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2008 International Round Up

As we welcome in 2009, that means it's time to look back at 2008, a year that gave us a selection of great projects as well as more than a few disappointments and what has been dubbed "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression".

Near the start of the year, February saw something out of this world hit the drawing boards in the form of Heerim Architects Full Moon Bay project to be located in Baku, Azerbaijan. Looking from some views like it belonged in a Star Wars movie the project was essentially an earthbound Death Star...minus the death.

The disc-shaped tower will have a changing profile dependent on the angle it is viewed from. Reaching a height of 158 metres it will house a luxury hotel, despite its massive internal space of 104,182 square metres it will only have 382 rooms which probably by now are all pre-booked as the project received massive internet publicity among Star Wars and architecture fans.

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April saw the proposal from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) a firm set up by architect Rem Koolhaas, famous for his quirky creations, for a new tower in Singapore.

Although it wasn't penned by Rem himself, Scott's Tower showed his influence with four towers arranged around a central core which gave the impression of the vertically offset towers floating in mid air with the structures cantilevered engineering pushed to the limit.

A reflective cladding wrapped around the core also added to this effect. If built the tower would stand at a quite impressive 153 metres and house 68 luxury apartments. By elevating the bulk of the towers footprint skyward extra space was created around the tower for relaxation space such as tropical gardens.

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April also gave us the proposal of the world's most vicious looking building. Designed by Donna Vassar, part of the Vassar education dynasty the uninviting spiky ball is intended to be a retreat for the world's politicians and leaders so they may contemplate their purpose in life or hide from an angry mob.

Named the Universitas Leadership Sanctuary, it is intended as part monastery and part conference centre where the most powerful men and women on the planet can get away from it all with a combination of reading and quiet contemplation. The sanctuary will be built in the shape of a four-storey globe which looks cage like and will be surrounded by unfriendly looking spikes.

Still, there has been no explanation forthcoming of just how a building that is supposed to foster the idea of the brotherhood of man, has ended up being planned to look like a fortress for Ming the Merciless.

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July saw the circus that is the Olympic Games take over everyone's TV for two weeks and China did their best to give everyone one something to look at with the innovative structures dreamt up to host events.

It might not have hit skyscraper status, but possibly the most innovative of their buildings was the Aquatics Centre which is possibly the worlds first building to be wrapped in over-sized Bubble wrap instead of a bog standard glass fašade.

The design was entered by Australian architectural firm PTW Architects in a competition run by the Chinese government to find something spectacular to add to the 2008 Beijing Olympic collection. Wanting to do something never seen before and by studying the humble soap bubble, they came up with a fašade that has a truly organic and random appearance.

An entire section of the fašade was pieced together and then put into place then inflated once in situ where it is continuously pumped with air. Popping of the fašade however is frowned upon no matter how fun it is.

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Plenty of other interesting projects were proposed and approved throughout the year and this year saw work start on some of what will be the worlds tallest buildings but December saw an interesting project sprout out of the drawing boards of Dutch architects MVRDV.

The company won a competition to design one of two capitals planned for a new city in South Korea called Gwanngggooo, a good one to remember if you play scrabble. The project consists of eleven 'green hills' springing up from the ground the tallest of which will be 28 floors high.

The hills are made up of rings stacked up on each other, in much the same way as contours of rock ring around stalagmites. Running with an organic theme the terraces and roofs of the building will be planted with box hedges able to not only give the hills their green look, but also improve ventilation and reduce power and water consumption. Its planned up to 77,000 people will be able to occupy the city when it is complete.

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Despite many exciting projects coming out it wasn't all good news in 2008 though. The property market worldwide was already shaky and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the latter part of 2008 was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back causing confidence in many projects to evaporate.

Amongst the highest profile victims are the Russia Tower in Moscow that was halted during foundation work, the Chicago Spire, not to mention numerous buildings in Dubai. So desperate are some developers there to finish their developments and not run out of money eighty storey buildings are being completed with only sixty.

High profile victims in the emirate include the Meeras Towers that is now a 100,000 square metre hole whilst piling has been suspended on the Burj Al Alam and Nakheel's 1000m+ plus tower is also expected to have work halted soon.

Although Dubai's property market looks like going pop in a spectacular fashion there have been some notable starts elsewhere in the world. Shanghai has seen construction begin on what will be the world's second tallest skyscraper - the Shanghai Tower and a couple of other supertalls that have been sloshing about for ages are also getting under steam.

London Bridge Tower is a long running saga that finally secured finance to complete it in late 2008 and will now power ahead once demolition on the site has been completed in 2009 whilst in North Korea the Ryugyong Hotel is finally getting its concrete frame clad, even if it will not be fitted out for occupation.
Full Moon Bay, Baku
Full Moon Bay, Baku
Scott's Tower, Singapore
Scott's Tower, Singapore
Universitas Leadership Sanctuary
Universitas Leadership Sanctuary
Watercube, Bejing
Watercube, Bejing
Gwanggyo, Korea
Gwanggyo, Korea