x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Phoenix Towers project not concerned with being the world’s tallest

Ambitious project in China is set to top 1km, but is planned to go no higher than Jeddah's Kingdom Tower according to the lead designer.

Three of the spheres between the planned Phoenix Towers will be themed restaurants. Courtesy Chetwoods Architects
Three of the spheres between the planned Phoenix Towers will be themed restaurants. Courtesy Chetwoods Architects

Spearing up 1,000 metres towards the sky, the Phoenix Towers project is more about “being spectacular” than about height records, according to the lead designer of what is set to be the world’s tallest building.

Laurie Chetwood, the lead designer and chairman of the London-based Chetwoods Architects, told The National that skyscrapers can go higher, but in this instance, beating the likes of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and Jeddah’s under-construction Kingdom Tower was not at the top of the agenda when the opportunity arose to build an architectural attraction in Wuhan, the biggest city in central China.

“I think it’s a bit of a fad that people are going up, though it is obvious to do so in certain countries,” said Mr Chetwood. “It’s likely to happen more and more as things get increasingly dense in cities, and in this instance, the design and height was about being spectacular and making sure that the city had something to hang its hat on.”

Phoenix Towers, which is due for completion between 2017 and 2018, should have a short solo reign as the world’s tallest building.

It will pass the current titleholder, Burj Khalifa, by 172 metres. But quickly it will be equalled by the Kingdom Tower, which is to be completed later in 2018.

Mr Chetwood said the decision to go 1,000 metres high with the Phoenix Tower was based not on any technical limitation, rather it just seemed like a good number to go with.

“One kilometre is not a natural limit for skyscrapers – we naturally came to choose that height rather than looking to beat anything else,” he said.

“We have some special structural engineers and working out how something will stand up is now a lot easier than it used to be – there are now not many things that cannot be done in terms of buildings.”

The ambitious design is themed on the traditional Chinese phoenix symbol containing two birds and representing a perfectly balanced union.

Set on an island in a lake at the end of a 3km avenue, the towers will work to recycle and clean water and air to help to reduce pollution in the city, with features such a wind turbine, thermal chimney and biomass boilers.

“Wherever possible we have tried to look at the environmental aspect – it’s a Chinese theme to have the environmental factor,” said Mr Chetwood. “Quite a lot of this project is vanity, however. I picked up the colour pink from the sunsets and used a lot of metaphors. We wanted to really give it some oomph.”

Although dubbed “the most eco-friendly building ever”, the Phoenix Towers will come at a sizeable cost, estimated at US$2 billion.

“You have to pay for your icon, though in this case it is not costly right to the top as it’s edging towards being a mast as you go higher as it’s supporting technology,” Mr Chetwood added.

“Some of the buildings in London are all about being cost effective, such as the Walkie Talkie [a new skyscraper], and we are somewhere between the two extremes.”

The project is currently pending government approval, and work could start by the end of the year.

ioxborrow@thenational.ae

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