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Annual Skyscraper Awards Announced

Rendering of the Absolute World Tower One and Two in Mississauga, Canada
The Absolute World Tower One and Two in Mississauga, Canada, standing at respectively 176 m and 158 m in height, have together won this year’s Emporis Skyscraper Award. The jury cited the towers’ curves as a technical achievement and “refreshing change” to typical high-rise forms. © Edvard Mahnic

The two towers forming part of the complex Absolute World, in Mississauga, Ontario, have been named the winners of the Emporis Skyscraper Award.

September 24, 2013—The appeal of the two towers, one 176 m tall and the other 158 m tall, that form part of the complex Absolute World, in Mississauga, Ontario, derives from more than just their height. Each floor of the towers is rotated 1 to 8 degrees with respect to the floor below it, giving the structures curving, windblown shapes. Both the public and awards committees have responded positively to the organic shapes, and last week Absolute World Tower 1, which is 176 m tall, and Absolute World Tower 2, which reaches a height of 158 m, were named the winners of the Emporis Skyscraper Award for 2012. This is the 13th time that the annual award has been bestowed, and the jury is made up of editors from the building database company Emporis, which is based in Hamburg, Germany. The winning towers were designed by the Beijing architecture firm MAD and Toronto-based Burka Architects, Inc.

“When it comes down to it, the jury is looking for projects that stand out, for whichever reason or combination of reasons,” said Matthew Keutenius, a senior analyst for Emporis who is responsible for the award’s organization. Keutenius responded in writing to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “Criteria do not change according to trends,” he said. The winning project and the runners-up were selected because of their distinctive, iconic, and innovative designs, he said.

While “best” can be a relative concept, the jury is asked to “judge on aesthetical grounds,” said Keutenius. “They may also consider a project’s sustainability credentials or how it fits into its urban environment, [or] the impact it has on its surroundings,” he said. “Each member’s decision may focus on one particular aspect or a combination of several.”

Although the criteria for eligibility in the annual competition call for a height of more than 100 m, the jury does not give undue weight to height in selecting the winning design “unless the height required innovative engineering,” as was the case with the Burj Khalifa, in the United Arab Emirates, Keutenius noted. (The Burj Khalifa, designed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, did not win the Emporis Skyscraper Award for 2010, losing to the Hotel Santos Porta Fira, in Barcelona, Spain, designed by the Japanese architect Toyo Ito. The hotel was selected because of its aesthetic appeal and its integration into the urban fabric.)

Typically the award committee releases a list of the 10 most deserving structures when the award is announced, but this year the list features 17 projects from seven countries. A three-way tie for ninth place and the selection of building complexes as the second-place and seventh-place winners accounted for the increase.

Exterior rendering of the dual 145 m tall Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi

The dual 145 m tall Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi placed second
in Emporis’s list of the best skyscrapers of 2012. The towers were
selected for their innovative facade, which includes
computer-controlled exterior skin elements that rotate in response
to the sun’s position, substantially reducing thermal gain.

The concrete towers in the Absolute World complex, with their load-bearing foundation walls and aluminum facades, were awarded first place because of the technical achievement represented by their rotation, which offered a “refreshing change” to the typical high-rise form, according to material provided by Emporis. While Absolute World Tower 1 turns a total of 209 degrees over its 56 stories, each floor rotating 1 to 8 degrees, in Absolute World Tower 2 the rotation is an unvarying 4 degrees for all 50 floors.

“The unique, twisting organic shape—the realization of which was in itself a fine technical achievement—makes the towers an instant classic,” said Keutenius. “Moreover, they are an icon for Mississauga and a landmark that has put the city firmly on the architectural map.” 

Second place was taken by the 145 m tall Al Bahr Towers, in the United Arab Emirates, designed by the global architecture firm Aedas, along with DIAR CONSULT, of Dubayy (Dubai), United Arab Emirates. The twin towers were selected for their innovative facades, which allude to the “mashrabiya” window concept in traditional Arab architecture. Computer-controlled exterior skin elements rotate in response to the sun’s position, substantially reducing interior thermal gain, according to Emporis.

