Plenary Panel Discussion Engages with Vernacular Design
Day Two of the conference began with an insightful plenary panel discussion entitled “Tall Buildings and Context: Appropriate High-Rise Vernaculars,” chaired by CTBUH Vice-Chairman Timothy Johnson, Design Partner, NBBJ and featuring a panel composed of Yansong Ma, Founder & Principal Partner, MAD Architects; Winy Maas, Co-Founding Director, MVRDV; Yan Meng, Principal & Co-Founder, Urbanus; Patrik Schumacher, Principal, Zaha Hadid Architects; and Jerry Yin, Senior Vice President / Chief Architect, SOHO China. The session revolved around how to contextualize tall buildings, with each of these high-profile architects and developers bringing unique perspectives to the table. Naturally, much of the conversation revolved around designing iconic tall buildings in China’s particular context. Patrik Schumacher described the current architectural challenges for the country aptly, saying, “If you keep piling up landmarks, they all cancel each other out and generate a strange homogeneity, which makes every city look the same even though they try so hard to be different. That’s what we need to overcome.”Echoing this point, Yan Meng added, “A lot of times we see high-rise buildings as foreground figures, and we rely on them to define urban characteristics. We put too much burden on the high-rise…Every single high-rise tries to make a statement and in the end, it doesn’t help the individual building and it doesn’t help the city as a whole.”
Economics Plays a Key Role in Day Two ProgramsA number of Day Two programs investigated the economics of skyscrapers. In particular, the Economic Considerations program delved into three distinct but interrelated economic issues. Stephen Lai, Managing Director, Rider Levett Bucknall, presented on innovations in effective cost management for supertall towers; Brian Ringley, Design Technology Platform Specialist, Woods Bagot, discussed the economic efficiencies related to the built geometries of iconic tall buildings; and Jason Barr, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, introduced a compelling economic analysis of skyscraper development in China, which was undertaken as part of the CTBUH 2015 Research Seed Funding initiative. Each presentation challenged traditional notions of skyscraper economics while offering compelling new analyses on the subject. In particular, Jason Barr summed up his research findings, saying, “If you look at the relationship between skyscraper construction patterns across cities in China and look at their urban populations and their ‘gross city product,’ they are very strong predictors of height and frequency. I would argue that they are perhaps the key motivator. Underlying China’s rapid building is its rapid urbanization.”
Along with the Economic Considerations session, economics was also considered during the 20|20 Panel Discussion panel entitled “Evaluating the Environmental, Social, and Economic Impact of Tall.” CTBUH Trustee Tim Neal, Global Director – Buildings, Arcadis, chaired the session, which featured a diverse range of presenters from development, project management, and local governance.
Day Two Sessions Touch on Urban Habitat in the Megacity
Another theme that shone through on Day Two was, naturally, the urban habitat of our contemporary cities. A number of sessions delved into specific developments, such as Jeddah City/Tower and One Shenzhen Bay, with the intent of deciphering how tall buildings can anchor and catalyze entire urban areas. Meanwhile, sessions on the public realm and urban environmental issues took a broader approach to the question of modern urban habitats. Discussions here ranged from human scale neighborhoods and public spaces to tower-ground-plane interactions.
Additionally, a 20|20 Panel Discussion “Integrating the Observation Experience” observed ways to incorporate new technologies into tall buildings. While more technically focused, panelists touched on themes directly related to the urban habitat, such as using technical integration to improve the transportation process within and among buildings and reflect ways in which work patterns are changing in response to technology.
Engineering and Design Challenges Underpin Day Two Themes
While economics and urban habitat shaped much of the discussion on Day Two, many sessions inevitably turned to questions of engineering and design challenges as well, recognizing that engineering and design underpin the larger logistical questions of vertical urbanism and economic viability. This focus was most apparent in the two “Advanced Engineering” sessions of the day, which centered primarily on challenges to specific projects and the innovative engineering responses that brought them to fruition. Along with these case study-based presentations, Long Ma, Deputy Chief Engineering, BIAD, capped the Advanced Engineering track with a discussion on skyscraper construction in Beijing, utilizing engineering arguments in tandem with economic analysis to argue for a polycentric Beijing with multiple tall building cores.A 20|20 Panel Discussion panel entitled “How High Can We Go and Why Should We?” further tied the three main themes of the day – economics, urban habitat, and engineering challenges – together with a holistic examination of the benefits and consequences of vertical urbanism in the megacity. Drawing from a diverse group of speakers featuring engineers, architects, project managers, and leasing agents, the panel tackled the essential questions of whether we should build vertically or horizontally in our cities, decisively arguing for vertical urbanism within the bounds of reasonable economic and planning constraints. In particular, Andew Nicholson, Executive Managing Director, CBRE, made an economic argument for incorporating community assets at height. He stated, “The taller we go the more occupiers we have; the more occupiers we have, the more we can create a society that’s symbiotic with itself and truly engaging for the occupiers in that building. When you look across a city now, the challenge I would put down to people who are designing and thinking about the development of these buildings is to look at that wider community and which facets of that community need to now be in a tall building – because the more vertical we go, the more we’re going to have to get to some of those areas to become economically viable.”
