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Adrian Smith Knows Supertall Towers

Chicago Hotel

And the starchitect has been designing sky-high stunners like the Burj Khalifa and Chicago’s Trump Tower for decades. (He's obviously not afraid of heights.) These days supertalls are almost all mixed-use, greener than ever, and are increasingly knit into the urban fabric, said the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture design partner (formerly of SOM) at NeoCon this morning. His designs always start with context: the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai recalls ancient pagodas and bamboo scaffolding; the Burj’s legs are all Middle East-inspired pointed arches; Trump Tower connects the Loop to Michigan Avenue by activating public space along the Chicago River; and Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (the first tower to exceed the 1km mark, under construction, below), emulates new growth in the desert to represent the country’s changing international image.

While designed for Chicago, AS+GG’s Clean Technology Tower is an example of skyscrapers’ sustainable future. Adrian’s arsenal grows with each new project, and includes solar water heating, shading devices, wind turbines, double-wall building envelopes, and more. With the firm’s Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, he hopes to bring about dramatic changes to the Loop to start lowering carbon levels to that of the global 2030 Challenge. It all began with a study of the Willis Tower, where they determined that greening and modernization of the aging gem could save 68M kW hours/year (and cost $60 to $80/SF to implement). Applying that to the Loop would require a major real estate shift to 50/50 office and residential, along with updated transit, public space, and waste collection, he says.