Dubai's Italian-Made Rotating Tower
If living in a 250-meter-high tower with rotating floors and a system to automatically produce electrical energy seems like something out of a science fiction book to you, all you need to do is go to Dubai in two years' time to realize how the real world, at times, can respond to the most incredible dictates of the imagination.
A group of Florentine architects (to be precise, an American who's been living in the famous city of Italian art for thirty years and two others who were born and raised in the "Bel Paese") are working on a futuristic project whose construction will begin in the early months of 2007 in the distant Arab Emirates.
This is a 59-floor high-rise equipped with a core of reinforced cement and a series of prefabricated units, each of which can rotate independently from the others, thus allowing the building to continually change its appearance. This true triumph in dynamic architecture - called the Rotating Tower - will constitute the first and, as of yet, the only example in the world of an entirely rotating construction.
"The concept of movement in architecture has always been a constant for me," explains David Fisher, its conceiver, together with Fabio Bettazzi and Marco Sala, in reference to the chameleon-like tower. "As a boy, I used to have dinner while staring out at the Mediterranean sunset, and I'd dream of having a caravan so I could admire the spectacle of the setting sun from every vantage point." And this is exactly what the Rotating Tower allows people to do: to enjoy all the amazing views that nature has to offer without even needing to move. In the tower of the future, the architect's creative genius is making possible what logic would suggest is impossible: Watching the sunrise and the sunset from the very same room. The inhabitants of this amazing tower will barely notice the movement, as the speed of rotation will be so low as to be practically imperceptible.
This would be enough to make Fisher's project extraordinarily interesting. But to make this work a true champion of the "futuristic arts", what he's trying to interpret - and what, to a certain extent, reflects the spirit of our times - is the idea of its self-sufficiency when it comes to energy.
This concept has earned the unanimous acclaim of environmental associations. This made-in-Italy tower will be capable of harnessing the sunlight and the wind to produce the energy it needs and, what's even more incredible, it will be able to sell it. Installed in the empty spaces between one floor and the next will be a series of propellers capable of harnessing wind power, just like windmills, while the floors themselves will produce energy as they revolve. Positioned on the rooftop will be solar panels which, depending on the rotation of the tower, will be exposed to sunlight, at least for a part of the day. According to the designers of the high-rise, which will have a total price tag of $500 million, it should be capable of producing 191 million kilowatts of energy in a year, this worth over 7 million euro. In other words, this means that the energy savings should cover the cost of the work in a period of 56 years.
The Rotating Tower - whose conception also involved Leslie Robertson, the American architect who worked on the World Trade Center in New York, among other things - could only have been conceived for Dubai, a city which over the last few years has undergone a true urbanistic boom by becoming home to some of the most avant-garde constructions in contemporary architecture.
Dubai Puts a New Spin on Skyscrapers
Planned 68-Story Rotating Tower
Part of Massive Construction Spree
By ALEX FRANGOS
April 11, 2007; Page B1
In skyscraper-crazy Dubai, tall isn't enough. In a design to be unveiled today in the oil-rich emirate, David Fisher, an Italian-Israeli architect, has dreamed up a 68-story combination hotel, apartment and office tower where the floors would rotate 360 degrees. Each floor would rotate independently, creating a constantly changing architectural form.
Each story of the tower would be shaped like a doughnut and be attached to a center core housing elevators, emergency stairs and other utilities. Wind turbines placed in gaps between the doughnuts would generate electricity.
The doughnuts won't rotate fast enough to give guests upset stomachs. A single rotation would take around 90 minutes. "It's quite slow," says Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Fisher's isn't the first plan for a rotating tower in Dubai. Last year, a local developer showed off plans for a 30-story 200-unit condominium tower that would rotate one revolution per day. Solar panels would drive the rotation mechanism.
It is hard to say whether the plans are simply rotating pies in the sky -- or projects that will actually be erected. But given what has been built in Dubai already, anything seems possible so long as oil prices remain high.
Dubai has become a playpen for architects, where the deep pockets of oil-rich developers drive some of the most eccentric building projects in the world. There is an artificial archipelago shaped like a map of the world and an underwater luxury hotel. There is also an indoor ski slope, a sail-shaped hotel and a fake chain of islands in the form of a palm frond dotted with homes.
Some see outlandish designs like these as a sign of an architectural apocalypse. "It makes me ill," says Eugene Kohn, principal at New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox, a firm recognized for handsome, modernist -- albeit stationary -- designs. "Some of these buildings are going to the absurd."
