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Jeddah Tower poises to become the tallest building in the world

by Suzanne Miao on Sep 5, 2017 in Architecture , Top Story
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The sleek streamlined form of the tower can be interpreted as a reference to the folded fronds of young desert plants

The sleek streamlined form of the tower can be interpreted as a reference to the folded fronds of young desert plants

Reaching one kilometre into the sky, Jeddah Tower – the centrepiece of Saudi Arabia's US$20-billion Kingdom City development – is set to overtake Burj Khalifa as the tallest building in the world

The superlatives for Jeddah Tower make for impressive reading. With a total construction area of 530,000 sq-m and an estimated construction bill of US$1.2 billion, the mixed-use building will feature a luxury hotel, offices, serviced apartments, high-end condominiums and the world's highest observatory. Then there's the fact that its projected height of just over 1,000m will make it the world's tallest building: at least 173m taller than Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010, which was designed by the architect Adrian Smith while he was at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

When completed in 2020, Jeddah Tower will be more than 1,000m high, making it the planet's tallest building

When completed in 2020, Jeddah Tower will be more than 1,000m high, making it the planet's tallest building

Now at the helm of his own firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), Smith is also responsible for the design of Jeddah Tower, due for completion in three years' time. Seen from afar, the slender tower twists gently as its spiral tapers towards the sky, its form both inspired by – and an inspiration for – its setting. Evoking the upward-thrusting leafy shoots of fresh greenery after desert rains, Jeddah Tower also symbolises and catalyses the enormous growth taking place around it.

Streamlined and sleek, the tower, formerly known as Kingdom Tower, is both highly technological and organic: even its footprint mimics three petals, while also providing a secure base.

The sky terrace was originally designed as a helipad, but high winds make this unfeasible. Current plans are to make it an observation deck

The sky terrace was originally designed as a helipad, but high winds make this unfeasible. Current plans are to make it an observation deck

With AS+GG at the helm, Jeddah Tower is taking skyscraper design further forward – or should that be upward? For a start, Smith says, its aerodynamic shape was conceived as the answer to the problem of excessive structural loading due to high winds.

"The three-legged base enhances the structural stability of the tower," he explains. "The key issue in the design of super-tall buildings such as Jeddah Tower is wind resistance. Wind vortices build up vertically, causing lateral movement in the tower that can be sensed by occupants. To combat this problem, we look for ways to 'confuse the wind' and reduce the build-up of the vortices.

Jeddah Tower represents an evolution and refinement of an architectural continuum of skyscraper design

Jeddah Tower represents an evolution and refinement of an architectural continuum of skyscraper design

"With Jeddah Tower, we sloped the building, which makes it slightly more expensive to build because each floor plate is slightly smaller than the one directly below it. But according to our wind-tunnel testing, this sloped form will be very effective in terms of resisting wind forces and this will be paramount for the building occupants' comfort."

Jeddah Tower's design clearly embraces its architectural pedigree, taking full advantage of a proven design and the technological strategies of its typology. Simultaneously elegant and cost-efficient, new and innovative technology, materials, life-cycle considerations and energy conservation have been taken into account. As an example, Smith points to the high-performance exterior wall system that minimises energy consumption by reducing thermal loads.

Gordon Gill (left) and Adrian Smith, whose eponymous firm is responsible for the design of Jeddah Tower

Gordon Gill (left) and Adrian Smith, whose eponymous firm is responsible for the design of Jeddah Tower

JEDDAH TOWER
CLIENT: Jeddah Economic Company
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP, BUILDING TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS, ACOUSTIC CONSULTING ENGINEERING: Environmental Systems Design
GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEERING, CIVIL ENGINEERING, TRAFFIC ENGINEERING AND PARKING: Langan International
FACADE ACCESS: Lee Herzog Consulting
LANDSCAPE DESIGN: SWA Group
WIND ENGINEERING: Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin
FIRE AND LIFE SAFETY: Rolf Jensen & Associates
SECURITY: Aegis
VERTICAL TRANSPORTATION: Fortune Consultants
MATERIALS MANAGEMENT, WASTE MANAGEMENT: Lerch Bates
GRAPHICS, SIGNAGE, WAYFINDING: Forcade Associates
SPECIALTY LIGHTING: Fisher Marantz Stone

Photography by © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

This is an excerpt from the “On the shoulders of giants" article from the September 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.

To continue reading, get your copy of Perspective.

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