The only area I have big problems with though - I'd like to be able to do this, too, I really would, but I just can't get it right - is with skyscrapers.
The above quote is taken from Peter Zumthor's book Atmospheres. Ever since reading this passage I have been pondering over the topic and subsequently on how to design an attractive, contextual and spatially interesting tall building. I have also developed a paper project for a tower as part of the investigation.
Tall buildings are often associated with commercial developments and as such looked down upon by parts of the architectural community. Also, in several architectural universities high rises are a marginalised topic. Tall buildings are often a formal exercise of undulating shapes wrapped in a curtain glazed facade. There are countless examples all over the world. It is hard to judge the architectural quality of these buildings and they often seem to be mere obelisks and monuments over some corporate entity.
However, there are interesting examples of tall buildings which seek to investigate both contextualism and the architectural potential of high rise buildings. It has to be pointed out that the following examples are not skyscrapers, but tall buildings nonetheless. Another common denominator is that they are all residential buildings. The latter is likely to be a product of the commercial potential of high rise 'luxury flats.'
Sergison Bates' Wandsworth tower is one of the new breed of tall buildings. Construction is yet to start, but the project has already been criticised in the media for being an ‘uninspiring, ugly design’ by education secretary Justine Greening. SB have in their response published on the office's website, highlighted the ambition of being contextual and sensitive in regards to the local history. These are unusual ambitions for most tall buildings and as such the proposal manifests itself as highly relevant for the general debate. Other examples are David Chipperfield and Karakusevic Carson Architects' Colville Towers in East London and Tony Fretton's Westkaai Towers.
These projects show an ambition to challenge the notion of what tall buildings can be and which parameters to embody in the design process. Hopefully more projects will follow to further enrich the discourse on tall buildings, not just for residential towers, but also for office buildings and mixed-use developments.