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The Urban Towers Handbook



The Urban Towers Handbook

Eric Firley, Julie Gimbal

ISBN: 978-0-470-68474-0 June 2011 264 Pages


The Urban Towers Handbook
Eric Firley and Julie Gimbal with Philippe Honnorat

For well over a century, the modern skyscraper has provided an ingenious solution to high-density living and working - accommodating the greatest number of people in a building with a minimal footprint. In the contemporary context of drastic urban growth, its role can only gain in importance. The question is how to avoid past mistakes and how to conceive the tower as a positive component of an existing or newly created urban fabric. In a thoroughly analytical and comparative way The Urban Towers Handbook provides answers to these questions and serves as a reference book and design tool for architects, planners and developers alike. Its comprehensive graphic documentation includes not only aerials and to-scale plans and sections, but also purpose-made photography, drawings and diagrams.

The core of the book is made up of over fifty case studies which have been classified according to three major typological groups and their respective sub-groups: solitaires, clusters and vertical cities. Twenty-one of these examples feature detailed documentation, including classics such as the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan and Torre Velasca in Milan, as well as contemporary milestones such as Roppongi Hills in Tokyo and the making of Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Among others, several districts in Hong Kong, Shanghai and São Paulo have been analysed as existing examples of vertical cities. The case studies section of the book is consolidated by a second section that outlines high-rise regulations in seven cities around the world, and highlights how planning authorities use tall buildings for the realisation of their urban goals and visions. The third and final section of the book addresses the uneasy relationship between high-rise structures and sustainability, placing the emphasis on the urban implications.




Section A: A visual dictionary of high-rise buildings

1st Group: Solitaires and Twin Towers

1 – Monument

Main example: Kingdom Centre, Riyadh

Secondary 1: Moscow State University

Secondary 2: Burj Khalifa, Dubai

2 – Monument in block

Main example: 30 St Mary Axe, London

Secondary 1: Torre Agbar, Barcelona

Secondary 2: Seagram Building, New York City

3 – Tower as block

Main example: Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt

Secondary 1: Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco

Seconday 2: Hotel Ukraina, Moscow

4 – Tower in block

Main example: Torre Velasca, Milan

Secondary 1: Kudamm-Karree, Berlin

Secondary 2: Norddeutsche Landesbank, Hanover

5 – Twin towers

Main example: Kungstornen, Stockholm

Secondary 1: Marina City Towers, Chicago

Secondary 2: Puerta de Europa, Madrid

6 – Tower as team player

Main example: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Secondary 1: Thyssen-Haus, Düsseldorf

Secondary 2: United Nations Headquarters, New York City

7 – Tower on infrastructure

Main example: The Standard Hotel, New York City

Secondary 1: Shard London Bridge, London

Secondary 2: Tour Dexia (CBX), La Défense

8 – Tower as module / business as usual

Main example: Tour Ar Men, Paris

Secondary 1: DUOC Corporate Building, Santiago de Chile

Secondary 2: Banco Atlántico, Barcelona

2nd Group: Clusters

1 – Integrated in existing city fabric

Main example: Rockefeller Center, New York City

Secondary 1: Villeurbanne Town Hall and new centre

Secondary 2: Riverside Center, New York City

2 – Towers as urban pattern

Main example: Quartier du Palais (‘Immeubles Choux’), Créteil

Secondary 1: Jianwai SOHO, Beijing

Secondary 2: Stuyvesant Town, New York City

3 – Linear cluster

Main example: Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

Secondary 1: Playa de Levante extension, Benidorm

Secondary 2: Rue de la Loi masterplan, Brussels

4 – High-rise compound

Main example: Moma and Pop Moma, Beijing

Secondary 1: Marina Baie des Anges, Villeneuve-Loubet

Secondary 2: Icon Brickell, Miami

5 – High-rise megastructure

Main example: Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Tokyo

Secondary 1: Parque Central, Caracas

Secondary 2: Pinnacle@Duxton, Singapore

6 – Towers in nature

Main example: Hansaviertel, Berlin

Secondary 1: Unité d’Habitation, Marseille

Secondary 2: Newton Suites, Singapore

7 – Towers on podium

Main example: Front de Seine, Paris

Secondary 1: Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai

Secondary 2: Tour 9, Montreuil

3rd Group: Vertical Cities

1 – US-American downtown:

Main example: Downtown Houston

2 – High-rise as norm:

Main example: Higienópolis, São Paulo

3 – High-rise as geographical obligation:

Main example: Monaco

4 – City of monuments:

Main example: Lujiazui, Shanghai

5 – European CBD:

Main example: La Défense

Secondary: La Défense extension (Tour AIR2)

6 – City of megastructures:

Main example: Hong Kong

Section B: High-rise building regulations in seven cities worldwide






New York

Hong Kong


Section C: High-rise and sustainability

Comparative table



Picture credits