The tower – a vertical extension of the city
Europe was reticent to accept the high-rise typology, mainly due to the pre-existing historical conditions, but also because of the failure of the tower block schemes of the second half of the 20th century. However, the idea of the tower was soon embraced and it has come to play a vital role in European cities. Due to the historical context, different from country to country, building a tower in a European city requires delicate attention.
The city is three dimensional and verticality can’t be further ignored in such a rapidly growing world and for a tower to be harmoniously integrated into the city it should represent an extension of its fabric and improve upon it.
The tower should bring all the aspects of the city up into the sky.
This can be translated by integrating a variety of functions in the tower: the life of the city can be improved by adding the missing programs otherwise lacking because of physical space.
But what contributes to the dynamic urban qualities of a horizontal city is also the presence of communal, open and recreational spaces that should be present and blend within the tower, alongside with nature, therefore recreating the urban vitality and foster interaction between the users.
The city dynamic life features a hierarchy of spaces conceived for the individual, for the group, for community and civic life. The tower should offer its inhabitants the chance to interact and opportunities to meet and gather. By introducing communal and individual gardens, nature also finds its place in the tower and gives the users a sense of identity.
The envelope should express this mix by allowing variations in façade (opacity, transparence, etc.), but also in shape therefore inviting the light, ventilation and views to penetrate inside. Opening a dialog between the tower and the city would allow a better integration and encourage the users to connect with surroundings.
The high-rise becomes an example of social sustainability by being a hive of different activities and high performance urbanism by integrating various functions. The presence of multiple programs in a tower not only translates the dynamics of a city, but also forms connections with it thus contributing to a better integration.
Such a development would also create new employment opportunities which contribute to the quality of social life of the neighborhood.
An attribute of the tower that cannot be missed is its height, which often creates a rupture in the scale of the city. Most of the towers display a uniform façade that only augments this effect of disproportionality. Architectural language and materiality is an important element that gives character to the city and contributes to its unity. Very often the architectural syntax and materials used to build a high-rise elevate another barrier towards the city. Trying to incorporate local architectural features and materials would definitely be beneficial to the relation of the tower with its surroundings, but would also allow users to relate and identify to it. Furthermore, this approach can integrate existing cultural assets with respect towards traditional practices and precedents of style.
Another aspect that brings charm to the life of a city is the variety of means of transport, variety that should be as well integrated in the high-rise buildings through various types of connections.
The connection with the ground should also be explored in order to help the integration of the tower and also to elevate the value of the high-rise by providing meaningful spaces that will enhance the urban environment and create a hinge between the horizontal and the vertical. Transparency, porosity and public functions could contribute to achieve this goal.
Equally important is the place in the city where the tower is decided to be built on. The new building shouldn’t block views towards landmarks in the city that people are accustomed to recognize, nor sunlight to the surroundings.
Diversity as an expression of the urban life of the tower can help the latter achieve the city’s dynamic and a harmonious integration.
The high-rise building can and should be more than an image of success and power, the embodiment of a purely real estate development or a conflict with tradition. It can achieve this goal by relating to the physical, environmental and cultural character of the place and it can become a landmark not only through its height, but by the improvements brought to the urban fabric and quality of life.