Live in the clouds: the sky­scrapers tak­ing over cities

With twist­ing sides and orig­i­nal shapes, ar­chi­tects are build­ing tow­ers to cre­ate the best homes – and make the most of the views, says Liz Rowl­in­son

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

The French en­gi­neer Gus­tave Eif­fel is be­lieved to have said the rea­son he de­cided to live in his epony­mous tower in Paris was that it was the one place in city where he didn’t have to look at it. He seemed to share the gen­eral dis­taste for the avant­garde 1889 struc­ture that shocked con­ser­va­tive France.

Nearly 130 years on, tall tow­ers are chang­ing the sky­lines of the world’s cities. By their very na­ture, they tend to in­spire ei­ther ex­treme de­vo­tion or ha­tred in those who live among them. Look beyond Lon­don’s Shard, “Cheeseg­rater” or “Walkie Talkie” build­ings if you like your tow­ers with more curves. A mu­sic video by Be­y­oncé is said to have in­spired the “sen­sual flow” and fluid shape of Mel­bourne’s Premier Tower, while a mar­ble sculp­ture of the hu­man body let to San­ti­ago Cala­trava’s Turn­ing Torso, a res­i­den­tial tower in Malmo, Swe­den, and the world’s first twisted sky­scraper, which was com­pleted in 2005.

There are now twist­ing tow­ers from Shang­hai to Mi­ami, but if these un­con­ven­tional shapes draw the eye for miles around, how does their de­sign make peo­ple want to live in them?

While ar­chi­tects can af­ford to be more flam­boy­ant with com­mer­cial tow­ers, the de­sign­ers of res­i­den­tial struc­tures in ur­ban ar­eas have a dif­fer­ent set of con­sid­er­a­tions and con­straints, says David Walker, the ar­chi­tect be­hind The Du­mont. It is one of three tow­ers by de­vel­oper St James on the Thames’s Al­bert Em­bank­ment.

“De­sign­ing some­thing that sits in the mid­dle of the desert where the con­text is so min­i­mal, you have to in­vent shapes,” he says, al­lud­ing to tow­ers in Dubai such as the Burj Khal­ifa, whose ta­per­ing spire is said to be in­spired by the Great Mosque of Sa­marra.

“Mean­while, in the grid sys­tem of New York, where I worked for many years, and where tower liv­ing has long been a part of ur­ban life, any­thing goes. An im­pos­ing con­text such as cen­tral Lon­don pro­vides much less flex­i­bil­ity. The Al­bert Em­bank­ment site was es­pe­cially par­tic­u­lar. Sit­ting on a curve of the River Thames, [the Du­mont] of­fered un­par­al­leled views [of the Houses of Par­lia­ment and the Lon­don Eye].”

There are three ar­chi­tects work­ing on St James’s mas­ter plan, which in­cludes 550 homes as well as re­tail and of­fice space. How are they all max­imis­ing this same view dif­fer­ently?

The Mer­ano, three con­joined tow­ers of 14, 21 and 28 storeys that form an­other part of the Al­bert Em­bank­ment project, was de­signed by Gra­ham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Har­bour + Part­ners. “He tack­led the unique trait of a south Lon­don plot look­ing west, by de­sign­ing the apart­ments with be­d­rooms fac­ing east with the morn­ing sun (with win­ter gar­dens), and the liv­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion fac­ing west onto the river, which gets the af­ter­noon sun,” says Sean El­lis, chair­man of St James. Only re­sale prop­er­ties are avail­able at The Mer­ano.

In con­trast, next door at The

Cor­niche, by Fos­ter + Part­ners and also de­vel­oped by St James, bal­conies are ro­tated in dif­fer­ent direc­tions in a much curvier de­sign. Prices of avail­able apart­ments start from £3.3mil­lion.

Clearly, Lon­don can learn a few things from across the pond when it comes to liv­ing among the clouds in a sky­scraper. Walker picks out New York’s 432 Park Av­enue as a re­cent ex­am­ple, one of the many suc­ces­sors of the orig­i­nal “beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned rec­tan­gu­lar boxes” of the two glas­sand-steel tow­ers of Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, de­signed by Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe in the For­ties.

The tallest res­i­den­tial tower in the world, 432 Park Av­enue, in mid­town Man­hat­tan, is a 1,396ft sky­scraper de­signed by Rafael Viñoly Ar­chi­tects that topped out in 2015. A starkly sim­ple, su­per-skinny stick, it is, of course, loathed and called “the tooth­pick” by some and feted as “time­less” by oth­ers. De­signed with a nod to New York’s street plan, the grid work of 10ft by 10ft win­dows has two-storey voids ev­ery 12 floors to al­low wind to pass through for sta­bil­ity, as well as for aes­thet­ics.

