our industrial cities, of paradigm shifts that have enabled the implementation of a highly complex urban strategy, taking into account the needs of a postmodern society.

Therefore, the verticality of the building must express an area where the urban landscape frames a careful balance between mineral and vegetable, between planes and voids imbued with the complexity of a dense and attractive area. As the valley of the Seine crosses Paris, it is punctuated by towers. One thinks of La Defense, the Front de Seine, the Eiffel Tower, the neighborhood surrounding Gare de Lyon, as well as many other architectural interventions dispersed along the river’s fluvial geography and landscape favoring emergent typologies.

In the site next to the river, it seemed essential that the collusion between emergent elements came together to break away from the general pattern of the neighborhood. Both projects are designed in relation to a specific horizon line, referencing both the context of the district and the grand landscape.

We thought of our projects as entities in resonance with existing architectural points: the Horizons tower, the top of the Pont de Sèvres and the towers to come on the Ile Seguin. These three entities form a triangle, with which our project intersects as an extremity. Therefore, the project is about offering a new center of gravity and a principle of volumetric gradation which establish a link with the buildings erected along the wharf and complicity with the bow of the Ile Seguin.

Guided by this, we moved the density of our project to the north-west side of the plot to establish a link with the buildings along the shore, and so as not to generate visual competition with the Ile Seguin. The bow of the Ile Seguin has a geographic potency which leaves no room for what would be a de facto substitute.

The shape of the plot, a rounded triangle, does not constitute a bow, any analogy to boats and skippers would be fortuitous, besides, a trapeze has no bow. Therefore our projects are designed to frame views and perspectives by creating a dividing line at the junction of the park and the wharf.

Program requirements have led us to develop two projects of different types, structured by two distinct approaches to provide privacy and ensure the safety of persons and property. Refuting any formal preoccupations, we have chosen to develop two projects, two designs structured by two regulatory height constraint possibilities.

Architect: ECDM Architectes
Project Manager: Jeremy Bernier et Kikyun Kim
Program: Offices building IGH (tall building) and office building
Client: Nexity
Area: 60 000m² SHON
Cost: 150 M € HT
Competition: 2011

December 12, 2011

Bus Shelter | Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee


Architect: Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee 
Location: , North Carolina, USA
Client: Wake Technical Community College
Project Team: Jeffrey Lee, Douglas Brinkley, Marni Rushing, David Hill
Completion: 2007
Photographs: JWest Productions

Completed in 2007, the bus shelter is a prototype design that has been initially constructed on the Main Campus of Wake Tech Community College. As the College’s enrollment grows and the subsequent demand for public transportation increases, this prototype will be located on all of the current and future campuses. The bus shelter received a 2008 AIA National Small Project Structures Award.

The bus shelter is a simple yet refined architectural composition of two materially contrasting elements: a heavy cast in place concrete wall that serves as structure and as a bench, and a steel canopy frame, fabricated off-site, delivered by truck, and set into place. In elevation and section, the wall interlocks with the canopy forming a double ‘L’ composition. The canopy skin, in this case laminated polycarbonate, further expresses the lightness and translucency of the canopy.

Sand blasted, clad with slate panels, or left in a natural state, the cast in place concrete wall has a versatile materiality. The name and map of each campus can be cast or applied directly to the concrete wall. A simple wooden bench fabricated of Ipe, is attached to the wall providing a comfortable place to sit.

The canopy structure and its associated skin provide shade and shelter. Either translucent polycarbonate panels or patterned laminated glass, are attached to the steel frame providing a weather tight cover. The choice of skin further allows light to filter through animating the space with ever changing shadows and patterns of light.

December 12, 2011

The Cloud | MVRDV

Two Connected Luxury Residential Towers

The Cloud: Two Connected Luxury Residential Towers by MVRDVis a residential development of the Yongsan Business district. A 260 meter tall tower and a 300 meter tall tower are connected in the center by a pixelated cloud of additional programs offering amenities and outside spaces with wide views. The towers with a total surface of 128,000m2 are expected to be completed in 2015.

The two towers are positioned at the entrance of the Yongsan Dreamhub project, a master plan designed by Studio Libeskind, extending the business district of the South Korean capital Seoul. The southern tower reaches a height of 260 meters with 54 floors, the northern tower 300 meters with 60 floors. Halfway, at the level of the 27th floor the cloud is positioned, a 10 floor tall pixelated volume, connecting the two towers. The cloud differentiates the project from other luxury developments, it moves the plinth upwards and makes space on ground floor level for public gardens, designed by Martha Schwartz.

Usually a high-rise adds little to the immediate surrounding city life, by integrating public program to the cloud the typology adds in a more social way to the city. Inside the cloud, besides the residential function, 14,357m2 of amenities are located: the sky lounge – a large connecting atrium, a wellness center, conference center, fitness studio, various pools, restaurants and cafes. On top of the cloud are a series of public and private outside spaces, patios, decks, gardens and pools. To allow fast access the cloud is accessible by special express elevators.

The luxurious apartments range from 80m2 to 260m2 of which some offer double height ceilings , patios or gardens. The towers with a perfect square floor plan contain four corner apartments per floor offering each fine daylight conditions and cross ventilation. Each tower is accessed via a grand lobby at ground level; the rest of the ground floor is divided into town houses. In addition to the amenities the Cloud furthermore contains 9,000m2 of Officetel (Office-Hotel) a typical Korean typology and 25,000m2 panoramic apartments with specific lay-outs. The top floors of both towers are reserved for penthouse apartments of 1200m2 with private roof gardens.


