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King of skyscrapers

Adrian Smith has penned a number of the world's tallest towers

As well as designing some of the world's loftiest structures, Smith has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from CTBUH.
As well as designing some of the world's loftiest structures, Smith has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from CTBUH.

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It is perhaps unsurprising that Adrian Smith’s practice was chosen to design the cloud-piercing Kingdom Tower.

The Chicago architect has amassed a lofty high-rise portfolio from almost 40 years at Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and five years at AS+GG, including the world’s current tallest building.

In June, the architect received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

Antony Wood, CTBUH’s executive director, commented: “Adrian is one of a relatively small number of architects who has designed and built a significant number of not only tall, but supertall, buildings internationally. As such, his contribution to the development of the typology is beyond doubt.”

As of mid-2011, Smith has designed four of the world’s eleven tallest completed buildings: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (tallest), Nanjing’s Zifeng Tower at Nanjing Greenland Financial Center (7th tallest), Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower (10th tallest) and Shanghai’s Jin Mao Tower (11th tallest). These towers were all designed during Smith’s stint at SOM.

Smith’s early career featured diverse projects. From 1971-1973 he was the resident project architect for the Wills Hartcliffe headquarters in Bristol, England.

In 1989, he was selected to lead a team in exploring alternative visions for the Speicherstadt District in Hamburg, Germany. The following year he participated in a team of 40 international architects and planners in the Zentrum: Berlin Symposium, to discuss the challenges for the reunification of Berlin.

Smith was a design partner at SOM’s Chicago office from 1980 to 2003 and served as the firm’s CEO from 1993 to 1995. His design portfolio from this period also includes London’s 201 Bishopsgate/Broadgate Tower and the 310-metre Pearl River Tower, scheduled to open this autumn in Guangzhou, China.

The net-zero energy tower harvests the natural forces of wind, sun and geothermal mass.

Smith’s long spell at SOM ended with the formation of AS+GG in 2006, co-founded with Gordon Gill and Robert Forest. The firm’s design portfolio includes the recently announced Wuhan Greenland Center, a 606-metre tower in China.

The mixed-use tower, which will contain offices, condominiums and a hotel and, is expected to be completed in about five years and construction is due to start this summer.

Earlier supertall designs at AS+GG include the proposed yet unbuilt 1 Dubai, 1 Park Avenue and Meraas Tower, all commissioned by Meraas Development.

Projects under Smith’s direction have won over 90 major awards, including five international awards, eight National AIA awards, 22 Chicago AIA awards, and two ULI Awards for Excellence. Smith has also written two books: Pro Architect 24: Adrian D. Smith and The Architecture of Adrian Smith, SOM: Toward a Sustainable Future.

Most recently, Smith joined Gordon Gill, Robert Forest and Roger Frechette as founding principals of PositivEnergy Practice, an energy, engineering and consulting firm that designs and implements energy, resource management and carbon reduction strategies.

At the announcement of Smith’s lifetime achievement award, CTBUH trustee Peter Irwin, stated: “Adrian’s body of work includes some of the world’s tallest and most recognised buildings, yet his designs transcend mere height and have become landmarks because of their graceful design and inherent sensitivity to local context and culture.”

The people of Jeddah must be hoping that Kingdom Tower will be no exception.

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Construction Week - Issue 754
Nov 23, 2019