Ancient design is making a comeback with the quietly growing trend of pyramid-shaped skyscrapers.
When thinking of pyramidal structures, most consider the Great Pyramid of Giza and the architecture surrounding it as benchmark buildings. Built thousands of years ago, the iconic limestone buildings have been an aesthetic source of inspiration for an array of tall building projects.
Pyramids are regularly reflected in some of the more ambitious visions of creating vertical cities in the future. Their large base and tapered form suggests they are structurally sound enough to reach incredible heights along with responding to concerns of urban growth.
This has been envisioned in proposed mega projects such as Tokyo’s Sky City 1000 or the 4,000 metre X-Seed 4000, both of which are designed to house thousands of inhabitants in modern buildings powered by solar energy with the ability to protect residents from climate change.
While X-Seed 4000 is directly inspired by Mount Fuji, its structure reflects a typical pyramid shape with an immense base measuring spanning a six square kilometre footprint.
In terms of realised visions, some of the latest pyramid projects offer more humble heights and archetypal buildings.
One of the most recognised is the Transamerica Tower, the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco, reaching a pyramidal height of 260 metres. Completed in 1972, it challenged the design conventions of its time, with architect William L. Pereira opting for a pyramid shape to reach greater heights.
According to Pereira, the pyramid is the ideal shape for skyscrapers, offering the practical advantage of letting more air and light to reach adjacent streets.
Another iconic pyramid building is the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, which was built over 20 years ago. The 111-metre, 30-storey pyramid is best known for its perfect geometric structure and the spotlight at its tip – still the brightest beam in the world at over 423 billion candela.
In 2012, the exterior of the Ryungyong Hotel was finished some 25 years after an economic crisis halted construction in 1987. The building features a 75 degree angle slope, stands 330 metres tall and spans 105 storeys in Pyongyang, North Korea. It is set to be the tallest building in its country when and if it is ever completed.
One of the latest pyramidal skyscrapers is West 57th, designed by Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in Manhattan, New York.
The building which is currently under construction, will rise 32 storeys and will span 870,000 square feet, housing 750 residential units.
According to BIG’s website, it has been designed as “hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan high rise.”
“West 57th has a unique shape which combines the advantages of both: the compactness and efficiency of a courtyard building density, a sense of intimacy and security, with the airiness and the expansive views of a skyscraper,” the website adds.
The sloping roof sees a series of south facing terraces and each apartment features a bay window to enjoy generous views of the Hudson River. Each terrace actually forms the perforated facade of the structure.
From different points, the form of the building appears like a pyramid or a glass spire.
The Shard, by starchitect Renzo Piano, is a 72-storey mixed-use skyscraper on the south bank of the river Thames.
The building features an irregular pyramid shape and is covered in 11,000 panels of glass. The triangular structure was completed last year and it has consistently attracted controversy with critics saying it ruins the fabric of London’s skyline while overshadowing historic Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
According to the World Health Organisation, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban centres by 2050.
With urban demand at its highest, it’s no wonder architects are reaching for skyscraper status.
While the need for vertical space is being heavily demonstrated through tall slim structures, architects are again exploring alternatives, with buildings inspired by the ancient pyramids quietly rising in dense areas, on city outskirts and redeveloped precincts.