Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 Awards Symposium Puts Spotlight on Achievement, Future

October 19, 2012

Read an overview of the awards ceremony & dinner that followed the symposium

From the outset, it was clear the 2012 CTBUH tall building award winners, finalists and lifetime achievement award winners were not attending the annual symposium to talk about record heights and flashy designs.

“We believe bigger is not always better,” Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award winner Helmut Jahn said in the opening presentation.

CTBUH Chairman Timothy Johnson opening the Symposium Helmut Jahn, 2012 Lynn S. Beedle Award Winner

The free day-long symposium, the prelude to the evening awards dinner, put the spotlight on designers, engineers and builders who have made statements with their buildings. But the statements were not necessarily about pyrotechnics and flashy icons. Instead the discussions focused more on buildings that connect to their environment and provide livable, comfortable addition to the urban fabric.

Richard Cook, 2012 Awards Chair
Antony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director

“This year we were more specifically focused on the unique challenges of tall buildings,” awards jury chairman Richard Cook, partner in Cook + Fox Architects, told the audience.

Aybars Asci of SOM Mark Sarkisian of SOM Al Hamra Firdous Tower

Mr. Cook detailed the issues facing the award jury, the responsibility of reviewing other people’s work, which he described as “soul searching.” This year, for the first time, the symposium featured the work of finalists, as well as winners, including the Al Hamra Firdous Tower in Kuwait and the Complesso Garibaldi Tower in Milan.

Gianni Bardazzi of Maire Tecnimont
Massimo Roj of Progetto CMR Complesso Garibaldi Tower 2

Each presentation, with few exceptions, focused on the details and nuances of the honored buildings, free of the need to make a pitch or promote the company. Speakers detailed their shared enthusiasm for creating efficient projects that fit the urban landscape and improved their surroundings.

“Less ego and more eco,” said Massimo Roj, design architect and Progetto CMR.

Question from the audience Q&A session

The audience waded in with their own questions, prompting spirited discussions. One delegate asked if Frank Lloyd Wright’s theories on tall buildings were affecting discussions today. “No,” said Mr. Jahn. Designers are too restricted by the commerce of the business, he said.

“Architects don’t have any ambition anymore,” Mr. Jahn said. “We are pushed into strait jackets…. Now we are just pussy-footing around.”

Peter Oborn of Aedas Architects Peter Chipchase of Arup Al Bahar Towers

Al Bahar Towers won the CTBUH award for innovation, but that was not the goal, said Peter Oborn, deputy chairman of Aedas Architects. “First and foremost it was creating a comfortable environment for tenants,” Mr. Oborn said.

Joe Cordiano of Cityzen Development
Ma Yansong of MAD Architects
Absolute Towers

Ma Yansong, the architect behind Best Building Americas winner Absolute Towers reminded the audience that his twisting towers created a stunning visual addition to the Mississauga’s skyline, but the project broke few technological barriers.

Bruce McDonald of DEXUS Properties
Christoph Ingenhoven of ingenhoven architects
1 Bligh Street

“In this tower we don’t have extensive materials or advanced technologies,” he said. “We tried to use mature technologies to achieve the architecture.” He also said taller is also not always better. “I don’t think humans can show their imagination or achievement by just building higher,” he said.

Davide Pacca of Regione Lombardia
Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Palazzo Lombardia

The cap to the day was the introduction of Charles Thornton and Richard Tomasetti, the first joint winners of the Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement medal. Beyond their massive portfolio of industry achievements, the duo deserved recognition as “two people who have worked together all their lives and still like each other.”

Hassan Al Duhaimi of HBS Company
Hafid Rakem of Ateliers Jean Nouvel and Peter Terrell of Terrell Group Doha Tower

The two talked eloquently and often amusingly about their partnership and the evolution of tall buildings. “The integration of architecture and engineering, that’s where the future really lies,” Mr. Tomasetti said.

Mr. Thornton sounded a call for developing more engineers, based on simple principals of developments. Far too often universities make engineering, too complicated, he said. “We need to get rid of calculus teachers,” Mr. Thornton said. “They are destroying future engineers.”

Charles Thornton, 2012 Fazlur R. Khan Medal Winner
Richard Tomasetti, 2012 Fazlur R. Khan Medal Winner
Taipei 101

While Mr. Tomasetti and Mr. Thornton looked to the future, their presentation touched a  nostalgic tone, as their careers chronicled many of the biggest leaps and innovations in tall buildings in the last 30 years, growing from simple multi-story projects in Florida to supertall buildings that define countries.

“It’s been a real ride,” Mr. Thornton said.

Read an overview of the awards ceremony & dinner that followed the symposium