Time to take the ego out of skyscrapers, says SOM’s Brian Lee

Time to take the ego out of skyscrapers, says som’s brian lee
The China World Trade Center Tower 3, Beijing / © Xinhua

SOM’s Brian Lee, a speaker at the upcoming Business of Design Week, says a building’s sense of place and purpose is more important than height

At 829.8 m (2,722 ft) the world’s tallest completed man-made structure is still a long way short of a building’s possible height.

The technical know-how that enabled construction of the 162-storey Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai could actually take it a mile high – almost twice its current size – and fulfil the vision of late American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who wrote about a mile-high skyscraper, which he dubbed The Illinois, nearly 60 years ago.

But why would you want to? asks Brian Lee, whose Chicago-based global architecture, engineering and design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) master-planned the record-breaking Burj Khalifa (soon to be surpassed by even taller buildings now under construction, including The Tower, which recently broke ground in Dubai and is slated for completion in 2022). Lee’s firm, SOM, also designed Beijing’s tallest building, the 74-storey China World Trade Center 3A tower, completed in 2010, and is currently constructing the 58-storey China World Trade Center Phase 3B, which will be the second tallest in the capital.

Lee will be in Hong Kong this month for Business of Design Week (BODW), Hong Kong’s annual design event. With Chicago the partner city of BODW 2016, Lee will be one of numerous Chicago architecture and creative experts offering their insights on design and architectural topics from urban renewal to public space use.

“Tall buildings can have a place in cities, if you think about their effects, which are pretty numerous,” he says. But building something just to be the tallest can be a case of misplaced ego, he argues. On the other hand, when properly done, “they can be magnificent,” he says. […]