Skyscraper Awards Toast the Tops


The world's best new skyscrapers look a lot like the late, great Marilyn Monroe—and not the blonde part.

The 2012 Emporis Skyscraper Awards, which honor the year's best new architectural designs in skyscrapers, has bestowed top honors on the curvaceous dual-tower Absolute World Towers in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The structures are informally, but universally, known as the Marilyn Monroe Building.

An international jury selected the winning towers from more than 300 skyscrapsers at least 100 meters (328 feet) tall that were completed in 2012. This is the 13th year of the competition, sponsored by Emporis (originally known as, a Germany-based global provider of building information.

Rounding out the 2012 top five Emporis winners were the Al Bahr Towers, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Burj Qatar, in Doha, Qatar; The Bow, in Calgary, Canada; and the House on Mosfilmovskaya Block 1, in Moscow, Russia.

Absolute Marilyn

The Absolute Towers' unique elliptical design won a worldwide competition and so captivated the public that the developer added a second tower in a similar style. The towers, part of a five-building complex, were designed by the architectural practies MAD and Burka Architects.

Absolute World 1 turns through a total of 209° over its 56 stories, with the twist varying from 1° to 8° from floor to floor. Absolute World 2 turns a constant 4° through each of its 50 floors. (Design architect Ma Yansong of MAD architects insisted that the second tower complement, not duplicate, the first one.)

Construction on the first tower began in June 2007. The design thrilled the Emporis judges.

"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," the panel said in an announcement.

Complete project details are available here.

The other Top 5 winners follow. Each project title links to more details, including project teams and more photos.

Al Bahr Towers (Abu Dhabi, UAE)

The two-tower Al Bahr Towers, designed by Aedas Architects Ltd., use the mashrabiya shading system—a popular form of wooden lattice screen found in Islamic architecture. The 29-story complex is home to the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.

Al Bahr

Al Bahr Towers showcases a latticework shading system that works with the sun's movement. The complex is aiming for a LEED Silver designation.

Each tower has 2,000 mashrabiya components that open and close in response to the sun's movement, reducing solar gain on the facade by up to 50 percent.

The dynamic facade "removes the need for heavily tinted glass, thus reducing use of artificial lighting and internal blinds," Emporis noted. The complex also features sky gardens and an angled roof to maximize solar gain for the photovoltaics installed there.

Burj Qatar (Doha, Qatar)

The 46-story cylindrical tower with stainless-steel facade also features the traditional Islamist mashrabiya screens found on the Al Bahr Towers.

Burj Qatar
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel

The full-span dome atop Doha's Burj Qatar tower houses a private residence.

Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the building envelope consists of two layers: a metal brise-soleil with an aluminum-and-glass curtain wall behind. Solar blinds are also available behind the curtain wall.

The building's built-in spire is a lightning rod. At the top of the tower, a full-span dome houses a private residence. The scratchproof floor system, made of galvanized aluminum, was designed and patented by NORTEC Builders for the project.

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat also named the project the best tall building in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012.

The Bow (Calgary Canada)

The tallest building in Canada west of Toronto, and the third tallest in Canada when it was completed, The Bow is named after the river that runs beside Calgary's downtown. The 58-story structure's design architect was Foster + Partners.

The Bow - Calgary
Wikimedia Commons / Florian Fuchs

The Bow's design makes it 30 percent lighter than other buildings of its size, Emporis reports.

The trussed-tube design is similar to that of Chicago's John Hancock Center and San Francisco's One Maritime Plaza. The crescent-shaped, steel-framed structure deflects the prevailing winds.

The advanced design uses glass and steel engineering that makes the building 30 percent lighter than any its size, according to Emporis.

House on Mosfilmovskaya Block 1 (Moscow, Russia)

Sergey Skuratov Architects designed the two-tower MosFilm Tower, a mixed-use structure that contains both residential and commercial space. The building's rhomboid footprint turns slightly anti-clockwise from floor to floor, creating the tower's twisted appearance.

MosFilm Tower / Alexenergy

The so-called MosFilm Tower has a rhomboid footprint and twisted appearance.

The tower is clad in a suspended facade system pre-assembled in modules. The facade is made of aluminum composite panels in eight hues ranging from bright white at the top to drak limestone at the bottom.

The Rest

The six other Top 10 finishers (three projects tied for ninth place), their locations and architects follow. Project details are available at the links.

Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China): Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP;

Varyap Meridian (Istanbul, Turkey): RMJM;

UniCredit Tower (Milan, Italy): Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects;

Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain): Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Ribas & Ribas Associates;

Dumankaya IKON (Istanbul, Turkey): TAGO Architects; and

Zhengzhou Greenland Plaza (Zhengzhou, China): Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Awards and honors; Color; Color + Design; Construction; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Energy efficiency; Green building; North America

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