Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Al Hamra Firdous Tower, Kuwait City
Featured August 2013
Al Hamra Firdous Tower was recognized as a "Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa Finalist" in the 2012 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings

“The approach to passive sustainability acknowledges, rather than fights, it’s environment. It is a convincing and poetic addition to the vocabulary of tall buildings.”
- Robert Pratt, CTBUH 2012 Awards Juror, Tishman Speyer Properties 

Location
Kuwait City
Completion
2011
Height
413 m (1,354 ft)
Stories
80
Primary Use
Office


Owner/Developer
Al Hamra Real Estate and Entertainment Co.

Design Architect
Skidmore Owings & Merrill; Al Jazera Consultants; Callison

Structural Engineer
Skidmore Owings & Merrill
MEP
Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Project Manager
Turner Construction

Contractor
Ahmadiah Contracting and Trading Company

The art of high-rise building design embraces, at least in part, how the observer reads the rise of the form from the earth to the sky. The flare wall composition of Al Hamra is aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsive. The composition elevates a straightforward curtain wall proposal to a sensuous unfolding of form oriented away from the predominant solar axis. In a time of increasing investigation of sculpted tall buildings, one that derives itself from a clear logic of its place is especially welcome.

Figure 1. South stone façade

The Al Hamra Firdous Tower was intended to stand as an icon to symbolize national pride, while also providing highly leasable office space. In responding to these two desires, the design team developed a plan where the floor plate could be reduced by 25% while still meeting the owner’s goals.

The form of the building is cut from a prism, a void taken from the center and from each floor plate rotating counter-clockwise around the core. The result is a spiraling geometry that visually soars to its 413-meter height. The void, which shifts from west to east, exposes the heavy and solid southern core wall which is a direct contrast to the other glazed and transparent walls wrapping around the rest of the building. The transition between these two conditions are the solid flared walls, covering the complex geometry of the rotating floor plates.

The 24-meter-tall lobby is a grand space that welcomes tenants and visitors. The columns on the north side of the tower slope away from the building core following a circular arch, increasing the floor area of the lobby.  A concrete lamella bracing scheme was designed, which prevents buckling of the tall curved columns in the lobby. These structural bracing elements are exposed in the interior design of the lobby, allowing their purpose to be intuitively understood by the building occupants. The barrel vault outline of the space and the light that filters through the web of concrete members are reminiscent of Middle East vernacular architecture and reflect the tectonics of the structure.

Figure 2. Overall view
To successfully create the delicate form of the tower and the unique spaces within, extensive structural considerations were made. To mitigate gravitational imbalance and torsion due to the tower’s spiraling form, the foundation mat was extended to the north of the structure and the hyperbolic paraboloid flared walls were integrated with the core to provide additional stability. A highly measured technique was used to pour the concrete for the core, which acts as the spine of the complex structural system, and the flare walls. As each section of these elements was poured, hydraulic actuators warped the formwork to the proper position, while using a ground-based GPS network to measure the elements with millimeter accuracy. This, along with a self-climbing jump system, allowed construction to proceed with speed and accuracy. Additionally, the use of high-strength concrete allowed the structure’s weight and amount of material to be lessened.
At the top of the tower, a 40-meter high space with a restaurant and observation deck boasts panoramic views of the city. To provide these unobstructed views, a cantilevered steel truss system was employed to support the roof and curtain wall glazing, reducing the necessary columns in the space.

The southern façade, exposed through the central void, is clad in stone with angled window cuts to respond to the intense solar conditions of the area. The same material treatment is given to the “flared walls” that cover the curvilinear faces along the edge of the spiral void, only without window openings. The concrete construction of these elements also allows them to act as thermal mass walls, slowing heat gain during the day and releasing stored heat at night. The curved east, north, and west façades are clad in vision glass, providing clear views of the surrounding city and Kuwait Bay while also optimizing the spaces against glare and heat gain.
Figure 3. Lobby “lamella” structure
 
Figure 4. Overall view in the Kuwait City skyline

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Al Hamra Firdous Tower

Al Hamra Firdous Tower was recognized as a Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa Finalist in the 2012 CTBUH Awards Program.
Download Al Hamra Firdous Tower 2012 CTBUH Awards Book section

2012 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank SOM and Al Jazera Consultants for their assistance with this article.
Photography © SOM, Tim Griffith, and Pawel Sulima