Show re-examines skyscraper's future

Posted On Wednesday, 11 September 2002 02:00 Published by
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Architects still favour tall buildings despite September 11
Is there a future for the skyscraper?

According to delegates at the Eighth Venice International Architecture exhibition, the answer is a definite 'yes'.

While Britain's secret services were planning briefings for architects to design public buildings that offer maximum protection against suicide bombers, the exhibition opened at the weekend as part of the Venice Biennale.

The show has attracted more interest than usual this year because of new political realities and for its timing, coinciding with the anniversary of September 11.

'The goal is to offer a panorama of what architecture will be over the next decade, who will be doing it and with what materials,' says the exhibition director, Deyan Sudjic, a British architect and critic.

'Next' presents the work of 90 architects or firms in 140 projects housed at the Venice Arsenal and the Giardini di Castello. Between them the venues sport the pavilions of close to 50 countries. The exhibits range from a 150m² flat in Tokyo to plans for a cultural complex at Santiago de Campostela in Spain.

The projects cover 10 themes habitat, urban, but also public and religious edifices, museums, shops, workplaces, education, communication and culture and skyscrapers.

'Saying that after the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, one should have stopped construction of vertical buildings is as indefensible as stopping the construction of reservoirs for holding water,' Sudjic says. 'We must, however, rethink this architectural model so long considered a form of American cultural imperialism.'

Sudjic asked eight architects to 're-examine the skyscraper as a genre'. The result shows that it seems to be flourishing: the exhibition flaunts 1:100 scale mock-ups of towers reaching 100 floors or more.

These models echo the works in progress of established architects such as France's Jean Nouvel with the Agbar tower in Barcelona, Italy's Renzo Piano's model for the future headquarters of The New York Times and Britain's Norman Foster for the 283m, 40-storey Swiss Re Tower in London, billed as the world's first ecological skyscraper.

The Swiss Re building in the centre of London, due for completion next year, will have fresh air entering through special openings in the cladding on all floors. Stale air will be recycled to heat the building, which will be able to dispense with air conditioning for most of the year.

The exhibition will also hold a symposium on the future of the World Trade Centre in New York, organised in conjunction with The New York Times.

Construction engineers and explosives experts from intelligence service MI5 have already advised companies and government ministries on measures to be taken against suicide attacks in public places, now seen as the weapon of choice for international terrorists.

'It is crucial that we take every precaution to ensure that people are aware of the potential risk,' said an MI5 officer quoted by The Times of London last week.

The intelligence service believes architects should take the possibility of a suicide attack into account, particularly when designing shopping centres the target of more and more attacks in Israel.

British police officers recently travelled to Israel to take advice from security forces there on techniques for identifying suicide bombers in time to foil attacks.

MI5 wants shopping centres built with reinforced glass widely used in Israel that can stand up to a bomb blast without splintering into deadly flying shards.

Israeli engineer Itzhak Fox, who specialises in protecting public buildings against terrorism, gives straightforward advice including intensive plainclothes policing, comprehensive closed-circuit television surveillance, more observation posts and fewer entrances.


Publisher: Sapa/AFP
Source: Sapa/AFP

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