Best of Buro Happold: Skyscrapers


The word “skyscraper” is evocative, conjuring up images of buildings that soar into the sky and reach higher than our imaginations allow. Indeed, the image of the tip of a skyscraper misted with clouds is as familiar as it is exciting. There are few sites that conjure up ideas of a city as easily as a skyscraper.

Take in the New York skyline. It is impossible to sketch this famous spectacle without the shape of the Empire State Building and the tall surrounding structures. Skyscrapers are generally considered tall buildings over 150 meters in height, although many are born; the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world at 830 meters. Buro Happold has helped shape the skylines of cities around the world; here we look at some of the most striking.

111 West 57th Street, New York, United States

New York’s skyscrapers are iconic. Manhattan is dense with it, rising high from the bustle of the city. 111 West 57th Street is one of the tallest buildings in the entire United States. even the Empire State Building is smaller. Buro Happold provided facade engineering services during construction, providing textured terracotta ornamentation and bronze detailing.

111 West 57th Street is a mixed-use tower that overlooks Central Park and stands 435 meters tall. It was formed from the original Steinway Building which remains at the base; it was a store owned by piano makers Steinway & Sons. This is why 111 West 57th Street is nicknamed the “Steinway Tower”. The skyscraper is remarkably slender and only about 45 feet wide.

Our engineers provided facade services for the tower envelope and the 57e Entrance on the street. The north and south orientations have a fully glazed curtain wall system, while the east and west have a curtain wall with custom terracotta rainscreen panels. Our team had to take into account the heavy weight of the terracotta, especially because the building is so thin.

Terracotta-clad towers at 111 W57th Street. Image: JDS

World Towers, Mumbai, India

The skylines of many Indian cities are growing increasingly… upwards. The World Towers in Mumbai, India is the site of three residential skyscrapers. Mumbai is the commercial and financial center of India. Development is proceeding rapidly there, so the emergence of skyscrapers is not an unexpected sight. The World Towers project includes three skyscrapers: World View, World Crest and World One.

Each tower has a striking curved glass and steel design. World One stretches up to 420 meters and is an imposing site on the shifting Mumbai skyline. Using our international experience, combined with our local knowledge, we provided construction services solutions to World One for a design that prioritized energy efficient water and energy systems. This included 100% wastewater treatment and recycling, solar water heating, rainwater harvesting, and setting up meter rooms on each floor to reduce voltage drops.

lodha world one tower, mumbai.
Image: Lodha Group

SkyWalk, King Power MahaNakhon, Bangkok, Thailand

The King Power Mahanakhon Building is a mixed-use skyscraper in Bangkok, Thailand that stands 314 meters tall. Its size and design alone make it impressive (it’s one of the tallest buildings in Thailand), but it’s the SkyWalk viewing platform that attracts visitors.

SkyWalk is a 360° glass viewing platform at the top of the skyscraper. It is a 14m x 4m glass platform cantilevered from the building, made of multi-laminated glass panels, spanning a steel ring beam. Buro Happold’s structural and glass engineers provided solutions for the glass elements. Glass requirements had to be carefully considered due to the height of the SkyWalk.

Our engineers have carefully balanced factors such as wind load, pedestrian load, and the size of glass achievable to travel to such a height. with the design of the architect, who wanted to have glass panels as large as possible. The result is a gripping and exhilarating experience for SkyWalk visitors.

SkyWalkers sitting on SkyDeck atop MahaNakhon Tower
The “SkyWalkers” wear protective slippers while “enjoying” the view through the glass floor. Image: MahaNakhon by Buro Ole Scheeren. © Buro-OS / Rirath Somsawat

Kunming Xishan Wanda Plaza, Kunming, China

In some parts of the world, the design and construction process for all buildings (and especially skyscrapers) is complicated by additional security concerns due to earthquakes. The Kunming Xishan Wanda Plaza, Kunming, China, is home to two 300m skyscrapers that remain safe from highly destructive earthquakes thanks to the expertise offered by Buro Happold.

Kunming and the wider Yunnan province are susceptible to high levels of seismic activity. For this reason, when developing the two skyscrapers, Buro Happold engineers carefully considered the combination of tower height and earthquake risk; they conducted a performance-based design analysis and then submitted recommendations for review by the Chinese National Expert Panel (EPR) for approval.

Buro Happold created five levels of dual-use refuge to provide temporary shelter until the building could be safely evacuated for people in an emergency. Additionally, each refuge is built with increased floor drift on the upper levels of the building to allow for more “springiness” and structural resilience. In this way, Buro Happold contributed to the fundamental safety requirements of two impressive skyscrapers located in a location with additional requirements, balancing cost effectiveness with the necessary structural integrity.

Kunming Wanda Plaza, China.
This model of urban development has helped transform China’s urban landscapes. Image: Wanda Group

Riviera Tower, Athens, Greece

The soft green and blue of Greece is unlikely to come to mind when considering the location of a skyscraper, but the Riviera Tower in Athens will change that. A new residential tower will be built in the marina area of ​​Agios Kosmas in Athens as part of a green regeneration program in the Greek capital.

When completed, the tower will be the tallest in the country, spanning 200 meters. It will be part of the development of the Ellinikon project, a plan which includes a coastal park and the improvement of beaches. The Rivera Tower plan is at the heart of this development, with a focus on sustainability. Buro Happold will provide a range of engineering services for the tower project, carefully considering the resilience required for seismic activity.

Systems will be put in place to reduce water consumption and low-carbon building materials will be used. Our engineers will contribute to the reduction of the urban heat island effect by using low emissivity reflective materials, as well as eliminating large surface parking areas.

Aerial view of Marina Tower from above with a view of the apartments
The Riviera Tower will incorporate aspects of the natural world to enhance health and well-being. Image: dbox / Foster + Partners

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