Is our instinctual desire to build higher preventing us from building better?
Is our instinctual desire to build higher preventing us from building better?The day after the attacks on the World Trade Center, I was asked to write a feature for the Guardian on whether or not the skyscraper had a future. My commissioning editor called for 2,000 words. I said I only needed one: "Yes."Since 9/11, new office, hotel, and residential towers have soared above skylines worldwide as never before. Many of Shanghai's 2,900-plus buildings over 18-stories have been commissioned and built since 2001. These human termite nests are a virulent form of architectural bacteria; to date-nothing, no vaccination, no cure-seems able to prevent their apparently inexorable spread. And, for all the brave talk of the ways they make optimum use of plots in crowded city centers, skyscrapers are, sadly, never really "green."There are examples of skyscrapers that do their best to be environmentally sound: Lord Norman Foster's Commerzbank in Frankfurt (Western Europe's tallest building), or several in the Far East designed by Dr. Ken Yeang, the distinguished Malaysian architect and author of the rigorous new book Ecodesign. But, over lunch in the long shadow of the campanile of Venice's St. Mark's Basilica, Yeang told me that a skyscraper could never achieve true sustainability. What about the adventurous twin-spired Bank of America tower, designed by Cook+Fox, currently under construction on New York's Sixth Avenue? It features wind turbines, low-energy lighting, the use of rainwater for flushing toilets, and a host of other sustainable technologies. "Exactly," says Yeang. "It will be a good skyscraper as far as skyscrapers go, but what you're talking about is environmental 'add-ons.'" In other words, you can make a skyscraper green(ish) by spending prodigiously on advanced environmentally friendly technology; but why not consider a simpler form of building in the first place?
|These human termite nests are a virulent form of architectural bacteria.|