Doing More: The Tall Building as Urban Activator

Session: Track B: Measuring New Heights: The 118 World's Tallest Buildings, Part 1

James von KlempererProject image

James von Klemperer
President & Design Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
New York City

Perhaps more important than the achievement of extreme heights reached by the latest generation of super tall towers is the increasing focus on the responsibility of tall buildings to actively improve the public realm of their urban contexts. Focusing on several recent projects as examples, these tall buildings link ground level public space to “sky parks” above, connect synergistically with adjacent mass transit networks, and actively invite the participation of a broad range of city dwellers. The linkage of public and private benefits is made possible through careful spatial design, innovative business approaches, and progressive public policy.

One Vanderbilt Avenue and 30 Hudson Yards in New York, the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong and the Shanghai World Financial Centre each illustrate the possibilities for these themes and benefits. Inclusive planning strategies combined with advanced sustainability engineering techniques that are being employed in many parts of skyscrapers, bring this building type closer to the goals of today’s progressive urban agendas. The skyline icons that had been predominantly identified with private industry and wealth are increasingly also advancing the agendas of publicly accessible and environmentally responsible urbanism.