The World’s Top 5 Kinetic Skyscrapers

Kinetic skyscrapers are formally dynamic structures that visually and physically inscribe a process of movement and transformation into a static structure. The implied movement process, or activity makes the buildings appear to be caught in motion, a freeze-frame. These projects derive their forms from a design process that employs strategies of formal manipulation, such as shearing, rotating, slipping, or torquing. Dong Bu Headquarters (Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, Seoul, 2002)

Designed as the new headquarters for a Korean insurance company, this tower expresses the confidence and exuberance of the pre-1997 Asian economic boom. Employing a language of angular planes, the designers create a dynamic form that distinguishes it from the other office towers lining Teheran Road in Seoul, Korea.

While most buildings stand on the properly line to maximize their bulk, Dong Bu Tower sits towards the back of the site to create a small urban plaza that acts like a pedestal from which to view the building as a sculptural object.

The broad face of the tower is made up of a series of sloped, folded planes, which make the tower appear to be undergoing a process of transformation. All the east and west walls are clad in blue glass with closely spaced horizontal stainless-steel mullions. At the corners, these walls extend beyond the edge of the building, reinforcing their planar reading by presenting an exposed edge of the surface. The north and south walls are clad in a taut clear glass with corrugated shadow boxes in the spandrel areas.

The ground floor lobby is linked to the subway system and to an underground retail network. Escalators take the visitor up to the limestone and wood-clad lobby. A decorative glass storefront wall, derived from traditional Korean quilting patterns, allows diffused light into the lobby.

The tower’s bold sculptural form sets it apart from the city fabric, making it a signature landmark building.

GPA Gasometer Tower (Coop Himmelblau, Vienna, 2001)

Recently this firm has been winning competitions and building its visionary designs, promoting the architects to change their name from Himmelblau to Himmelb(l)au, or heavens-build. One of their first large realized projects is the GPA Gasometer tower, which, true to their radical imagery, has a distinctly imparted form.

As part of the redevelopment of Vienna’s industrial quarters, the government held a series of competitions for the reuse and redevelopment of several large and obsolete infrastructure works. The firm won the commission to transform a series of classically designed former gas containers into a mixed used complex of shopping, office, and residential structures.

The existing industrial structure is converted into radial residential units, while a new structure is located on the northern side. The new structure, a bent curvilinear slab, echoes the cylinder, but interprets it in new materials and new geometrics. Its combination of facets and curves suggests a deformation of a familiar form, rather than the presence of something altogether new. The design is interpretive of to context, the results of a formal process of deformation and transformation.

Roppongi Tower (Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, Tokyo, 2003)

The Roppongi Tower forms the massive centerpiece of a 27 acre redevoplment project in the heart of Tokyo’s Roppongi retail and entertainment district. The 58 story tower house three million square feet of office space in its shaft and an art musuem at its top. Also part of the development is a 550 room hotel, a performing arts theater, and a shopping mall.

The tower derives its unusual shape from a design process that is dictated by its immense size. The tower is so large that the city authorities feared that it would disrupt the television broadcast signal from Tokyo Tower.

The architects looked to origami for a language of folded planes that could inform the shape of the tower. In plan, the tower is an oblong shape made up of various curved line segments that crease and peel, breaking up the tower’s mass. The base of the tower’s shaft is gathered through a series of facets to accommodate the larger public facilities. The tower’s articulated crown will house the Mori Art Center in its top five floors.

The curtain wall consists of lightly reflective glass and painted, pre-cast concrete panels. The material selection was designed to avoid metallic surfaces that would reflect the television waves.

The sculpted mass of the tower minimizes its presence through the selection of its material and the manipulation of its surface. The tower employs strategies analogous to those of the stealth bomber, which is invisible to radar due to its angular geometry.

Hotel Nova Diagonal (Dominique Perrault, Barcelona, 2004)(Designed)

Dominique Perrault’s design for a new hotell along Barcelona’s Nova Diagonal consists of a dynamic composition of slab elements suspended in the process of slipping past one another. Perrault conceived of the hotel as a composition made up of two parts: one horizontal, relating to the low scale of the existing city fabric, and the second vertical, relating to the monumental scale of the civic landmarks.

The horizontal podium will house the hotel’s public spaces, including the lobby, conference rooms, swimming pool and bar. The upright vertical slab will house the hotel rooms, each with a view towards either the sea or the mountains. The lobby is entered across a bridge that spans a sunken garden, which corresponds to the footprint of the hotel bar hovering above. The underside of the suspended bar aligns with the top of the podium roof, creating the sense that the individual parts of the tower have slipped and then interlocked like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The tower was designed to be clad in a system of metal panels, perforated with an array of circular windows. The slender slab refuses the familiar grid of mullions and glass, appearing instead as a porous and diaphanous volume. The windows consist of red, blue, and green glass distributed randomly across the façade, creating the effect of a large stained glass window. From within the hotel rooms, Barcelona will be viewed through the array of circular windows, transforming the city into a framed mosaic.

Perrault’s implied tectonic slippages give the viewer the sense that the tower is frozen in a moment of transformation. The gestures of its implied movement allow the tower to create relationships to its urban context, while the use of porous material gives the impression of dramatic weightlessness.

Parkhaven Tower (Kohn Pederson Fox Associates International, Rotterdam, 2002)

The design for Parkhaven Tower, a new high-rise development along the River Mass in Rotterdam, is derived from a design process that involves the gentle transformation of the tower’s shaft as it rises. The mixed used tower will house office functions at the base and residential accommodations above. IT will be a focal point of the new master plan for the area and, it is Europe’s tallest tower.

The tower’s dramatic spiraling form is derived from a torque triangular plan. The design is based on an equilateral triangle, in which each side of the triangle has been modified into a compound curve. The tower’s form is derived by tapering and rotating the triangular footprint of the tower as it rises. The resulting form is sculpturally bold and vaguely biomorphic.

The tower was conceived with the help of extensive computer modeling software, which allows the design of complex forms that would have been difficult to document with conventional two-dimensional tools. The tapering and torquing of the tower are modeled, manipulated and visualized in the computer. Complex three-dimensional forms can be documented and quantified in the construction process by sophisticated software that is shared with the contractors.

At the base, the building’s skin peels away to create petal like canopies. These botanical references inform the massing of the tower and the articulation of its elements. Processes like flowering, blooming. Sprouting, and rotating are generative of the tower’s language.