MAD architects: absolute towers completed 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 iwan baan 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 greenbelt patches. 


see designboom’s previous coverage of the earlier stages of the project here.



promotional video illustrating the process of the design video © cityzen group



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.


video © designboom


MAD architects: absolute towers completed fluid forms look almost like renderings in the environment (left) image © iwan baan(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 heterarchical 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.’

MAD architects: absolute towers completed view from the street image © iwan baan



MAD architects: absolute towers completed view of the tower from the ground level image © iwan baan



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.’

MAD architects: absolute towers completed 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?’

MAD architects: absolute towers completed wrap around balconies provide fluid exterior spaces image © iwan baan




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.’

MAD architects: absolute towers completed image © iwan baan


MAD architects: absolute towers completed site plan



MAD architects: absolute towers completed typical floor plan



project info:



location: mississauga, canada    height: 170 meterno. of floors:tower a: 56 stories/170 m tower b: 50 stories/150 mbuilding area:    95.000 square meters    tower a: 45,000 sqmtower b: 40.000 sqmsite area: 4090 square meters                        primary use: residential  


2006: 1st prize in international competition & winner of public vote2007: start construction2012: completed
2012: ctbuh award: best new building in the americas


team dataclient: fernbrook / cityzendesign architect: mad architects 
director in charge: ma yansong, yosuke hayano, dang qundesign 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 spencerassociate architects: burka architects inc.structural engineer: sigmund, soudack & associates inc. mechanical engineer: ece groupelectrical engineer: ece grouplandscape architect: nak designinterior 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).


MAD architects: absolute towers completed


designboom is an international media partner of the business of design week (BODW) first hosted by the hong kong design centre (HKDC) in 2002, business of design week (BODW) is a must-attend ideas exchange platform for asia’s most innovative thinkers and business leaders. now in its 10th year, BODW – as the finale of 2012 design year – continues to inspire valuable dialogue through an unrivaled blend of forums, seminars, exhibitions and outreach programmes for designers, business leaders, educators, SMEs and the public to exchange ideas and address a wide array of 21st century challenges. if you want to stay on top of cutting edge opportunities in design, technology and brand management, this is one event you won’t want to miss! this year, BODW is partnering with denmark. it is certain that it will bring about more positive changes in the people centered design and business communities.