The Eye of the Fish

June 28, 2010

Tall Jetsons towers

Things have gone very quiet in Serepisos land lately, with not much talk of building the tallest tower in Wellington as a memorial to himself. I’m assuming that perhaps some temporary cashflow troubles may have put a temporary end to that particular dream. And, hopefully, to an end to the ghastly Apprentice spin-off.

But it did get me thinking about tall towers. I’ve always been quite scathing of Auckland’s SkyTower – so were most people in Auckland, until they realised that they could use it as a homing beacon when they’re driving home. At least, they can tell where the centre is, even if they don’t know exactly where they are. To truly triangulate your position, you would need two of course… which got me thinking about what a twin tower might look like. When I started to look at what was available, I was less than enamoured. Really, they’re all just variants on the same design, and who wants to make their city look individual by having something just like every other city? I just don’t follow the logic there.

So: on tall towers: what do we have? As far as I am aware, the ‘first’ is still the best – the Seattle Space Needle, produced for the 1959 World’s Fair, sits next to the Monorail. Wow! In 1959, the future had really arrived. Monorail ! Space Needle ! Jetpacks! There is a glorious Jetson’s quality about the architecture – straight out of the comic books.

At least, I am sure it is – but without watching endless hours of Jetson’s re-runs, all I can find on the interwebs is a small picture of vast circular buildings balancing on small unstable poles. Never mind – the Space Needle excited people’s passions at 184m tall, and yes, you can go up, look around, have a meal, and come back down again. Its obviously just a grown up version of climbing a tall tree for a small child.

Before anyone leaps down my throat and grabs me by the gills for suggesting that the Space Needle was the first, yes yes, of course there was the Eiffel Tower produced back in 1889, and others in between, but as far as I am aware, the whole push for the moon excited the architects and stimulated their designs just like the fins on a 59 Cadillac. The Space Needle was like nothing before.
Ah well, on with the search for more tall towers. Sadly, the Space Needle does not even make the main list of tall towers of the world – hosted of course on Wikipedia. It is down on the 3rd list, featuring the also-rans. Amazingly, Auckland’s rather pointless big pricker ranks highly, being the tallest tower in the Southern hemisphere, and coming in at an almost respectable 26th tallest in the world.

So what does make the grade? For years and years the tallest spot was always taken by the CN Tower in Canada, and it still does, since 1975: just, because it is open, is 553m tall, and the top two are still under construction. CN Tower was designed by Webb, Zerafa, Menkes, Housden Architects, and engineered by NCK. It is a fantastic looking tower, very swept form and effortless looking structure, with a ring of accommodation seemingly dropped onto the spike and wedged halfway down.

There are two new towers under construction – that I hadn’t even heard of – one in China (at 2nd position), which, luckily, is gorgeous – being designed by Arup and IBA: Dutch architects Mark Hemel and Barbara Kuit.

and one in Japan (the Tokyo Sky Tree – under construction, and already at 1st position).

Tall towers have to be ranked strictly on the basis of being self supported – so, that rules out buildings, as you or I know, with sensible things like floors between levels 0 to 200. The official ruling is, get this: “a building in which less than 50% of the construction is usable floor space”. Inherent redundancy built in, right there. So the Burj Khalifa is ruled out, despite its amazing 828m height, because it is far too sensible, if that epithet can ever be leveled against the Burj.

For the present, I’ll leave you with a view to the future of architecture as seen from the recent future past:

29 - 06 - 10

Even as a child I wondered how all those flying cars never crashed. Can you imagine the Auckland Super City Council or [insert name of any traffic bureaucracy here] trying to come up with those kind of road rules?

29 - 06 - 10

there are a few films that have come out that may give you some clue how this is achieved. From memory the film Metropolis had flying cars (or was that just cars, and flying planes?). But Minority Report is a good look if you like Tom Cruise (I, like many, do not, so can’t remember the details of that film much), and of course there is the 5th Element – which has a wonderful episode in it with Bruce Willis driving his flying taxicab vertically down through several layers of cars that were driving horizontally……

The answer of course is that the cars are intelligent to sort it out themselves. I just realised – you never see the Mayor in visions of the Future. Presumably his job has been dis-established…

30 - 06 - 10

Or perhaps the environment at the Mayor’s workplace has become so depressing and disorganised he’s gone off and found himself another job. Like at WCC – hot on the heels of the UD team carnage, cast your fishy eye over the City Planning team, who are the latest victims of reorganisation and are resigning at the rate of about one a month…

So as well as no-one having much idea about what’s gone before them in urban design, a whole pile of knowledge and expertise in the areas of strategic city planning/centres planning/district plan has just walked out the door. Is that the end of it? I think we all know it’s not…

Time for a management restructure at WCC, in my opinion!

1 - 07 - 10

Captain Haddock to the rescue ! Billions of blue blistering barnacles, sounds like what they need is a slap round the gills with a fishy fin flap.

5 - 07 - 10

If you’re going after anyone with a fish, grab a really smelly one and give the WCC CEO a slap to wake him up.

60 MPa
7 - 07 - 10

Completely off-topic I see more towers – hopefully not leaky ones like poor Kerry’s ?

7 - 07 - 10

and another off topic number, but very relevant to this blog:

“Cod you believe it? Fish are big talkers”
“Beneath New Zealand waters a secret language is being spoken, of which humans know little. Fish have been found to grunt, growl and “pop” at each other, according to University of Auckland marine scientist Shahriman Ghazali. He is making underwater recordings at Leigh Marine Reserve to work out which fish talk and why.
“All fish can hear, but not all can make sound – pops and other sounds made by vibrating their swim bladder, a muscle they can contract.”
Fish are believed to speak to each other for a number of reasons, including to attract mates, scare predators, or orientate themselves.