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Building Blocks Series 16: The Canton Tower

14 Mar

The next stunning building in our Building Blocks series is the Canton Tower in China. It is currently the highest tower in China and the third tallest in the world. The tower is unusual in that it was built as a sightseeing building and new landmark for the city of Guangzhou.

It has a unique shape with the building twisting up towards the sky. The tower narrows in the middle making it appear to have a waist. The shape is formed by two ellipses rotated relative to each other. One ellipse is at foundation level and one at 450m.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Overall the tower is 600m tall with two observation decks: the Cloud Observation Deck on the 107th floor and the Star Observation Deck on the 108th floor. On a clear day the view is magnificent through the staggering 8,922 windows. The Pearl River and city lie beneath your feet if you are brave enough to stand on the Glass Walk.

If you have a head for heights take a look at how the tower’s windows are kept clean!

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The Canton Tower also boasts the longest spiral staircase in the world called the Spider Walk. You need to be pretty fit to undertake the climb as it starts on the 32nd floor and finishes on the 64th floor! You will have actually climbed 1000m skywards all the while treading on transparent steps. Quite an experience. If you are feeling particularly courageous you can take a ride in the Bubble Tram which runs around the top of the tower at 455m from the ground, to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

In November 2010 Guangzhou hosted the 16th Asian Games with the Canton Tower used for an amazing fireworks display at the Opening and Closing Ceremony of the Games.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The Canton Tower may hold many records such as having the highest ferris wheel and 4D cinema in the world but it can be best appreciated for its unique, elegant appearance and charm.

 

 

 

 

Building Blocks Series 15: Aldar Headquarters

6 Feb

The next amazing building in our Building Blocks series is a skyscraper but not as we know it. The headquarters of Aldar, a property and investment company in Abu Dhabi, are housed in a round, coin shaped circle of glass.

Source Wikimedia Commons

Source Wikimedia Commons

This iconic structure is completely circular and fully glazed, standing 124m tall. It took 3 years to build from 2007-2010 and was designed by architects MZ and Partners. It boasts 23 floors and 3 basement levels and is located in a unique position surrounded by the sea, desert and a canal.

The design was inspired by the shape of a clam shell with the two giant circular curved walls of glass bringing to mind an open shell. The original design required a total of 10,000 different pieces of glass for the façade but as this proved to be impractical; it was refined with panels in the diamond-shaped steel ‘diagrid’ of a similar size enabling the striking shape of the building. The hemispherical facades comprising two circular shaped convex shapes are joined by a narrow strip of corrugated glass.

Source Wikimedia Commons

Source Wikimedia Commons

 

 

This stunning circular building stands at an elevation from west to east, allowing both the sunset and sunrise to be reflected in its shiny surface.

The building has received several awards and recognitions, including one for the “Best Futuristic Design” by The Building Exchange.

You might like to take a look at this Time Lapse video of the construction of the building.

Building Blocks Series 14: City Hall

17 Dec

This month’s iconic building is City Hall, home to the Mayor of London and the London assembly.

It was designed by Foster & Partners to be a new landmark for the capital. In this blog we will see if they have succeeded in their challenge.

Source Wikimedia

Source Wikimedia

 

The first thing we noticed was its striking, round shape covered in glass. It is actually a geometrically modified sphere, scientifically designed to reduce heat loss from its surface and to be as Green as possible. To that end it has solar panels on the roof and also leans back by 31 degrees to allow for natural shading from sunlight. The heat produced by lights and computers is even recycled back throughout the building. Cold water from the water table under London is used instead of refrigeration to air condition the building and then used for flushing the toilets.

 

Source Wikimedia

Source Wikimedia

 

One of the major features which we know you will be interested in is the 7,300 sq metres of triple glazed low, emissivity coated, clear glass windows cladding the building.  These can be opened in office areas to allow for natural ventilation. The windows also incorporate self-shading devices. The unique shape of City Hall minimises its surface area by 25% of an equivalent rectangular building and combined with the high performance windows results in its excellent energy efficiency. City Hall currently uses a quarter of the energy of a similar building.

 

If you would like to visit this amazing building it is situated on the south bank of the Thames just along from the HMS Belfast.  You won’t be able to miss it! You can even book the top floor for an event from a corporate event to a civil wedding!

 

Building Blocks Series 13: The Chrysler Building

21 Nov

The next iconic building in our series is another skyscraper that for a while enjoyed the title of the tallest building in the world, namely the Chrysler Building in New York. This very original skyscraper was completed in May 1930 in an era of competitive construction to be the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The building had a shaky start as its design by William van Alen was very costly and advanced for the time and only came in to being when Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation became involved. He worked with Van Alen to redesign the skyscraper to house the Chrysler headquarters.

At one point 3,000 construction workers were working on the tower simultaneously, managing to build at an average rate of 4 floors a week. Despite this tremendous activity there were no construction worker deaths.

Although the completed building was 282m tall it wasn’t quite the tallest building in the world so they addressed the problem in secret. A 38m tall spire was added making the building the first manmade structure to stand over 1,000ft (319m) tall. Unfortunately for the Chrysler Building less than a year later it lost that title to The Empire State Building but to date has kept the title of the world’s tallest steel supported brick building.