Dubai's building spree is powered by massive government investment and money pouring in from individual investors from around the Middle East, especially people looking to park their oil wealth in real estate.
The country's ruling family, led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, realizes its oil will someday run out and wants to create a viable financial foundation for future generations by creating a commercial and recreational capital for the Middle East.
"The ruler of Dubai, he encourages us to grab the things that are super and unique in the world," says Mohammed Jardali, general director of Mejren Cos., the lead developer. "That's why we are going after the thing that will be a landmark and unique in the world."
The developer is a group including Sheikh Mejren bin Sultan's Mejren Group, Kriston Co., a developer based in Athens, and Gowealthy, a Dubai real estate marketing company. "We call it dynamic architecture," says Mr. Fisher, who says it will rise for a mere $330 million and will make an outsized profit to boot. "It can be sold for at least 40% premium because it will be an iconic building -- a landmark," he says. Mr. Fisher predicts construction will start in six months and be complete 22 months after that.
The skyline of Dubai is powered by oil money, big ambitions, and architectural whimsy. Mejren Cos.'s Mr. Jardali says terrorism isn't an issue for the developers. "Dubai is the safest place in the world. It is very peaceful. So we are not thinking about such a thing," he says.
Mr. Fisher dismisses the earlier unveiled effort at rotational architecture. "The other tower is just a cylinder that turns around itself very slowly over a week. But nothing happens to the shape."
The architect of the other tower, James Abbott of Hong Kong-based P&T Group, confirms that his tower will rotate just once a week. "We are doing it for just purely functional reasons, not gimmicky," he says. "The idea is for people to have 360-degree views." He says he and the developer, Dubai Property Ring, will submit final applications to local authorities in the next two weeks.
The proposed spinning towers follow a quiet campaign to build the tallest building in the world -- again -- in Dubai. Code-named "The Burj," or simply the Tower, the 240-story, one-kilometer-tall (3,281 feet) spire would beat out the currently under-construction Burj Dubai, which is slated to hit around 2,300 feet when complete in 2009. The taller Burj would be built by Nakheel Properties in Dubai. A spokesman declined to comment other than saying it is planning a "large tower."
The Burj Dubai, designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Emaar Properties, will be a hotel and condominium and is expected to reach more than 1,000 feet taller than New York's Empire State Building. The current tallest building in the world is Taipei 101 in Taiwan. It reaches 1,671 feet.
Carol Willis, founder of the Skyscraper Museum in New York, which is about to mount a show on Dubai, is optimistic. "The future plans seem to be grounded on a substantial and intelligent plan on inventing a new city," she said. She cites the massive government investment in infrastructure and the rock-bottom labor costs as making these projects possible.
Mr. Fisher, 58 years old, was born in Tel Aviv. He moved to Florence for graduate school and became an Italian citizen. His early projects include the never-built design for a plaza near Jerusalem's Wailing Wall.
His claim to fame is the development of the "Leonardo da Vinci Smart Bathrooms," a prefabricated bathroom system that hotels and resorts use to quickly build new facilities.
Mr. Fisher says he got the tower idea while looking at condominiums for sale in Miami several years ago. He noticed the much lower price tags for units without water views.
Ten days later in New York, a friend boasted that hers was the only unit in her high-rise with views of both the Hudson River and the East River. "This is when I got my click," he says. He jotted down his idea and applied for a patent in the U.S. in 2004. He has never designed a high-rise building.
But he has assembled a formidable design team, however, including high-rise engineer Leslie Robertson, who is best known for designing the innovative structure of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers that were destroyed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It's not rocket science," says Mr. Robertson of the building's structure. "It's a basic structural core, a concrete silo and the doughnuts that wander around. To me, it's largely an amount of craftsmanship -- a matter of putting it together in thoughtful way so it's constructed quickly, reliably and with low ongoing maintenance costs."
He says supplying electricity to the floors will be similar to how a moving train captures power by staying in constant contact with a power source -- in the case of a train, an overhead wire or third rail.
Occupants on the top five floors would control the direction and speed by voice activated remote control.
The other floors would be programmed by the architect or building manager.
The plumbing is more of a challenge. "We have good people working on that," says Mr. Robertson. The architect and prefabricated bathroom expert Mr. Fisher also demurs about how the toilets will flush. "I can't disclose all the details," Mr. Fisher says.