December 12, 2011

Uno Charter School Proposal | STL Architects

The concept for the new UNO Charter School by STL Architects has been conceived as a response to the organization’s bold vision for the Latino community in . Rather than replicate a tired, traditional school archetype solution, the design embraces the challenge of modernity with heroic determination. The heart of the building is an abstract yet powerful multinational expression of the neighborhood cultural identity – an environment to fuel the aspirations of students and community.

The building program is arranged around a courtyard space which acts as an entry area, as well as a visual reference for the building. Student circulation is arranged around the courtyard, and classrooms are organized within the outside perimeter. Different programmatic requirements flow through the building, and establish double height common areas that project towards the community. This approach provides the concept with a dual reading. To the outside world, the school radiates activity through the use of a continuous, translucent exterior facade. Internally, the school’s courtyard – the heart of the building – holds the identity of the community.

This is articulated through the use of the curtain wall which displays the colors of different Chicago-based Hispanic flags which are represented as an abstract yet powerful multinational kaleidoscopic expression of the neighborhood’s cultural identity. A statistical analysis was performed of the colors represented in each flag and the percentage of the population represented by each nationality in Chicago. This resulted in a colorful approach to represent not only the identity of the school, but the entire community.

December 3, 2011

Adrian Smith, the maestro of super-tall

Architect wants to take you higher

Kevin Brass (

The architect based in Chicago worked as a lead designer with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on four of the 11 tallest towers in the world, including Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. Now his firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, is designing the 1-kilometre-tall Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which will take the title of world’s tallest when – and if – it is built.

Far from subsiding, the zest for building tall towers is continuing with fervour, especially in China, where Mr Smith’s company is working on several towers of more than 600 metres.

“There is no telling how far it will go,” Mr Smith said in an interview with The National. “We keep seeing people wanting super tall. And they keep upping the ante.”

But while the industry continues to strive for new heights, the debate rages about the sustainability and eco-credentials of the tall towers. Critics suggest the buildings are more about ego than efficiency.

Mr Smith, who will be in Dubai next Tuesday to address the Green Build Congress at the Dubai World Trade Centre, argues that skyscrapers are both eco-friendly and practical.

What is the next challenge for building super-talls?

I think architects and engineers can design buildings that will go even taller. We’re working on a tower now that will go a mile high, as a prototype, not as a commission. But to see how possible it is.



Once the building gets to be more than a kilometre, they get to be very big buildings, not only in height, but area. Primarily area. One of the limiting factors is how much area of [a] building can you put in [a] city on one time and market it successfully and have reasonable income or rate of return on investment. That’s a big challenge. But that’s not our challenge, it’s more of the developer’s challenge.

Our challenge and the technical challenge would be as you get taller the elevator systems have to improve in order to get elevators to go higher in the building before transfer. Right now that limit is roughly 575 metres. So if it goes one kilometre, you start to get into a double transfer system.

That begins to be pretty onerous in terms of how many elevator rides you’re taking before you get to your destination.

Those are the only limitations?

Structurally we can go a mile high. We know that from a wind perspective we can design a building that will behave properly in wind conditions that exist in most cities. It basically becomes more than one building tied together. But it is possible.

Are super-talls sustainable, green projects?

A lot of people believe super-tall buildings are not sustainable. We are in [the] process of doing a research effort which looks at every typology of building – from super tall up to 200 storeys down to single family homes and just about every typology in between and evaluating the energy consumption required on a square-metre basis needed for each of those typologies.

So far we’re finding that the super-tall building is in the middle of the road. It’s not the best-performing, but it’s not the worst performing either.

The best-performing tends to be something in the 40-storey range. And once you go higher than that certain other elements, like increased winds and lower temperatures, begin to impact the energy consumption in the building. But once you go less dense than that you get killed by additional surface area.

So just from a building performance point of view, we think super-tall is justifiable as it relates to density of anything below 40 stories.

Can you rationalise going above 40 storeys?

In the ideal world, yes. When you go high-density you will encourage or almost mandate that the location be served by public transit. And when you go high-density with block after block, like the city of New York or Chicago, you have the added benefit of live-work environments where people can live and work in the same district.

Is there technology that will make taller buildings more efficient?

I would say in truth higher buildings are as efficient as a 40-storey. You are putting space above 40 storeys in a different kind of environment. It’s location-specific to some degree. In Dubai [in Burj Khalifa], for example, it is 7 to 10 degrees cooler at the top of the building than at the bottom of the building. That actually helps you in Dubai because your cycle is mostly cooling.

Whereas in Chicago that same principle applies but in Chicago in winter it actually hurts you because it is actually colder up there than on the ground. And your heating cycle takes over and you’re losing more heat near the top of the building.

The study is inconclusive at the moment. We’re still in [the] process of fine-tuning a lot of these issues. But in general, I would say that they already are sustainable.

Another part of the study is how much land you use for a super-tall building versus how much land you use for single-family or even a 40-storey.

The land is valuable in itself. The more that can be turned into green belt the better. So you have to consider that aspect.

Q&A:some of Adrian Smith’s most noteworthy projects

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago The 10th tallest building in the world added a new landmark to the Chicago skyline. Perched on the Chicago River, the 423-metre tower completed in 2009 includes a 225-room hotel, 472 residential units and 50,000 square feet of retail space.

201 Bishopsgate and The Broadgate Tower, London Set on a key site in London, at the centre of the Broadgate business district, the two towers combine restaurants, bars and retail space on a 2.3 acre site above the active rail lines.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai The world’s tallest building, completed last year, answered many of the questions facing tall building construction. The rounded, tiered design minimized the influence of wind at high levels, and systems were creating for the elevators, plumbing and other apparatus that had never been installed at such altitudes.