Look down from one of the 20-odd high­est storeys (there are 96 floors) and toy car-like yel­low cabs crawl along Madi­son Av­enue, while past down­town, the Statue of Lib­erty looks like a lit­tle doll. For the su­per-rich res­i­dents, each of the win­dows in the 106 apart­ments is framed by a win­dow seat and an iconic view. One pent­house sold for $95mil­lion (£72 mil­lion), and the cheap­est apart­ment for sale is a one-bed­room flat listed at $5.5mil­lion with City Realty.

New York’s lat­est tro­phy ad­dress also has a tiny square foot­print at just one fif­teenth the height of the tower. The sky­scraper, at 111 West 57th Street, is on Mid­town’s so-called “Bil­lion­aires’ Row”, across the street from Carnegie Hall. It prom­ises to be the world’s skin­ni­est high­rise, with a width-to­height ra­tio of 1:23. The 1,421ft build­ing, due for com­ple­tion in 2019, has been de­signed by SHoP Ar­chi­tects, in­cor­po­rat­ing Stein­way Hall, a con­cert venue where the epony­mous pi­anos were played, built in 1925.

One side of the tower is flat and ver­ti­cal, and the other a se­ries of stepped set­backs that thin out to give the im­pres­sion the tower dis­ap­pears into the sky like a “Stair­way to Heaven”. The first seven of 55 flats, with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows over­look­ing Cen­tral Park, have just gone on sale with three to four be­d­rooms and prices from $18mil­lion to $56mil­lion, through Dou­glas El­li­man and Knight Frank.

Mean­while in Lon­don, a sim­i­lar de­sign fea­ture in the At­las Build­ing’s 40-storey tower, due for com­ple­tion next year, has cre­ated nine ar­chi­tec­tural blades – or set­backs – to pro­vide pri­vate out­door spa­ces for res­i­dents. Prices start from £1.037mil­lion for a two-bed­room apart­ment.

Foot­prints that twist or change shape as they rise are also in vogue. Dubai has, of course, been there and done it al­ready with the 83-storey twisty tower of Ocean Heights in the ma­rina that topped out in 2009. In Cyprus’s new 600-berth su­pery­acht ma­rina in the sea­side re­sort of Ayia Napa, there will be a pair of tow­ers with 190 lux­ury apart­ments de­signed to give their own­ers the best views. From top to bot­tom, the tow­ers twist more than 40 de­grees, so those on the top floors face east, to­wards the crys­tal-clear wa­ters of Nissi Beach and wild Cape Greco at the tip of the is­land. Stag­gered an­ti­sun pan­els on the wrap­around veran­das ac­cen­tu­ate the twist­ing façade. Prices start at €1.1million (£965,000) through Sav­ills.

A few miles west, in the port of Li­mas­sol, the sky­line is be­com­ing punc­tu­ated with new tow­ers, a trio of which are in a water­front de­vel­op­ment called Tril­ogy, by de­vel­oper Cy­barco. These are three de­signs “of the same fam­ily”.

“The tri­an­gu­lar floor plates were de­vel­oped to min­imise over­look­ing [other apart­ments], pro­vide a wider open­ing at the front of the [base] plaza and to cap­ture both sea and city views from all apart­ments,” says Hakim Khen­nouchi, of WKK Ar­chi­tects.

“Buy­ers are very keen to have du­alaspect apart­ments, and just look­ing flat onto an open sea is not de­sir­able ei­ther.”

Large slid­ing doors pro­vide a seam­less tran­si­tion be­tween in­side and out­side to make the most of the al fresco liv­ing, with deep veran­das. While one tower has sharp edges and a “beak” sky ter­race with a pool deck, an­other has curves. Prices start at €990,000 for a three-bed­room apart­ment.

“We are not try­ing to be land­mark build­ings, ad­mired from the out­side,” Khen­nouchi says, “but to make own­ers feel like they are on hol­i­day all of the time.”

Look down from the high­est floors and toy car-like yel­low cabs crawl along Madi­son Av­enue

SIDE BY SIDE The pent­house at the Cor­niche on the Thames in Lon­don, above; the curved build­ings, left, are one of three de­vel­op­ment at Al­bert Em­bank­ment on the Thames

ON THE MAP The At­las build­ing in east Lon­don, be­low

STRAIGHT UP Great views from a bath­room at 432 Park Av­enue in New York, right and above left

A FAM­ILY AF­FAIR The Tril­ogy in Li­mas­sol by Cy­barco. Prices start from €990,000 for a three-bed­room apart­ment

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