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Old March 22nd, 2008, 09:54 PM   #1
Plainview Graphics
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Location: Columbia, Maryland
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Paradigm shift in skyscraper typology underway

As a new member of this forum Iím pleased to find so many excellent discussion topics covering the entire world. Iím a CAD specialized and researcher who is particularly interested in the paradigm shift that seems to be taking place right now: tall buildings were once built as symbols of wealth and dominance, techno wonderments that added excitement to cities. But now the skyscraper typology is changing: No longer the building of choice for corporate headquarters, tall buildings are becoming attractive for their potential for efficient use of land and energy. Their huge exposed surfaces are increasingly seen as potential energy siphons: the Pearl River Tower in China, for example, is set to revolutionize the nature of tall buildings with its solar collectors and wind generators that will make it the first tall net-zero-energy building, which is a historic breakthrough on par with any of the historic tall buildings. The Pearl River Tower will give its owner and city an instant iconic identity, an increasingly valuable commodity in todayís global world. Yet most Americans will not hear about this building or its city, Guangzhou, until the media picks up the story. Thatís why I enjoy coming to this forum: itís ahead of the curve, not behind it, like the mainstream media.

Iím also interested in the effects of tall buildings on mass transit and its potential to reduce automobile dependency. In this sense, tall building are an important part of the solution to two of the biggest challenges we face today: politically motivated warfare and catastrophic climate change. Intelligent planning can solve these problems for the most part.

The challenge of designers is of course to build tall buildings that people actually like to live, work, and play in. They need to be human scale despite their tallness. Such a thing is possible according to the great urban philosopher Lewis Mumford, who wrote that human scale was related to function as much as size. Good urban fabric needs variety of function, flexibility, inclusiveness, and a wide mix of uses shaped by human demand, not proscriptive rules. While many tall buildings have failed to accomplish these ends, there is no reason to believe that future designers will repeat the mistakes of the past.

I delve into these and other ideas a bit deeper at my website:


One of my main themes is that sustainable design is much more likely to become a reality if people are shown visual concepts of them beforehand. Comments are of course welcome.

Peter Tocco
Plainview Graphic Services
It's easy to believe, when you see it in Plain View.
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