CTBUH Academic and Research Initiatives Put in SpotlightA number of CTBUH academic and research initiatives were recognized during the first two days of the conference, with several competition winners announced and funding bestowed to research undertakings that will take place over the following year. The CTBUH Student Design Competition was judged during Day One of the conference, with presentations by finalists during Session 3G. After presentations from the five finalists, the student competition jury, helmed by Robert Whitlock, Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, deliberated on a winner. Lisa Marie Martinez, University of Arizona, and Gonzalo Casado, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, were chosen by the Jury for their project entitled Hydro-City MXDF. They were given $6,000 in prize money from competition sponsor KPF.
The 2016 Research Seed Funding was awarded to Brent Stephens, an associate professor of architectural engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, for his work in collaboration with Luke Leung, Director of MEP/Sustainability, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, to conduct research measuring the vertical distribution of both indoor and outdoor pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen oxides, in a sample of tall buildings in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Professor Stephens was awarded a grant of $20,000, kindly sponsored by Taipei Financial Center Corp. for his project, which is entitled “Vertical Variations in Indoor Exposures to Outdoor Pollutants in Tall Buildings.”An additional $20,000, sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories, went to the Student Research Competition Winner, which was awarded to student team members Shawn Barron and Saranya Panchaseelan working under Thomas Leslie, Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University, for their project entitled “The Rebirth of the Skyscraper: Technical Advances, 1930–1975.”
Finally, the students travelling as part of the 2016–2017 Tall Building Academic Studio were recognized for their research projects, which gave them the opportunity to travel to the Pearl River Delta to participate in the conference, kindly supported by a $20,000 grant from Gensler.
Exhibition Booths Provide Additional Learning and Networking Opportunities
Throughout the day, delegates had the opportunity to visit 29 exhibition booths displayed around the conference venue. Featuring models, displays, printed materials, and other offerings from various conference sponsors, the booths provided additional learning and networking opportunities for all in attendance.
View more and higher resolution photos in the gallery below.
Plenary Speakers Share Their Visions for our Future CitiesWith another busy day of presentations and panel discussions in the rear-view mirror, conference delegates reconvened for the final plenary session of the day, “Cities to Megacities: The Future,” which sought to generate a larger discussion of our contemporary cities’ transformation in the face of growing urbanization. Three detailed presentations examined the future of the megacity from various perspectives, starting with an investigation by Ivan Wan, Executive Manager, Tencent Holdings, and Jonathan Ward, Design Partner, NBBJ, into the way that tech companies are transforming the traditional high-rise office space through the introduction of advanced technical integration and suburban-office campus-style communal spaces in a high-rise setting. Next, Stefano Boeri, Founder/Partner, Stefano Boeri Architetti, delighted the crowd with his vision for a forest city, building off his innovative designs for tree-clad skyscrapers, as realized in Bosco Verticale, Milan. Combining ongoing proposals with more visionary concepts for future designs, Boeri laid out a cohesive plan to create green cities of the future. Finally, Winy Maas, Director, MVRDV, laid out his own vision for future cities with a focus on improving the livability of skyscrapers through vertical urban design. Maas presented a number of conceptual exercises that seek to reframe the human experience in a tall building setting, all presented as they pertain to context, the environment, and a vibrant social sphere.
With day two wrapped up, the core conference program shifted to Guangzhou for day three with delegates travelling to the city by coach. Meanwhile, a number of delegates stayed behind in Shenzhen for a full day of off-site programs. In either case, the location and content of the day’s programming is sure to have something for everyone.
Scenes from the Day