Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
2011 Seoul Conference Report

Chicago, October 18, 2011

On October 10-12, the CTBUH joined 1,008 tall building professionals from around the world at the Council's 2011 World Conference in Seoul, South Korea. A full report on the Seoul Conference, featuring photos, videos, and presentation reports has been published.

Having listened to 145 international speakers over the course of three days presenting on various topics related to tall buildings and urban habitat, it is safe to say that if we had to pick one word that sums up the CTBUH 2011 Seoul Conference, it is "optimism." As the 2009 Chicago Conference was mostly focused on how the global financial crisis was going to impact tall buildings; and the 2010 Mumbai Conference centered on how tall buildings can help communities face the challenges of a fast developing metropolis; this conference very much looked forward to a future in which tall buildings are becoming taller, greener, safer and better than ever before.

 Cityscape seen from N Seoul Tower

Perhaps the best reflection of the conference theme of Why Tall was the final question that was posed to a panel of tall building experts during the closing session, asking the fundamental yet often evasive proposition “how tall can we go?” Even though some tried to share insights as to what the areas of limitation are when it comes to maximum height, no one dared to give a precise and definitive answer. But of course, no one really knows the answer to that question. After all, the tall building is still growing up, both literally and figuratively. As such, the conference affirmed a statement made by the new CTBUH chairman Timothy Johnson, who stated that in many ways modern tall building design may be in just its rambunctious teenage years: “It’s exciting, naïve, but still has room to mature. The future is bright as the world continues to grow, people continue to flock to cities for opportunity and a life style which is rich in diversity and energy.”

Keynote session Session break

In keeping with the conference theme, keynote presentations delivered by three world-renowned architects portrayed the ideas and inspirations that have shaped their approach to tall buildings today. Adrian Smith explained how he took the ideas behind Mies van der Rohe’s three-legged design for Berlin's Friedrichstrasse Competition in 1921 and developed them into what is now, and will be, the world’s tallest buildings. Daniel Libeskind stressed how he aspires to design buildings that by themselves create a variety of spaces while integrating the buildings into the existing urban context. And Bill Pederson discussed how art has been a major influence during his extraordinary career, which has spanned six decades of tall building design, with a strong focus on what he referred to as the “social response” of the tall building.

Prof. Akira Wada of the Tokyo Institute of Technology Adrian Smith of GG+AS Architecture

An impressive line-up of structural engineers also took the main stage. Dennis Poon of Thornton Tomasetti and Ahmad Abdelrazaq of Samsung C&T Corporation meticulously led their audience through some of the details of the structural design of PingAn IFC in Shenzhen and Burj Khalifa in Dubai respectively, while former CTBUH chairman David Scott of Arup stressed the importance of globally recognized performance checks when it comes to the structure of supertall buildings. Kim S. Joon, CEO of Korean Engineering and Construction Company Ssangyong, presented on the Raffles City Complex and the Marina Bay Sands project in Singapore, two projects which not only symbolize the development of the company, but also the development of the city.

Ahmad Abdelrazaq of Samsung C&T Dennis Poon of Thornton Tomasetti William Pedersen of KPF

But these are just some of the highlights of what was presented during the 2011 Seoul Conference, as many international speakers presented on an incredible number of interesting issues and topics. We have already started to process this information in order to make it all available. This will also include reports of all the conference sessions and the others items on the full three-day agenda, such as the eight technical tours to various projects during the afternoon of the second day of the conference; results of the very successful First CTBUH International Student Design Competition; the activities of the various working groups and committees of the CTBUH; and the inauguration of the new chairman of the CTBUH (whilst also expressing the CTBUH’s much deserved gratitude to the outgoing chairman).

Conference Dinner Former chairman Prof Sang Dae Kim (left) handing over the gavel to the new chairman Timothy Johnson.

The beautiful setting of the conference was largely the result of the efforts of the now-immediate-past-chairman Prof. Sang Dae Kim who invited the CTBUH to his hometown of Seoul to host the 2011 CTBUH Conference when he initially became chairman in 2009. He and his tremendous team of conference organizers, supporters and local advisors from various organizations, especially the Korean Chapter of the Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitat, organized the conference. Thanks to their efforts, we were not only able to share the latest knowledge, insights and information about what’s happening in the international tall building world, but it also created an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and professionals, and to make many new relationships during the event. It was a great pleasure to enjoy rich Korean culture and hospitality and to experience the bustling city of Seoul first hand.

The CTBUH would like to thank all sponsors, organizations and individuals who helped make the 2011 Seoul Conference another successful event. We will be posting all photos , videos and pdf’s of presentations to the conference section of the CTBUH website in the next few weeks. For those that unfortunately were not able to attend, you can look forward to another CTBUH gathering in Asia as we now gear up for the 2012 Congress in Shanghai!