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Monday, February 02, 2009

Scala Tower

Scala Tower in Copenhagen, Denmark by Bjarke Ingels Group

One of the projects in a+t's Hybrids I, this week's book review, is the Scala Tower on Copenhagen's Axel Square by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). In that book's focus on mixed-use high-rises, this project's combination of (base to top) retail, a conference center, the new Main Library of Copenhagen, offices, a luxury hotel, and an observation deck make its inclusion warranted, but not as much as its twisting design that blends base and tower and creates a raised public space in the process.

Visible from the city's Central Station, Town Hall Square and Tivoli Gardens, the project strives to extends the area's vibrancy, with its mix of functions allowing for a variety of uses and users throughout the day. Even with the complexity of the twist from podium to tower, the design illustrates the direction for housing multiple functions in singular object, something that can be traced back to SOM's 1969 John Hancock Center in Chicago. This is opposed to an approach that expresses each function individually, like REX's proposal for Museum Plaza in Louisville, Kentucky.

BIG's design addresses both its immediate context and the wider context of Copenhagen. The architects conceptually melded two types of towers present in the city: spiraling church spires and glass box office buildings. While created a hybrid via a particular response to the city's skyline, the twisting shaft of the tower opens up immediate views to its surroundings on its raised public space. Steps (scala) from the street level (paralleling the library's circulatiton underneath) provide access to the plaza, vertically aligned with the neighboring buildings.

The generous amount of outdoor space afforded to the public must be partially attributed to the city's desire to house their Main Library within Scala Tower, as well as the architect's response to the site and program that led them to house everything in one volume. Conceptually these two truly public spaces of the project (library and plaza) are mirrored about the steps leading from the street level, like two sides of a coin. While twisting towers have gained popularity since Turning Torso, this designs commendably uses that technique to link one public realm to another one.

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