Curvaceous Canadian Towers Secure Top Emporis Skyscraper Award

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
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The Emporis Skyscraper Award, the world’s most renowned prize for high-rise architecture has this year been awarded to the Absolute World Towers in Mississauga, Canada.

Absolute World Towers are a pair of curvaceous residential buildings that were selected for their “unmistakable design” by an international jury of experts, ranking ahead of the more than 300 other skyscrapers that stood at least 100 metres tall and were completed in 2012.

“The way the two structures twist organically by up to 8 degrees per floor is not just a superb technical achievement, but also a refreshing change to the set forms of high-rise routine,” said the panel of experts in explaining their decision.

The towers, which rise 158 metres and 176 metres high, are part of an urban development that includes five towers. The project was a design collaboration between Burka Architects in Toronto and Beijing-based architectural firm MAD.

The project was MAD’s first architecture venture outside China and, thanks to the undulating curves of the towers, they have been affectionately nicknamed the Marilyn Monroe Towers.

However MAD owner Ma Yansong claims he wanted the building to organically connect to its surrounding landscape and didn’t intend to to make them “sexy.” He says he simply wanted to ensure they were not typical boxy structures.

Al Bahr Towers

Al Bahr Towers

The towers both secured the coveted top award spot but were actually built separately. Positive feedback from local residents after the first tower was built prompted a second tower to be built beside it.

The Middle East took home the next two Emporis Skyscraper Awards with the 145-metre Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi taking second place and the 238-metre Burj Qatar in Doha in third.

The dynamic façade of Al Bahr Towers, designed by Aedas Architects, has already drawn global attention with jurors expressing that its innovative facade secured the win with the skyscraper complex that excelled in terms of both climate and design criteria.

“The outer skin of the facades is rotated by computer in response to the sun’s position, leading to a substantial reduction in thermal energy inside the buildings,” stated Emporis in a press release. “In designing the towers, the architects drew inspiration from Arab mashrabiya windows – sun and privacy screens found in traditional Islamic architecture.”

Burj Qatar

Burj Qatar

The facade of Al Bahr Towers’ is made up of more than 1,000 geometric patterned elements with the automated system already demonstrating reduced glare and absorbing sunlight to minimise artificial lighting requirments. The building has achieved a better than 50 per cent reduction in solar gain, resulting in a reduction of 1,750 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Like the Al Bahar Towers, the 238-metre tall Burj Qatar’s building envelope designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel also captured the jurors attention to earn a third place finish.

“The metal mesh facade, whose design – as with Al Bahr Towers – draws on traditional mashrabiya windows and is intended to contribute to protection from the sun, reveals a complex pattern at close quarters,” explained Emporis. “The imposing effect of the ornamental facade reaches its full expression under the dome that tops the cylinder-shaped skyscraper.”

The intricate “smart skin” of Burj Qatar also pays aesthetic homage to ancient Islamic architecture and, made up of over 2,000 umbrella-type modules, efficiently responds to its surrounding hot desert climate.

This year’s winning projects have certainly challenged the traditional stainless steel box designs of skyscrapers with the top three Emporis Skyscraper Award winners buildings rising to their skylines in a curving and cylindrical manner.

2011 Winner, 8 Spruce Street by Frank Gehry

2011 Winner, 8 Spruce Street by Frank Gehry

This year marks the second time the top prize has been awarded to Canada, with Vancouver’s One Wall Centre securing first prize at the 2001 Emporis Skyscraper Awards.

Another famous Canadian building, The Bow in Calgary, came a close fourth place in the awards and recently managed a coveted spot on Emporis’ list of the world’s most spectacular buildings.

Unexpectedly, New York City missed out on a top 10 listing this year but can still celebrate three wins throughout the last thirteen years of the Emporis Skyscraper Awards.

Projects in other major international cities including Istanbul, Milan and Moscow made the list, with China securing two skyscraper wins, one in Guangzhou and one in Zhengzhou. Spain was also recognised for a high-rise hotel project.

The following list highlights this year’s top 10 buildings according to Emporis:

Emporis Skyscraper Award 2012

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