Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH United Kingdom Hosts Geometry of Tall Buildings
Monday, 29 January 2018

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See more on the CTBUH United Kingdom Chapter

LONDON - On Monday 29 January, the London Committee of the CTBUH United Kingdom Chapter held the event “Geometry of Tall Buildings” at the Auditorium of RIBA Headquarters in London. The event was chaired by Viviana Muscettola, CTBUH UK Chapter Advisory Board Member and Associate Director at Zaha Hadid Architects, and Katrin Foerster, ABB’s International Key Account Executive for Architects. The aim was to have an open conversation between leading architects and structural engineers around the geometry of tall buildings and its impact in the design trends for the future.

The evening was the result of the collaboration between, ZHA, ABB and CTBUH’s UK Chapter in London and gathered over 350 people from the local professional community.

The impressive panel included: Patrik Schumacher (Zaha Hadid Architects), Anil Hira, CTBUH India Vice-Chair (BuroHappold Engineering), Kai-Uwe Bergman (Bjarke Ingels Group), Chris Carroll (Arup), Bernhardt Doerstel (ABB), Dominic Bettison (WilkinsonEyre), Kamran Moazami (WSP) and Eric Parry (Eric Parry Architects).

The evening became an extensive back-and-forth between architects and engineers, all advocating for their agendas in design innovation.

Patrik Schumacher, Principal, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), broke the ice by postulating a “parametrical tectonism,” an exploration that moves from vernacular structures to contemporary systems, which has opened new ways to conceive geometry in architecture. This is one of the seeds of ZHA’s formal and spatial innovation in tall buildings during the past years, which have challenged rationalism in favor of innovative para-geometries. The mix of research proposals and built realities displayed by Schumacher demonstrated that ZHA’s creative engine is still at full throttle.

Anil Hira, Regional Director of India for BuroHappold Engineering, took a more pragmatic approach, reminding the audience that despite design intentions, the structure is the main driver when designing tall. Also, that symmetry, the choice of materials and shapes that make sense are key to final success. Hira insisted on the importance of bringing engineers to the design from the very first stages of the design.

Kamran Moazami, Head of Discipline, Building Structures, WSP, discussed crucial factors for success in the design process.

Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), displayed a different approach to the geometry of tall buildings, the one coming from a sort of “creative pragmatism,” where restrictions and urban regulations are transformed into advantages rather than obstacles. He took the audience into a fascinating trip through BIG’s “courtscraper” project VIA 57 WEST in Manhattan, the still in-progress Spiral tower, also in New York, and the recently opened “landscraper” in London that serves as Google’s UK headquarters. Other stops included Seattle, Calgary and Shenzhen. All of the buildings shown emerged from rejecting the “Modernist box” catalogue in favor of smarter, more energy-efficient and seductive massing options connected to the surrounding urban habitat.

Bernhard Doerstel, Global Product Group Manager, Building Automation, ABB, highlighted how the Corbusian statement “the house is a machine for living” has been overtaken by a more holistic approach to smart technology and the Internet of Things. His vision of the backbone of tall buildings is not only structural, but also technological, and he shared his view on how the tech backbone allows buildings to be connected to the cloud and exchange information. This exchange is making them “smarter” and able to resolve the problems of energy savings, traffic and high-density environments. His discourse was supported by built examples from Australia, the US and Canada, and the United Arab Emirates.

Arup’s mastermind behind some of the most iconic high-rise structures in the world, Chris Carroll, issued the evening’s second call for pragmatism, giving some striking comparative examples of the loads and stresses supported by tall buildings. While showing some of Arup’s latest works in Guangzhou, San Francisco, and Taiwan, he illustrated the development of mega-elements (grids, braces and columns), and advocated for “smartness” while making optimization-oriented decisions that have huge technical and financial impact.

Dominic Bettison, Director, WilkinsonEyre made a more lyrical discourse, seeking to identify the main drivers in designing tall towers’ geometry. Starting with his firm’s tower proposals and realizations below 300 meters, then moving to the more challenging realm of supertall (300-meter-plus) towers, Bettison underlined the struggle to find geometrical beauty and elegance while solving the inherent structural problems. He also highlighted how rapidly towers are getting taller, and how -- when going supertall -- there is not just one “ideal solution,” but many paths inspired by nature, optimization and aerodynamics.

