Touching the ground
The urbanity of the tall building in the Gulf Region
ABSTRACT: Tall buildings, by definition, are vertical objects. Historically, architects are more concerned about the tops of towers and less about their bases. Understandably, this is to make a statement through which more attention to the building can be drawn. However, the building base—the podium—is the place that is important to ground the building within its context. This neglected part of tall buildings is responsible for not only welcoming people to this gigantic structure, but also mediating the scale of the tower with the surrounding buildings and creating a good public realm for the city. This paper aims to address the issue of urban integration between tall buildings and the urban fabric. To achieve this goal, a desk study and field work were undertaken. The former involved a literature and professional documents review, whereas the latter involved interviewing 23 experts from the Gulf Region (including architects, planners, and academics) and observing six tall buildings in the Gulf Region’s main cities, including Riyadh and Dubai. This study draws some lessons from comparing tall buildings in the Gulf Region with those in Canadian cities, including Toronto and Calgary. This paper concludes with proposing some design recommendations to improve urban integration, enhance the quality of ground spaces in tall buildings, and refine our experience with the podium.
KEYWORDS: urban integration, public realm, tall buildings, vibrant places, tower podium
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