Skyscraper race

It seems that the height of the building has no significance for the designers.
Large geometric shapes cut into the old buildings of cities, often giving rise to fear that new architecture is only aggression and chaos. Norman Foster, one of the world's most famous architects, consciously opposes chaos and patiently builds spatial order. Nevertheless, the famous Frank Gehry praises chaos: in his works he uses the dynamics and beauty of disorder. In the creative cacaphony of the languages of architecture, these two architects are the most distinctive.
Until recently, getting the keys to an apartment with a swimming pool and a garden in a skyscraper over a thousand meters high would be associated only with science fiction stories. In the 21st century, in terms of construction possibilities, there are no obstacles to making such a vision come true. However, the huge construction costs and conditions connected with the human psyche may prove to be a barrier.
- It is difficult to predict how many people will be willing to live a few hundred meters above the ground in rooms with a view of the clouds. Not everyone can and likes to fly an airplane. Not everyone will get used to living at heights either," says Prof. Roman Ciesielski from the Cracow University of Technology, a specialist in the field of tower building technology.
The first building to reach the top of the sky was the biblical tower of Babel. However, it was never finished. God confused the builders with the speech to make them disperse all over the world and never build a tower whose construction would convince them that nothing is impossible. After this event, for millennia no one tried to build a tower to the clouds.
Everything changed at the end of the 19th century. It was then that the first skyscrapers were erected in the United States. They were built mainly because of higher and higher land prices in big cities. Cloud skyscrapers quickly became a symbol of the power of industrial concerns. Nowadays, they are also being built for prestigious purposes. The race to build structures with its top reaching higher and higher sky is gaining momentum. The dream of the tower of Babel, rooted in human consciousness, returns.
More and more bold concepts are being created in architectural studios. One of them is the Bionic Tower project. This gigantic 1,228-metre-high skyscraper is to be built in Shanghai around 2018. The cost of its construction was estimated at about 18 billion dollars. The creators of the project are Maria Rosa Cervera and Javier Pioz, a Spanish couple for years fascinated by bionics - science, which tries to transfer solutions occurring in nature to the technique.

The architects came up with the idea that the world's tallest skyscraper should have the shape of a cypress trunk. The green crown of this tree consists of tiny scaly membranes and is very resistant to wind. The Bionic Tower, similarly to the tree trunk, is to be covered with a special, air-permeable plastic coating imitating bark. Air conditioning systems, which create a local microclimate, are to imitate the thermoregulatory function of the leather. The building designed in this way is to resist fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. It is planned that it will be inhabited by about 100 thousand people.
The cypress-shaped city-tower tower will have 300 floors, 2 million square meters of surface and about 370 lifts, moving at a speed of several meters per second. The building can stand on an artificial island with a diameter of 1 km, located on an artificial lake, which cushions the movements of the earth. Bionic Tower is to be divided into 12 segments with a height of about 80 meters each, separated by ceilings. An artificial lake will be in the centre of each of these segments and the architecturally diverse houses will be surrounded by gardens. In the project, the segments are located at a large distance from the adjacent ones, so that a fire or an airplane crash does not shake the whole structure.
Currently, the search for a suitable place for the construction of this giant is underway. Only a hundred years ago, the news of such a project would have been received by everyone with a smile of disbelief.

The sky records

The history of skyscrapers began when skeleton steel and reinforced concrete structures and thin external walls of a curtain type were used in the construction industry. Another very important fact was the invention of the elevator (the first safe passenger crane was installed in New York in 1857), which ensured fast vertical communication. Integrated heating, ventilation and cooling systems were also used.

The first skyscraper is considered to be 55-meter high Home Insurance Building in Chicago. It was built in 1885. At that time, the U.S. was quickly in fashion for a new model city plan with dense, high-rise buildings in the business center and low-floor houses in the suburbs. More skyscrapers, especially in Chicago and New York, started to grow like the proverbial mushrooms after the rain. Higher and higher structures were being designed. The 100 m barrier was exceeded in 1890, when the World Building (106.4 m) was built in New York. The 213-metre Met Life Tower was also opened in this city in 1909.
In 1930, the highest building in the world was the New York building Chryslera, which is 318 m high. At that time it surpassed the Parisian "Eiffel Tower" (300 m). Another record holder was put into use in 1931, the famous New York Empire State Building. This 381-metre-high skyscraper also broke the construction speed record - it was growing at a rate of 4 floors per week. To this day, competitions are organized in the building to run the fastest distance from the base of the building to the 86th floor - a total of 1,575 stairs. The record holder covered this distance in 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
The 400 m barrier was first exceeded by the higher 417 m high tower World Trade Center (the lower 415 m). The buildings disappeared from the panorama of New York after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Americans set as a point of honor the reconstruction of the destroyed towers. Daniel Libeskind's concept won the competition for a new design. At the site of the demolished towers he proposes to build 5 asymmetrical office buildings and the main symbol of tragedy - a glass skyscraper with a garden from different climate zones located on each floor. The building would be 570 m high.
However, it is not yet clear whether the project will be implemented. It was announced that Larry Silverstein, who leased the WTC towers 1.5 years before the attack for $3.2 billion and took out insurance for their destruction, commissioned another designer, who lost the competition, to lead the entire investment. According to him, Libeskind has only to prepare a preliminary design for a 541-meter skyscraper.

At the time of destruction, however, the WTC was not the highest structure in the world. In 1974 it was replaced on the throne by Sears Tower (443 m, with antenna - 527 m) built in Chicago. It was calculated that the concrete used in the construction of this building would be sufficient to build an 8-lane 8 km long highway. The leader position in 1998 was taken over by two towers Petronas Tower (452 m) erected in Kuala Lumpur for 900 million dollars by a state-owned oil industry company.

