Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 

CTBUH Joins Launch of Mongolian Tower
October 22, 2013
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Watch Daniel Safarik's presentation at Construction Mongolia 2013 Expo
ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA Mongolia may be one of the last places people think of when it comes to tall buildings. However, in the midst of a mining-driven construction boom, the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, is rapidly changing from a low-rise agglomeration of circular, tent-like traditional gers and aging Soviet-era government buildings, into a city with a defined tall-building center and multiple districts of high-rise housing. Much of the tall construction in the capital reflects the need to expediently house rural migrants from the nation’s vast hinterlands, and people leaving the ger districts, which often lack basic services. With a few exceptions, most of the tall-building construction is fairly utilitarian in appearance.
CTBUH Supporting Contributor member Morin Khuur Tower LLC is aiming to change all that. The company has proposed a strong iconic identifier for the country – a tower in the shape of the morin khuur, the two-stringed instrument older than Genghis Khan, and as significant a cultural symbol. The proposal, conceived by artist-sculptor Erdembileg, imagines a 30-story base containing 60-90,000 square meters of offices, retail, and cultural facilities, with the central core extending beyond the roof of the base to terminate in an ornamental horse’s head, which typically crowns the instrument bearing its name. The “tuning pegs” would act as occupiable observation decks, while a circular restaurant supported by a K-braced column at the rear of the structure is meant to resemble a traditional Mongolian silver bowl.

The project launched at the Construction Mongolia 2013 Expo, a three-day symposium split between Government House on Ulaanbaatar’s central square and a new athletic stadium on the outskirts of town. Attendees included several government ministers of construction and economic development, international NGOs, and members of the domestic and international construction industry.
Rendering of the Morin Khuur Tower
Ceremonies included a musical performance with morin khuurs (front row)
The fanfare for the tower launch included traditional musical performances, receptions, a booth containing a large Lucite model of the structure, and a significant role for the CTBUH. At Morin Khuur Tower LLC’s invitation, CTBUH editor Daniel Safarik  visited the Morin Khuur Tower LLC offices and presented executives with the company’s official certificate of membership, becoming the first CTBUH staff member to travel to Mongolia. Safarik also delivered a presentation at the conference, noting the Morin Khuur Tower as an example of “literal cultural symbolism,” and placing it in context with tall-building trends worldwide.
CTBUH Editor Daniel Safarik presents at Construction Mongolia Gankhuyag Rentsendorj, CEO of Morin Khuur Tower LLC presents a morin khuur to the CTBUH
“The cultural and economic aspirations of Mongolia will be on display to the world in the shape of this building,” Safarik said in his address to Government House. “In a world of generic, similar buildings that contribute very little to their environments, this is an opportunity to create a contextual icon that could only be made in Mongolia.”

He went on to note that literal cultural symbolism has not always been successful, and that the developers might consider alternate approaches.

“Now is the time to consider not only its literal symbolism, but how it embodies the values of the Mongolian people, the city of Ulaanbaatar, and the owners,” he said, emphasizing that a well-executed, contextually sensitive Morin Khuur Tower could also provide the anchor for a new urban neighborhood in the rapidly developing area south of the River Tuul.
Mongolia's current high-rises Blue Sky Tower, Mongolia's current tallest building
Local television and online news media covered the event, and Bloomberg TV Mongolia conducted a 30-minute interview with Safarik about the context and plausibility of the tower.

The Morin Khuur Tower’s full architectural height would reach 309 meters, which is the approximate height of the Eiffel Tower. The developers’ choice to illustrate this fact, along with placing the Morin Khuur Tower between the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty on promotional materials, gives some indication of the amount of pride and aspiration invested in the project. The instrument after which it is modeled is a fixture in virtually every home and public building in the country.
The “tuning pegs” would act as occupiable observation decks
“The morin khuur is an instrument that is a symbol not just for domestic Mongolians, but for the 20 million Mongolians who are living outside the country,” said Gankhuyag Rentsendorj, CEO of Morin Khuur Tower LLC. “This tower will be a ‘mecca for Mongolians.’ It will be like the Statue of Liberty in the way it represents us.”

Through its Council membership and other outreach activities, including an upcoming roadshow in Asia, Morin Khuur Tower LLC hopes to augment the 15 percent investment its parent company has already made in the proposed $230 million project with other investors, said Byambatsogt Jugder, Director of International Relations for the company. After the first financing round is completed, the team will solicit a program management and architecture / engineering team. The tower is scheduled to complete by 2018.
Daniel Safarik on the Genghis Khan statue The Mongolian landscape from the Genghis Khan statue
The Morin Khuur Tower LLC team showed extraordinary hospitality to their guest, including expeditions to the ger district of north Ulaanbaatar and to the enormous Genghis Khan statue east of the city (also designed by Erdembileg). After the conference, hosts and visitor traveled to Terelj National Park for some rugged scenery, culminating at a log-cabin-style family-run resort, complete with afternoon-nap-ready gers and traditional cooking.