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Posts Tagged ‘skyscrapers’

It’s easy to exaggerate the significance of a single architectural project, but I don’t think anyone can doubt that London will never be the same again when The Shard reaches it’s final height of 310m – just 14m short of the Eiffel tower.

We’ve all been watching it rise up above the Tower of London for the last few months of construction, and it’s already visible from Battersea Bridge at the bottom of my road; but what really made me appreciate it’s presence was a recent drive into London from the west on the A40. I was miles out, at Hangar Lane, and even there, with the rest of the city skyline flattened by the distance, it stood out and made itself known. London is different: however far away you are; whatever angle you look from.

For some breathless statistics, we need the Sun, and writer Carl Stroud:

DWARFING everything else in sight, London’s latest landmark is now officially 800ft tall.

The sleek lines of The Shard dominate the capital’s skyline — and it’s growing ever higher.

When it is completed at the end of the year it will reach an incredible 1,016ft into the air and will take the title of Europe’s tallest building.

But for now, with 72 floors complete, it is just Britain’s tallest building and remains an imposing presence close to the River Thames at London Bridge.

From its summit views stretch for 50 miles in every direction.

Westwards you can see as far as Wembley and, beyond, Heathrow’s control tower. To the east you can see across the whole of the 2012 Olympic site to Dartford.

The £1.3billion glass pyramid will be open to the public when it’s finished.

There will be a viewing gallery at the very top, on level 72. Beneath that will be 12 floors of apartments — expected to cost £10million each.

Then there is the five-star Shangri-La hotel and spa, a restaurant and shops, which will sit above 595,000sq ft of office space.

The statistics for this extreme construction, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and mainly Qatar-owned, are mind-blowing.

They have already poured the equivalent of 22 Olympic swimming pools of concrete, reinforced with 5,000 tons of steel rods to complete the central spine.

Late last year they did a 36-hour continuous pour of concrete — enough to fill the clock tower of Big Ben.

Now the outside surface is being clad with reinforced glass — 11,000 panels of it.

Do I like it? I think so, but I’m not quite sure. I’m biased, because I love monumental architecture, and I’ve thought for ages that we need a really big building in London. I like its simplicity and poise; its non-Mies-van-der-Rohe-angles; its place by the river – so daring to be so close to the Tower, instead of hiding it away in Docklands.

I wish it was slightly more interesting. This is going to be our Eiffel Tower, whether we like it or not; and the Eiffel Tower is far more beautiful. But let’s wait and see. I’ll pass judgement when it’s finished.

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Burj Dubai by Joi.

The Burj Dubai opened yesterday. It is staggeringly tall. Yes, the record for the world’s tallest building is broken every few years, as politicians and engineers try to inch their way ahead of their rivals. But this is not an incremental step, it is a quantum leap. This building is hundreds of metres higher than anything within shouting distance. At 828m it is about twice the height of the Empire State Building, and nearly three times higher than the Eiffel Tower.

Steve Rose captures some of the excitement and ambiguity about its construction:

We’re going to need a new word. The Burj Dubai doesn’t scrape the sky; it pierces it, like a slender silver needle, half a mile high. It’s only because Dubai never has any clouds that we can even see the tower’s top. And, judging by the images released so far, the view is more like looking out of a plane than a building. It has made reality a little less real.

The facts and figures about the tower are equally surreal – like the one about how it could be eight degrees cooler at the top than at the bottom, or the one about how you could watch the sunset at the bottom, then take a lift up to the top and watch it all over again. It’s a new order of tallness, even compared to its nearest rival, Taiwan’s Taipei 101, which it exceeds by more than 300 metres.

But, beyond height, is there anything to celebrate here? From our current perspective, the Burj Dubai symbolises catastrophic excess – of money, confidence, ambition, energy consumption. And the fact that it will most likely stand empty for years to come has been noted with great satisfaction here in the west. But isn’t this how we’ve responded to every tall structure of note, from Babel onwards? And even its many critics have to admit the tower is a rather stunning piece of architecture. Chiefly designed by Adrian Smith, formerly of skyscraper specialists SOM, and engineer Bill Baker, it is beautifully sleek and elegant, rising in a graceful series of silver tubes of different heights. It looks less like a single tower than a cluster of towers, an organic formation rather than a self-consciously iconic object. This is surely the best-looking tall building since New York’s Chrysler and the Empire State in the 1930s.

I remember building towers as a child, out of alphabet bricks, wooden blocks, lego pieces, cardboard boxes – anything at all. And digging holes in the sand on holidays to see how deep I could go: deeper than my own height, deep enough for it to get dangerous. Dad broke my heart by ordering me to cave them in when we left the beach, in case anyone fell in during the night.

Burj Dubai Aerial Shot 103 by Sgt Caboose.

There is something primeval about height and depth (and span…bridges again!). There is a purity about the sense of wonder one experiences within these encounters. I recognise all the social and economic and political ambiguities, but I am still awestruck by this building.

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