The Chrysler Building in keeping with its automobile heritage has many interesting features in its Art Deco architecture. The corners of the 31st floor are replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps and there are gargoyles in the form of radiator caps, car bumpers, and bonnet ornaments.

Here is the figure you have all been waiting for; there are 3,862 windows on its façade with many triangular vaulted windows in its terraced, stainless steel crown.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Although when the building first opened, the public could go to the 71st floor viewing gallery, that closed in 1945 and now should you wish to visit, the only accessible area to the public is the lobby.

In 2005 the Chrysler Building came first in a competition run by the Skyscraper Museum to choose the 10 favourite skyscrapers in New York, receiving 90% of the votes. We can certainly see why!

Building Blocks Series 12: The Great Glasshouse

18 Oct

Our next iconic building in our Building Blocks series may be one you have visited, nestled in the heart of the beautiful Welsh countryside lies The Great Glasshouse.

Source Wikimedia Commons

Source Wikimedia Commons

At first glance this may not seem such a remarkable structure until you learn more about it.

Let’s start with a few facts and figures.

  • It has the accolade of being the largest single span Glasshouse in the world, measuring 110m by 60m
  • The elliptical glass dome covers 4500 square metres
  • There are 785 panes of glass each measuring 4 by 1.5m. The glass panes consist of two 9mm thick sheets of glass with a laminated film sandwiched in between.
  • The dome itself is tilted by 7 degrees from its axis, facing south to allow as much sunlight as possible to hit it.
Source Wikimedia Commons

Source Wikimedia Commons

So, already it sounds an impressive well designed building by the architects, Lord Norman Foster and Partners, but what is it for?

The Glasshouse is a huge green house divided in to five regions of the world dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered plants throughout the word. Climate control prevents the Glasshouse from falling below 9 degrees Celsius, with fans mounted around the building to simulate natural conditions. A computer controls 147 vents to help maintain the natural conditions.

A lot of major technology has been implemented to ensure the survival and flourishing of the 432 genera or groups of plants that inhabit it.

Source Wikimedia Commons

Source Wikimedia Commons

The Great Glasshouse opened in May 2000 and is the most visited botanical garden in Wales.

So it sounds like a great place to aim to visit and we would be interested to hear about your experience if you have been to the Glasshouse.

Building Blocks Series 11: The Burj Khalifa

17 Sep

The next iconic building in our Building Blocks series is sure to take your breath away. It is currently the tallest building in the world, namely the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The building was created by Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP and took 6 years to build, opening in 2010.

The architect, Adrian Smith, who designed the tower, incorporated patterns from traditional Islamic architecture and interestingly, the Hymenocallis, a regional desert flower. The tower has the appearance of petals on a stem as the wings of the building extend out from the middle of the structure.

So what makes up this magnificent building? As you would expect from being the world’s tallest building, it holds a number of records.  It stands at over 828 metres and has 160 stories. Not for the faint-hearted, the observation deck is the highest in the world at 124 stories up. When you arrive at the deck from a high speed lift, you step out to floor to ceiling glass walls which allow an all-round view of the surrounding area, including the city, desert and ocean.

Burj_Khalifa_building (1)

Source

Now what about the windows! Well the outside is clad in 26,000 individually hand-cut glass panels that have been specially designed to withstand the extreme summer heat and reflect the light. If they were laid out, they would cover 17 football fields! That could be considered another window cleaning headache until you know there are 18 building maintenance units installed, which can reach the whole building. When all the units are operating together, it can take three to four months to clean all the glass.

If you should ever have the opportunity to visit this incredible building, you will be pleased to know you can undertake the ‘At the Top’ observation deck experience.

Building Blocks Series 10: The Lloyds Building

5 Aug

The next building to feature in our Building Blocks series is quite intriguing. You may well have walked past it as it is located in London’s Lime Street. Yes you guessed it, it is the Lloyds Building.

Source Wikipedia

Source Wikipedia

It is not your everyday insurance offices and during this blog you may come across some new interesting terminology.

The Lloyds building is sometimes referred to as the ‘inside out building’ and when you see it you can see why. Designed by Richard Rogers and built in the early eighties, the building has its services on the outside! This includes water pipes, ducts, staircases and twelve outside lifts. This seemed a strange concept at first but as we investigated further there were quite logical reasons for the design.

Source Wikipedia

Source Wikipedia

The building is an example of Bowellism architecture. This was a completely new term to us but really just means to maximise the available floor space by removing as much as possible and putting it on the outside.  The design does make for a unique and complicated exterior. It could be a case of love it or hate it.

Interestingly, the Lloyds building became Grade 1 Listed only 25 years after being built and so far is the youngest building ever to obtain this.

English Heritage said of the building that it should be “universally recognised as one of the key buildings of the modern epoch”.

Source Wikipedia

Source Wikipedia

Ok, so what about the windows? Well, a good head for heights may be called for to really appreciate them as although the higher floors are covered in glass they can only be reached by going in the outside lifts! Their cleaning has been taken care of with cleaning cranes situated on the outside of the building’s 14 floors.

Source Wikipedia

Source Wikipedia

Due to its unusual appearance the Lloyds building has been featured in many films such as Mamma Mia, television series such as Climbing Great Buildings and many music album covers.

We think you will agree quite a building! What do you think about this radical architecture?