Third place went to the steel and concrete Burj Qatar, in Doha, Qatar, designed by the French architecture firm Ateliers Jean Nouvel. The 238 m tall tower has a dual facade system that also draws on the mashrabiya concept, according to Emporis. The inner layer is a glass and aluminum curtain wall, while the outer layer is a complexly patterned metal brise-soleil designed to protect the curtain wall from both sand residue and thermal gain. A walkway connecting the two layers provides access so that the curtain wall can be maintained and cleaned.

The Absolute World towers, the Al Bahr Towers, and the Burj Qatar were also recognized by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in its 2012 awards program (see “CTBUH Recognizes the Best Tall Buildings,” on Civil Engineering online). 

The other Emporis winners for 2012, in descending order, are as follows: 

The 238 m tall steel and concrete Burj Qatar, located in Doha

The 238 m tall steel and concrete Burj Qatar, located in Doha,
placed third. The tower has a dual facade system that includes an
inner glass and aluminum curtain wall system combined with a
complexly patterned metal brise-soleil outer layer designed to
protect the curtain wall from sand residue and thermal gain.

- The Bow, a crescent-shaped, glass-covered steel trussed tube skyscraper in Calgary, Alberta, that reaches a height of 236 m, was designed by London-based Foster + Partners and Toronto-based Zeidler Partnership Architects.

- House on Mosfilmovskaya Block 1, a twisting structure in Moscow that boasts a rhomboid footprint and reaches a height of 213 m, was designed by Moscow-based Sergey Skuratov Architects.

- Pearl River Tower, a 310 m tall structure in Guangzhou, China, was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill along with the local firm Guangzhou Design Institute. Featuring a glass and steel curtain wall, it is designed to be the world’s most energy-efficient supertall building;

- Varyap Meridian, a group of five energy-efficient residential towers in Istanbul, Turkey, ranging in height from 100 to 188 m, was designed by the United Kingdom–based architecture firm RMJM in conjunction with the Turkish firm DOME Architecture.

- UniCredit Tower, a 218 m tall, glass-covered concrete structure in Milan, Italy, is the country’s tallest building. It was designed Cesar Pelli in conjunction with Toronto’s Adamson Associates Architects and Milan-based TEKNE spa.

- Ninth place is shared by three very different structures. The Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel, in Barcelona, Spain, was designed by a team comprising Ateliers Jean Nouvel and the Spanish firm RIBAS & RIBAS Arquitectos. The 105 m tall concrete structure boasts an interior vertical garden and a facade designed to capture solar radiation from the north and reflect it from the south, east, and west. The Dumankaya İKON, in Istanbul, was designed by TAGO Architects, which is based in that city. The 149 m tall concrete complex is formed by three interconnecting elliptical towers. The Zhengzhou Greenland Plaza, in Zhengzhou, China, was designed in Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in conjunction with the East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd (ECADI). The 280 m tall structure includes a two-layer facade comprising an interior glass curtain wall and exterior painted aluminum screens. The screens are three to five stories in height and are mounted at an angle to capture daylight and direct it deep inside the high-rise without generating thermal gain.

This is the second time that a skyscraper from Canada has topped the list, according to Emporis. In 2001 the jury selected One Wall Centre, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Designed by the global firm Perkins + Will, the narrow, 158 m tall building has an elliptical footprint and boasts two tuned liquid column dampers to counter wind motion.

Although the United States hosts the 2011 winner—the tower called New York by Gehry, located at 8 Spruce Street in New York City—it did not place a building in the top list this year. “On the one hand, relatively few skyscrapers were completed in the United States in 2012—we counted only 13,” Keutenius said. “On the other, even in those 13 there were one or two that might have made the ‘Top Ten’ another year, but those projects that finally made the ‘Top Ten’ were simply considered stronger.”

Asia will probably continue to figure prominently in future lists, Keutenius noted, as, proportionally speaking, many more skyscrapers are under construction in Asia than in Europe or in North and South America. “But this is very hard to predict,” he said. “It is hard to say how things are going to develop in the coming years.”

Emporis’s global building database contains more than 400,000 structures and 580,000 digital images, as well as information on more than 160,000 companies, according to material provided by the company.



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