Tall buildings: search for a new typology

Wood, Antony (2010) Tall buildings: search for a new typology. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

[N.B. Online version contains abstract and supporting narrative only due to copyright restrictions.]

Tall building design, despite 130 years of development, has not advanced to a satisfactory state, especially on environmental/sustainability grounds. Most Tall Buildings historically seem to have been designed as either vertical extrusions of an efficient floor plan (the ‘commercial’ approach), or as stand-alone pieces of high-rise urban ‘sculpture’ (the ‘sculptural-iconic’ approach). In both cases the main relationship with the urban setting is either a commercial or a purely visual one, with the tall building usually dominating.

This has led to the syndrome of tall buildings as ‘isolationist’ architecture – stand-alone, non-site specific models that are readily transportable around the cities of the world. This has served to create an alarming homogeneity across global urban centers – a creation of a ‘one size fits all’ skyscraper ‘mush’ which rejects, in some places, thousands of years of local vernacular traditions. This is especially true of cities in developing nations, where to import all things ‘western’ is often to be seen as progressive and modern. Thus the vast majority of tall buildings internationally follow the standard template of the rectilinear, air-conditioned, western ‘box’.

In addition, tall buildings have become synonymous with the greatest excesses of energy expenditure – in both embodied construction and operation. Though there are definitely advantages tall buildings can offer, both in creating more sustainable patterns of life through higher density and also through the potential for greater renewable energy generation at height, there is no doubt that in their current form, most tall buildings are energy-profligate. In short then, many of these tall buildings are contributing to the degradation of both the local (cultural) and the global (climate change) around the world.

It does not, however, need to be this way. Tall Buildings have the opportunity to reinvent themselves as the typology for a sustainable urban future – focused centers of live, work and recreation with innovative forms, technologies and environments to face the challenges of the future climate-changed world, whilst also contributing to the continuing local culture of a place. This new typology needs be inspired by the cultural, environmental and vernacular traditions of the location. This is important in maintaining the cultural integrity and continuity of any urban domain, but especially in developing countries which are at risk of adopting wholesale western urban models (and mistakes) at the expense of more appropriate local solutions.

In short, tall buildings and cities need to be inspired by the specifics of place – physically, culturally and environmentally. This submitted ‘PhD by Publications’ – consisting of a Narrative and six published papers – explain how the author’s research has contributed to this central thesis; the quest for a new typology for tall buildings which are appropriate to the local, the global and the major challenges of the age.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Heath, T.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
ID Code:1486
Deposited By:Mr Antony Wood
Deposited On:26 Jan 2012 16:19
Last Modified:26 Jan 2012 16:26

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