The esteemed Geometry of Tall Buildings panelists
Kamran Moazami, Head of Discipline, Building Structures, WSP pushed for a holistic approach to the design process, and the commitment to economic viability, as crucial factors of success. He also emphasized geography, land value, height, and materials as parameters to be added to the geometry design mix. Moazami walked through his impressive tower portfolio, including joint work with many of the other presenters, showing how each case is different, because the mix of people and context involved is also different.

The last presentation came from Eric Parry, Principal, Eric Parry Architects, who first referred to the atmospheric paintings of C.F. David, and then showed an exquisite collection of hand-drawn sketches of European and American urban landscapes, using these to advocate for values such as axiality and monumentality. These are also sources for geometric inspiration when architects have the responsibility to transform the skyline of a city. It was a voluntarily “low-tech” prelude to his latest tower 1 Undershaft, the soon-to-be tallest building in the City of London’s Square Mile. Parry also reflected on the subject of permanence, as designs like the one coming from his drawing board will transform the future skyline of London forever.

The panelists spoke to a large, enthusiastic group.

The evening closed with words of gratitude from CTBUH Chairman Steve Watts, Partner, alinea Consulting, and questions from the audience focusing on the challenges of permanence and adaptability in tall buildings.

It was beautiful to see all the presenters at the end, geometrically aligned in a horizontal row, knowing they had conquered the realm of the vertical.


