The Future of Tall: Technology and Meaningful Urbanism

Session: Closing Plenary - The Future of Excellence: Dreams And Realities of a Better World

Hanif KaraProject image

Hanif Kara
Director, AKT II Limited

We could not have predicted the 4 billion increase in population and rapid advances in technology seen since pioneering engineer Fazlur Khan left us in 1982. These shifts conspire with our thirst for unprecedented solutions to the high-rise typology, producing scandalously fine work throughout the world.

Despite depleted coffers and growing climate inequity, a desire in many developing parts of the world is to leapfrog into the 21st century with novel high-rise buildings, often more symbolic than innovative. Our retreat into the design of free-standing high-rises is already paradoxically divisive. Some respond to markets, while others to the hopes, aspirations, and nourishment of a society. These responses are not always mutually inclusive. Quality of life and the effect of climate change demands another level of engagement for us to reach excellence.

Technology enables increased public participation in the design of our cites, how we inhabit our buildings, how we adapt them for future uses, what is outdoor, indoor, and around us adding a dimension to the way we, as experts, will need to decipher new realities. In this complex, challenging and yet reassuring moment, two example projects balance “excellence” (whilst keeping in mind all other conventional measures) and are uniquely purposeful and inventive. One Park Drive in London re-invents the high-rise “rotunda’’ type. Its design and construction provides an exemplar that might be replicated, at least in part. The CBI (Central Bank of Iraq) in Bagdad centers on a different context and swings the pendulum where the high-rise is a generative force to restore societal pride and meaning beyond technology and construction.