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Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOM Chicago building green tower in China

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP's design includes 30-storey atrium

SOM Chicago just announced that they have won a design competition to create the new Greenland Group Suzhou Center tower in Wujiang, China. The 358-meter skyscraper is slated to become a new landmark for the city, and it features a gleaming eye-like central atrium - but don't misconstrue it as Sauron's dark tower. On the contrary, the project's luminous span fills the structure with daylight and works as the lungs of the building to bring in fresh air. SOM has worked especially hard on this design to create a finely-tuned building that optimizes energy use while maximizing structural and mechanical performance.

Chicago architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP has designed a building with a lung. You might prefer to call it a 30-story operable window, or a sky atrium.

Regardless, Skidmore Design Director Ross Wimer said it is a new approach to ventilation and energy conservation in high-rise buildings. Wimer said the innovation is in the scale; the technique of using open air shafts and natural light goes back to such Chicago landmarks as the Rookery and the Santa Fe Building, works of Daniel Burnham.

The “lung” is planned for a 75-story building Skidmore is designing for Wujiang, China. Called the Greenland Group Suzhou Center, it essentially splits in two on its higher levels, then reunites as one structure near the top. The design creates a slice through the building that Wimer said will help it breathe. The space will be computer-controlled to open in the warm weather, providing a deep penetration for daylight and a fresh air source. Skidmore said the building should save 60 percent on energy use compared with a conventional high-rise.

Wimer said the design is suited for the building’s mix of uses. On the widest floors on the lower levels are offices, while a hotel and residences will be on the higher floors, where the lung provides additional views that justify premium prices.

The building, about 50 feet taller than the John Hancock Center, would be the sixth project Skidmore has handled for Greenland Group, a private firm that enjoys favor from the government. China’s central planners are encouraging growth in Wujiang, a city of about 800,000 near Shanghai.

Wimer said ground for the site alongside Taihu Lake already has been broken. In the Chinese system, that means the order has gone to Skidmore to start on the detailed work for the building. Wimer said the design should be finished in less than a year, at which time construction can start in earnest.

Also per the Chinese custom, Skidmore has not been given a budget to hit. No wonder U.S. architects vie to go over there.

Any chance Skidmore will apply some supertall razzle-dazzle to the skyline of its hometown one of these days? “That’s my dream,” Wimer said. “These 14-hour flights to China are pretty exhausting.”

Sources: http://www.suntimes.com/business/10070245-452/new-skidmore-design-has-30-story-window-to-help-skyscraper-breathe.html , http://inhabitat.com/som-unveils-soaring-daylit-tower-for-chinas-greenland-group-suzhou-center/

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