On the shock zone

Presently the highest building in the world is considered to be the 508-metre high skyscraper Taipei 101 in Taiwan. It owes its record to the 60-metre spire placed on the top of it in October 2003. The skyscraper's design is based on the number "8", which is a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture.
- We designed this building based on the philosophy of integration with nature. It is like a plant that grows to reach heaven. It's very different from the western idea of acquiring nature," says C.P. Wang, chief designer of the skyscraper. The cost of its construction was 1.7 billion dollars. It is the first and only super-high skyscraper in the world built on a very active earthquake zone. The first 62 floors are supported by huge steel columns filled with very strong concrete. In a circular structure close to the top of the building, between the restaurant level and the observation deck, the 800-tonne stabilization system has been set up. The creators believe that the structure will withstand earthquakes of up to 7 on the Richter scale.
The completion of Taipei 101 is scheduled for this year. The building will be equipped with the fastest elevators in the world going up at 60.48 km/h and down 36.6 km/h. Passengers will need only 39 seconds to get to the 90th floor.
Taipei 101 is the tallest building in the world, but it is not a free-standing building. In this case, the TV tower Canadian National Tower in Toronto, which is 553 m from the top of the antenna, still leads the way. One of the records also belonged to Poland. Until 1991 in Konstantynow near Gabin Radio Warszawa had the highest in the world radio mast with extractions. Before the fall (during the renovation work on 10.08.1991) it measured 646 m in height.
Invented by Stalin

In our country for years the highest building in Warsaw has been Palace of Culture and Science (231 m). It was built in the years 1952-55. The skyscraper was erected by the "fraternal nation" in exchange for war damages. The originator of the project was Józef Stalin. About 3,500 Russian workers took part in the construction, living in a specially built housing estate with a cinema, canteen, common room and swimming pool.
The second highest building in terms of height (208 m, 42 floors) is the highest office building in Poland - Warsaw Trade Tower - erected for USD 120 million in the years 1997-2000. It is the nucleus of the future business district. The construction of a skyscraper housing estate in our country was planned much earlier. Polish Manhattan was to be built in the 1970s.... It was to be built in the 1970s in Krakow. The new city centre was designed in the quarter of Lubomirskiego, Rakowicka, Olszańska and Beliny-Prażmowskiego Avenues. Out of the whole project, only one building of the Supreme Technical Organization (92 m) was erected. To this day its unfinished construction frightens with its appearance.
- It was supposed to be one of the smaller among the planned skyscrapers," recalls Krzysztof Leśnodorski, who together with Zdzisław Arct was the author of the project. The architects argue that the building should be completed. More lucky was the second of the Kraków's "giants", a 90-metre Cracovia Business Center, called "Błękitek", standing at the Kotlarskie Roundabout, which a few years ago, after modernization, was put into service.

Can other skyscrapers be built in Krakow? - They would have to be built in a proper place, where they would not obscure the historic buildings. However, our city has such a great potential of historical architectural values that it is possible to do without skyscrapers," says Andrzej Wyżykowski, the chief architect of Krakow.

A similar approach is adopted by designers of cities such as Rome and Athens. It is enough to mention that the capital of Italy has been dominated for centuries by 138-meter-high St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The highest building in Europe is now Commerzbank Tower (300 m) in Frankfurt. In terms of the number of skyscrapers, Paris, London and Moscow are also important. It is likely that they will create another European record holder.

Asia in the clouds

In terms of the height of skyscrapers, Europe is now a world second league. It seems that in the coming years the fight for the next world records will be fought between the United States and Asian countries, which have made it a point of honour to take the top positions on the list of the highest buildings.

It should be remembered, however, that the possibilities of building skyscrapers are not only determined by economic reasons. The substrate is also important. It is believed that skyscrapers, which stand on a solid granite rock in New York, could not stand on a softer ground in London, Paris or Krakow. When designing them, numerous threats are also mentioned more and more often. One of the biggest is the fire and the rapid evacuation associated with it. In order to minimize the danger on tops of buildings are installed huge tanks with water supplying the system of sprinklers reacting to the detected increase in smoke concentration.

Another nuisance for skyscrapers may also be the effect of wind. Under its influence, deviations of buildings can reach even several meters. One way to prevent tilting is to place a weight of several hundred tons on top of a skyscraper, moving in the opposite direction to the one into which the building is tilted. The designers are still working on more and more perfect solutions.

The challenge of the 21st century is skyscraper cities. The Bionic Tower is not the first such idea. Similar projects were created much earlier. In 1956, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright presented a preliminary concept of a 1 mile high skyscraper, i.e. 1600 m high, which was planned to be built in Chicago. The Japanese vision of the city in one skyscraper is a 2 km high Aeropolis, where 300 thousand people would live. Tokyo has been designated as the site of its possible construction. The vision of X-Seed 4000 is also connected with this city. It assumes the creation of the city in the tower high at 4 thousand. m... He is now a record-breaker among the projects.

In the Japanese capital, the 800-metre-high Millennium Tower skyscraper is also spoken about. - There is still a need for a height to which skyscrapers can be built. Currently, no one can give it to you. From the technical point of view, the construction of large Bionic Tower Towers is realistic," says Professor Roman Ciesielski. Looking at the copy of Pieter Bruegel's most famous painting depicting the construction of the tower of Babel, he adds, however, that the designers - despite such great progress - should be modest in assessing their capabilities and humble towards nature and heaven.

Tekst: Piotr Tymczak Źródło: "DP"
30/07/2005     Wojciech Andruszkiewicz
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