Bernhard Dörstel ABB
David Shephard ABB
Dean Reddy ABB
John Thompson ABB
Katrin Förster ABB
Adrian Morrow Adrian Morrow Architects
Alex Tosetti AECOM
Peter Watkins AECOM
Stewart Dabin AECOM
Will MacDonald AECOM
Chiara Beltrame Aedas
Jamie Williams Aedas
Yuliya Sazonenko AHR
Jeroen Janssen AKT II
Harriet Browning AKT II
Ricardo Baptista AKT II
Tom Baird AKT II
Valentin Loeffler AKT II
Antonio Callejon Nache Alison Brooks Architects
Emily Beavan Alison Brooks Architects
Laurence Sutton Arcadis UK
Tom Nelson Arney Fender Katsalidis
Chris Carroll ARUP
Ed Clark Arup
Jackson Hunt Arup
Mathilde Croizat Arup
Simon Bateman Arup
Andy Pye Arup
Paul Edwards Arup
Roy Crielaard Arup
Tara Clinton Arup
Tom Clewlow Arup
William Arnold Arup
Liam Bryant ATKINS
Richard J Weeks ATKINS
Kieran Woods BG&E
Kai-Uwe Bergmann Bjarke Ingels Group
Sara Ibrahim Bjarke Ingels Group
Alex Turpitt BMT
Anna Bagnara BMT
Yoko Kaneko BMT
Catherine Miles Bournemouth Borough Council
Anil Hira BuroHappold Engineering
Paul Nuttall Canary Wharf Contractors
Darius Cheong Carey Group PLC
Debbie Soyemi Carey Group PLC
Ivan Baranov Carey Group PLC
Nikolas Nikou Carey Group PLC
Silvia Maggini CBRE
Neil Campbell ChapmanBDSP
Jon Spencer-Hall Core Five
Steve Watts CTBUH Chairman
Graham Barker Cundall
Marco Sciacca Curtins
Jordi Galiana Dornbracht
Ufuk Pirnal Dornbracht
Ben Lewis Eckersley O’Callaghan
Anastasia Bordian EPR Architects
Eric Parry Eric Parry Architects
Tanya Parkin Eric Parry Architects
Keelan Hegarty Expedition
Peter Barbalov Farrells
Eda Kutluozen Foster + Partners
Josh Mason Foster + Partners
William Ferguson-Davie FREO Group
Dimitris Grozopoulos Gillespies
Maria Aksarina Gillespies
Omri Ben-Chetrit Gillespies
Andy Watts Grimshaw
Annabel Koeck Grimshaw
Annelie Kvick Thompson Grimshaw
Eduardo Velasquez Grimshaw
Keith Brewis Grimshaw
Steve Kennedy Grimshaw
Julian Chen Henning Larsen Architects A/S
Vince Ugarow Hilson Moran
Karl Wallasch Hoare Lea
Alberto Alonso Idom
Amanda Impey Idom
Javier Quintana Idom
Lily Zadeh Idom
Mikel Lotina Idom
Viral Bhavsar Idom
Yian Jiang Idom
Sree Vinayak Invennt
Ed Robertson John Robertson Architects
Stefan Mannewitz Karakusevic Carson Architects
Francesca Veronesi KIN
Piero Chiefa KIN
Emma Kennedy KKS
Keith Goodwin KKS
Peter Palfrey Langan
Dr Agnieszka Zimnicka LB Tower Hamlets
Kim Louis LB Tower Hamlets
Evgeny Didorenko LDA Design
Pauline Roberts Lichfields
Alex Morier Meinhardt
Ashley Neale Meinhardt
Emelie Troedsson Meinhardt
Michael Figueiredo Meinhardt
Parisa Gajjar Meinhardt
Ryan Swanston Meinhardt
Saskia Manson Meinhardt
Thomas Akrigg Meinhardt
Mak Saati Michael Hadi Associates
Marco Conti Michael Hadi Associates
Ashwini Ashokkumar Mizzi Studio
Duncan Johnston Morgan Sindall Investments
Nick Fillipou Multiplex
James Pinkerton NBBJ
Barbara Chesi New London Architecture
Andrea Aravecchia Panaria Group
Kee Leung Pell Frischmann
Ahmed Ibrahim Perkins+Will
Andreas Dziuk Priedemann Fassadenberatung GmbH
Keith Jones Ramboll
Graeme McCutcheon Ramboll
Jamie Clay Ramboll
Mehrdad Tabatabaei Ramboll
Robert Godbold Ramboll
Juan Jose Richard Coleman City Designer
Kim Moubray Richard Coleman City Designer
Alex Loye Robert Bird Group
Kasra Karimi Royal College of Art
Dr Ender Ozkan RWDI
Francesco Dorigatti RWDI
Jovana Veletic School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering
Slawek M Dragun Shawek Dragun Design
Andi Fatkoja Sheppard Robson Architects
Ben Sztainbok Sheppard Robson Architects
Syed Arshad Squire & Partners
Adam Scott Sweco
Dimitris Akritopolous UHA London
Esteban Colmenares UHA London
Harry Varnavas UHA London
James Ingram UHA London
Jonas Upton-Hansen UHA London
Peter Jorgensen UHA London
Petros Trapezaris UHA London
Giuseppe Piccardo University of Genoa (Italy)
Luisa Pagnini University of Genoa (Italy)
Dominic Bettison WilkinsonEyre Architects
Chris Harley Wirth Research
Peter Soddy Wirth Research
Aklilu Haddish WSP
Alex Bui WSP
Amelia Bryant WSP
Andrew Matthew Pratt WSP
Aret Garip WSP
Ben Isaacs WSP
Fernando Pereira WSP
George Parker WSP
Giorgia Copelli WSP
Hordur Steinarsson WSP
Inci Akdeniz WSP
James Roberts WSP
Kamran Moazami WSP
Nicoletta Galluzzi WSP
Rama Pathakota WSP
Siamak Bake WSP
Simone Volpe WSP
Steven Truss WSP
Waleed Hamad WSP
Alejandro Diaz Zaha Hadid Architects
Damiano Rizzini Zaha Hadid Architects
Melodie Leung Zaha Hadid Architects
Michele Pasca di Magliano Zaha Hadid Architects
Michele Salvi Zaha Hadid Architects
Patrik Schumacher Zaha Hadid Architects
Roger Howie Zaha Hadid Architects
Viviana Muscettola Zaha Hadid Architects
Adrien Gesulfo
Alexandre Crussard
Amina Cheikh
Andrea Villa
Anna Aleshkina
Ares A. Martorelli
Caitlin Senne
Danijel Rusovan
Dominiq Oti
Giorgio Albieri
Jiaji Li
John Napier
Julia Azzoni Beaumont
Klaus Bode
Lady Ritblat
Leigh Auld
Mamali Mirzaei
Marco Conti
Marija Ambrasaite
Mark Hinchman
Mei-Ling Krabbe
Melanie Ward-Hunt
Nikola Enchev
Nuragiyanti Permatasari
Payton Burgos
Riccardo Fabrizio
Sarah Geske
Saria Saeed
Simon Rosa
Sylwia Mazurek
Xenia Georgiou
Yogesh Mistry
Yulia Bykova