‘absolute towers’ by MAD architects, mississauga, ontario, canada
image © tom arban / MAD
after six long years of development, the ‘absolute towers’ by chinese studio MAD architects can finally join the group of completed works,
being awarded ‘the best new building in the americas’ by the council of tall buildings and habitat (CTBUH). renowned photographer iwaan
ban presents the finished buildings in a series that captures the organic qualities of the sculpted forms in the rigid urban context.
continuous balconies wrap around the sinuous volumes, graciously marking each floor, and establishing a distinct exterior appearance.
free of typical vertical barriers the towers represent a new type of residential architecture in the otherwise conservative city. the buildings consciously
shift and rotate in response to the surrounding environment, establishing a dialogue between each other and the encircling community.
hovering above the skyline, the design seeks to provide every private dwelling with uninterrupted views over the city, lake and preserved
see designboom’s previous coverage of the earlier stages of the project here.
in this designboom video, ma yansong talks about the concept behind the ‘absolute towers’ and the idea of designing a high rise
for a north american city.
fluid forms look almost like renderings in the environment
(left) image © iwaan ban
(right) image © MAD architects
from the architects:
‘we call our cities steel concrete forests
throughout the process of urbanization, skyscrapers have been symbols of technological bravado, prime capitals and the societal projections of
wealth and prosperity. this limited framework for skyscrapers often results in solutions limited by homogenous, linear structures and degenerative
duplication in business districts across the globe. forced into an unnatural state of conformity, metropolitan life is negatively affected by these unchecked,
efficiency-centric development practices. without a challenge to the status quo, our cities will continue to lack the cohesion of life as implied by the
term: forest. a forest is a thriving ecosystem wherein every organism survives only in a state of symbiosis. new ambitions nurtured in a changing global
consciousness challenge the aging pattern of last century’s development and favor fresh thoughtful, inspiring and eloquent solutions for tomorrow’s high-rises.
what lies in the future of our cities? how should one grasp the concept of emerging high-density cities? how can city dwellers be immersed with
an enriching experience of nature when its presence steadily diminishes in the face of the ever intensifying concrete inundation? faced with these
challenges, future high-rise buildings need to catalyze a higher level of complexity in our cities for the sake of harmonious civilization.
fondly dubbed the marylyn monroe towers by local residents, the absolute towers parallel the twisting fluidity or natural lines found in life.
this activation of flow forms an organic punctuation in the landscape and a desire for an urban acknowledgement of enthusiasm. here, we thrive
to challenge the sustenance of commonplace boxy skyscrapers. our ambition was to provide each resident a unique experience of the city,
a heterarchitical distribution. continuous balconies widen individual viewing angles and promote community at the micro scale of a single floor.
at the macro, the cadence of the floors rising into the sky echo the modular rhythms of the human experience, yet emphasizes the movement of
an adoring figure. we hope this building can wake up metropolitans’ desires towards nature, such as sun and wind, and certainly, human bodies.’
view from the street
image © iwaan ban
view of the tower from the ground level
image © iwaan ban
‘a crisis of identity
like other suburbs in north america, mississauga, near toronto, has been quickly developing into an independent, urbanized area. yet, the cityscape
lacked a unique character. in response, we wanted to add something naturalistic, delicate and human in contrast to the backdrop of listless, boxy buildings.
sited at the junction of two main streets (hurantario and burnhamthorpe), the absolute towers gracefully bear their landmark status and act as a
gateway to the city beyond. as a residential landmark that strives for more than simple efficiency, the buildings provide residents an emotional
connection to their hometown and neighbors.
eschewing the tradition of accentuated verticality in high-rises, the absolute towers choose not to emphasize vertical lines. instead, the design features
a smooth, unbroken balcony that wraps each floor of the building. in addition, at each successive level, the floor plate rotates in a range of one to eight
degrees affording breathtaking panoramas of the mississauga skyline concluding in reverence to the principle street intersection at its peak. by maximizing
the viewing potentials inside and out, creating a wonderful medium for social interaction throughout the balconies, and connecting the city dwellers with
naturalistic design principles, mississauga is infused with a new character.’
view towards the street
image © MAD architects
‘a new sustainability
in place of the basic, functional logic of an aging modernism, the current trend of sustainable design is reminiscent of the sudden rise in the
glass-faced boxy buildings of last century. sustainability, in concept, is often unfortunately simplified to the lowest common denominator.
if we limit the scope of sustainable ecology to energy savings, it will become merely a demand for comfort while the yearning of a return to nature
is ignored. this design practice remains the axiom of the industrial revolution, man controls nature. we feel sustainability is a much greater concept
which can guide a new culture of design resulting in real change. for instance, in traditional chinese gardens, building and nature elements are
integrated to create a spiritual and poetic environment fostering great literature, poem and music, or simply life and philosophy. our approach,
ergo, is to create a balanced environment that evokes the feeling of exploring nature while simultaneously a responsive model for the development
of urban space in harmony with nature. a sustainable architecture in modern concept. real sustainability results in a harmonious civilization.
this is the biggest challenge of our time. how do we rebuild urban environments with life and emotion where people are connected and respected?’
wrap around balconies provide fluid exterior spaces
image © iwaan ban
‘an economy of structure
the torsional form of the towers is underpinned with a surprisingly simply and inexpensive structural solution. the two residential towers are
supported by a grid of concrete load bearing walls. the bearing walls extend and contract in response to the sectional fluctuation created by the
rotation of the floors while the balconies consist of cantilevered concrete slabs. in order to ensure the elegant edge profiles are as thin as possible,
there is a thermal break in the slabs at the exterior glazing such that the insulation need not wrap the entirety of the balconies. meanwhile,
the dynamically fluid shaping of the towers, naturally aerodynamic, adeptly handles wind loading and ensures comfort throughout all the balconies.
besides providing every resident with a nice exterior place to enjoy views of mississauga, the balconies naturally shade the interior from the
summer sun while soaking in the winter sun, reducing air conditioning costs.’
image © iwaan ban
typical floor plan
location: mississauga, canada
height: 170 meter
no. of floors:
tower a: 56 stories/170 m
tower b: 50 stories/150 m
building area: 95.000 square meters
tower a: 45,000 sqm
tower b: 40.000 sqm
site area: 4090 square meters
primary use: residential
2006: 1st prize in international competition & winner of public vote
2007: start construction
2012: completed 2012: ctbuh award: best new building in the americas
client: fernbrook / cityzen
design architect: mad architects director in charge: ma yansong, yosuke hayano, dang qun
design team: shen jun, robert groessinger, florian pucher, yi wenzhen, hao yi, yao mengyao, zhao fan, liu yuan, zhao wei, li kunjuan, yu kui, max lonnqvist, eric spencer
associate architects: burka architects inc.
structural engineer: sigmund, soudack & associates inc.
mechanical engineer: ece group
electrical engineer: ece group
landscape architect: nak design
interior designer: esqape design
ma yansong presented this and other ongoing projects at the BODW 2012 business of design week forum in hong kong (03-08.12.2012).
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