Towering ambition

James Forryan
Thursday 05 Nov 2009

Monolab design a 'true Rotterdam high-rise'

For Rotterdam it re-opens the window to ambitious architecture. Rotterdam always was an urban experimental field. The destruction of the city center during the second World War made this possible, but since the eighties Rotterdam unfortunately lost its courage.

The high-rise zone, planned by the DS+V urban planning office, is extended southwards by MONOLAB as a facilitating spine for the complete city. It stretches from the Central Station District via the Kop van Zuid to the Zuidplein public transport hub and Ahoy multifunctional venue. In this zone, the City Tower is the first of a series of towers, slowly walking Southward.

This tower stands in the water of the gradually abandoned Maas harbour. Conventional towers are on top of massive parking lots. By shifting our tower into the harbour we can realise a second project on the vacant site on top of this parking lot for 1000 vehicles. This second project has scenografic qualities with its huge urban window and plaza towards the Maas harbour and the daily sunsets. It mediates between the big scale of the tower and the surrounding city. The tower is connected with a steel jetty, a pedestrian boulevard, to the parking and to the quay with metro station.

Traditional towers need internal transport cores for elevators and emergency stairs. These cores destroy the towers floorspace and every single elevator occupies a vertical trajectory. The architects placed the core outside, as a grid. The grid is a vertical highway, a dedicated logistical matrix, holding a cloud of gondolas. It services the tower as a carrier through continuous transport of gondolas that travel individually along the structural supports. The grid goes far beyond traditional elevator systems because of efficiency and capacity of passengers and addresses. It defines an exponential urban user-density by holding a maximum of 200 gondolas, which makes a theoretical 2400 passengers travelling at the same moment. The pedestrian boulevard brings people into the tower through a check-in pavilion with security facilities. Through the pavilion, visitors and personnel travel via gondolas to co-ordinates, dedicated addresses on the grid. Suspended sky lobbies connect into the tower. Placing the vertical transport system outside, its appearance displays a building ‘under construction’, something very common to the Rotterdam people.

All gondolas move individually by their own energy cells and two electric engines with heads that locks into the steel grid, driving the gondola along the grid vertically as well as diagonally. The heads rotate to change the direction of the gondola. The cloud of gondolas inter-communicates to avoid congestion and cueing. Through variations in speed and change of directions vertically and diagonally, each gondola finds its own critical path to requested addresses.

The tower has a full potential of 83,400 sq m floorspace. It is programmed with apartments, offices and special entertainment/commercial programs. The special programs are finished in very transparent anti-reflective glass, the standard floors are finished in Photovoll glass that supplies the tower’s electric energy needs and which is less transparent from the outside.

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