Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

Featured Tall Buildings
Twice a month the Council features a seminal tall building as a case study. These projects, typically either recently completed or historically significant, are examples of influential tall building development, design, engineering and/or construction.

The Willis Building, London
Foster + Partners, posted September

Europe is not known for very tall structures. This is largely due to significant historic fabrics developed over typically many centuries and the protection and respect needed for these areas. 51 Lime Street is a project that integrates well with the urban context, both historic and modern.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Tokyo
Tange Associates, posted August

Turning the traditional horizontal configuration for school design literally on its side by projecting it vertically, the Cocoon tower presents an incredible case-study for creating a university in the sky. Not only is the organization of the spaces both radical and logical, the resulting aesthetic is quite startling.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, posted August

Undoubtedly one of the wonders of the modern world, Burj Khalifa is graceful and elegant as it reaches upward with seeming ease. The building’s iconic status reflects the aspirations of Dubai to establish itself among the world’s great cities. Through its ambition, style, and record-breaking height, it has instantly become one of the most recognizable buildings of our time.

Court of Justice of the European Communities, Luxembourg
Dominique Perrault, posted July

A simple and powerful form, this is Perrault doing what he does best; rejecting the experiment with flamboyant form and instead injecting creative thought into materiality and detail. The Court of Justice towers demonstrate that the façade is much more than just a wall of glass.

Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, posted July

Pearl River Tower’s highly integrated architectural, structural, and mechanical solutions are impressive. The building’s siting and its evocative curving shape are performance driven, and represent an example of a 21st century tower that responds responsibly to local climactic conditions and global energy concerns.

Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers, Nagoya-shi
Nikken Sekkei, posted June

There have been numerous proposals for ever-elaborate, twisting towers in recent years, though few have come to fruition. The Spiral Towers stands in marked contrast to those hypothetical-only designs; a real, incredibly-spiraling form standing vibrant on the Nagoya skyline.

Tour Total, Berlin
Barkow Leibinger, posted June

Tour Total establishes a strong anchor for a new urban district in the heart of Berlin. It achieves a remarkable balance between economics and sustainable performance; formal and aesthetic ambitions are integrated with functional and performative ambitions.

30 St Mary Axe, London
Foster + Partners, posted May

Rarely does a single building have such a profound impact on the history of the high-rise as 30 St Mary Axe – The Gherkin. In just a few short years, the Gherkin paved the way for the current generation of non-orthogonal tall buildings that now have become a quintessential feature of the city.

New Babylon, The Hague
MVSA Architects, posted May

This project takes the extraordinary step of converting a high-concept but dated design into something wholly different, subsuming the original into a larger, more ambitious but more contextually appropriate creation.

6 Remez Tower, Tel Aviv
Moshe Tzur Architects and Town Planners, posted
April 2014

As Tel Aviv urbanizes and rapidly grows its skyline, it is refreshing to see a building that gives over so much of its site to public space. The tower is modest in presentation, with projecting glass fins sheltering its balconies, and is generous within, affording multi directional views from each residence.

PARKROYAL on Pickering, Singapore
WOHA, posted
April 2014

Observers of the tall-building industry have grown accustomed to – perhaps even jaded about – images of hypothetical extensive greenery on proposed skyscrapers. Seeing PARKROYAL on Pickering removes the scales from the eyes of the most cynical veteran.

ADAC Headquarters, Munich
Sauerbruch Hutton, posted
March 2014

The ADAC building is instantly recognizable for the playful color pattern of its curtain walls, but from a structural and environmental standpoint, this is a building that means serious business.

Sliced Porosity Block, Chengdu
Steven Holl Architects, posted
March 2014

The buildings of Sliced Porosity Block, with their carefully shaped exteriors, bring the environmental needs of today into the cultural framework of local history. Despite its large scale, the project resists the temptation to create object-icon skyscrapers, instead shaping itself to optimize the distribution of natural light and create a public space with human-scaled moments.

Tree House Residence Hall, Boston
ADD Inc, posted
February 2014

Created on a limited public-university budget and an aggressive schedule, the Tree House represents a well-considered solution that announces itself as a foundry of inspiration and innovation. It achieves environmental conservation goals while still providing a memorable environment for the young minds inhabiting the building.

Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi
Goettsch Partners, posted
February 2014

Sowwah Square stands out as consciously sustainable and warmly inviting, yet a formally disciplined project in a region where achieving such aims have historically proven difficult. The interdependent elements work together such that the project functions as an integrated machine.

Megatruss Seismic Isolation Structure, Osaka
Nikken Sekkei, posted
January 2014

The megatruss seismic isolation structure provides a way forward for some of the most densely urbanized, and urbanizing, populations, many of which happen to lie across active seismic zones.

The Shard, London
Renzo Piano Building Workshop, posted
January 2014

The developers of The Shard showed remarkable tenacity in bringing it to fruition. The level of determination to wring economic success and poetics out of the project while still supporting public life at street level was remarkable.

C&D International Tower, Xiamen
Gravity Partnership Ltd., posted
December 2013

The C&D International Tower anchors a comprehensive project, with great potential to form the new Central Business District for Xiamen. With relatively slight tapering, this building achieves a compelling sculptural presence on the skyline while affording ample accommodation at the ground level.

Gate Towers, Abu Dhabi
Arquitectonica, posted
December 2013

The Gate Towers allude to a future in which tall buildings appear at such density that many of the amenities of urban habitat on the ground can and should be replicated at height.

Tornado Tower, Doha
CICO Consulting Architects & Engineers, posted
November 2013

Tornado Tower stood out as a striking and well-resolved form. The use of the diagrid as an appropriate structural system for high rise buildings seems to be gathering pace around the world, and Tornado demonstrates its advantages perfectly—both in aesthetics and the structural and space-saving efficiencies.

The Bow, Calgary
Foster + Partners, posted
November 2013

The Bow is both stunning as a form and functions well from an environmental and urban standpoint, especially in the context of a harsh northern climate. It serves as a rare example of an iconic design resulting from the most practical, yet creative, response to site constraints.

Hegau Tower, Singen
Murphy/Jahn Architects, posted
October 2013

The simplicity of form and elegance of this all glass prism are pristinely executed. What sets this tower apart however, are the automatic sunshades on the south west façade. Either by sensor or user controls, the retractable metal screens animate the façade and bring a distinctive ever-changing character to the face of the building.

Devon Energy Center, Oklahoma City
Pickard Chilton, posted
October 2013

This building is remarkable, not only for its inherent design excellence, but for the seeming unlikelihood of its location. The culmination of a concerted effort to reduce sprawl and consolidate activity in a newly resurgent city center, Devon Energy Tower provides new levels of public engagement in the area.

The Featured Tall Building initiative was begun in January 2011; project case studies are added twice monthly.