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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Glass Box Trends

With today's announcement of MahaNakhon, a 77-story tower in Bangkok designed by OMA partner Ole Scheeren, the internet will be awash in images of the pixelated glass tower. The design departs from a fairly typical glass box, eroding, carving and shifting the Modernist ideal into something iconic yet precarious. It is immediately reminiscent of Herzog & de Meuron's design for 56 Leonard in Manhattan, found on the cover of eVolo's first issue.

[L: MahaNakhon by OMA | R: 56 Leonard by Herzog & de Meuron]

Each design has the same starting point -- the Modernist glass box -- but each design modifies it in different ways. Herzog & de Meuron shift the stacked floors to create terraces and overhangs, what they call "houses stacked in the sky." The base and top leave no traces of the platonic origins, but the middle section's regularity hints at the design's precursors. Likewise the MahaNakhon tower starts with the regular but modifies it to create areas with terraces and overhangs. These areas wrap the building in a spiral manner, in effect creating a supergraphic on the skyline. Compared to 56 Leonard it is more pleasing at that scale, even though it brings to mind erosion and destruction. But at the scale of about ten floors the two projects look like twins:

[L: MahaNakhon by OMA | R: 56 Leonard by Herzog & de Meuron]

So do these two designs by two of the most popular and prolific firms in the world today signal a trend? Is this the end of torqued, möbius and pickle towers? Will architects have a brief fling with shifting glass boxes before they move onto to the next high-rise transformation? I think the expense of these designs (more facade area as well as additional insulation and weatherproofing required on the terraces and soffits) makes them suitable only for super-rich condos and therefore short-lived. Additionally the formalism of these two designs -- messy in NYC and a one-liner in Bangkok -- points to a short shelf life for this trend.


  1. Those images freak me out. The one on the left, especially, evokes for me the WTC towers after the impact on 911.

  2. I still prefer Mies. Why hasn't anyone been able to match the grace of his towers?

  3. Look at the people on the last picture. I know nobody who 'll feel save on a terras made with glass panel on the 123 floor... Great but unrealistic

  4. Thailand bldg doesn't look good...looks like a huge scar that will make the view look horrible. Maybe they need to repeat the scar more.

  5. A one-liner, maybe. But many successful comics have built entire careers on one-liners.
    I kinda like the Bangkok building, though I liked it more before you pointed out the deconstruction spirals.

  6. Thanks God, so I'm not the only one that has been thinking that on the close-up view the two projects are identical...

  7. Well let me just disagree with you guys.

    i dont see that they look the same at all (and i am talking about urban strategy and urban intervention not architectural details that well yes they look the same).

    OMA's Bankok Tower as i see it is more integrated and communicating with its environment. since more than 20 years OMA is exploring and developing Delirious New York Analysis. getting Population or more accurately urban flow to integrate spatially with Architecture.

    TOWERS since they started to rise were just sticks on a plan.. interacting with each other but not with pple on the ground.. solitary in their circle..

    Transportation has come and just changed evthg. pple now are traveling cruising around getting involved directly in the streets.. for me i guess RK wanted to make these towers alive. also he began working (AMO and b4 that) with the unit/pixel .. flow.. power of the people .. Chicago, NEW YORK, MIES etc.. he explored it.. and now u see the results of the combination of all this.. he is succeeding in making an imapct not just Architecture.. BUT urban side.. he is redesigning the city in his own way and he is just making the others follow him..

    u might say that H&M had this project way b4 Thailand Tower.. but just look at H&M Tower.. ugly and grotesque in its environment.. its repulsing next to empire state building and well all the others.. and just guys look at OMA's Tower in front of it.. just look at the intervention as a whole and dnt go in2 details (glass boxes.. terraces etc...) these are details.. at the end who's making the impact on ground who's letting flow interact with the building thats.. ARCHITECTURE..

  8. You called those a trend!? MahaNakorn looks like it has been chewed off by a gigantic rat. From many Bangkokians' points of view, this building is 'broken' and 'will bring a lot of bad lucks'. I also don't see how it relates to anything?? Looking at today's economy of a developing country, construction cost vs. rental fee...OMA would be lucky to see Mahanakorn gets built.


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