THE GROWTH OF ICONIC STRUCTURES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Concept of Iconic Structures
Iconic structures emerged in the 19th century in the USA and later spread out to become a common architectural phenomenon across the rest of the world. The Iconic structures have spread faster in areas like China, Japan and Middle East. According to a study carried out in the late 1980’s about half of the world’s tallest buildings were found in North America alone. The trend has since changed with the Asian countries leading the way with over 32% and North America having less than 24%. While the reason for the development of the structures is driven by different factors in different countries it is clear that the construction have significantly slowed down in America and the other parts of the world especially the Asian countries including the Middle East is picking up pretty fast (Ali & Armstrong, 2007). Actually eight out of the ten tallest structures are located in the Asian countries with the other two in North America.
In the past the iconic structures were centrally used as commercial offices due to the pressure by the growing population in the urban centers that had been worsened by the hastened pace in industrial revolution that had sparked rural-urban migration. This trend has since changed as the purposes for construction in different countries differ and now the iconic buildings have diverse purposes including residential use, hotels and some being used for mixed activities. The table below shows the trend of the usage of iconic structures that had been completed by the year 2006 and how the trend was changing over the years from the office use to more diverse usage (Ali & Armstrong, 2007).
The September 11 attack of the twin towers in New York in 2001 elicited mixed reaction on the construction of the Iconic structures with some groups opposing the development. However the economic benefits of the Iconic structures especially in the dense populated urban centers is high and it overweighs the ideologies cited by the critics. The development of these structures is determined by diverse factors including national economies, politics and technology. The steel skeletal structures that evolved from Chicago with glass curtains have especially brought a remarkable revolution in the modern skyscrapers though the structural development is an ongoing process (Ali & Armstrong, 2007).
At the onset of the Iconic structures their development was basically based on methods to increase the available area for office rent through vertical building which was also seen as a way to introduce more natural light to the offices. The challenge on the load bearing capacities of the walls led to intense researches that came up with relevant technologies that would see the adoption of this economic opportunity. The iron and steel skeletal structures were introduced significantly reducing the depth and width of the structures within the building. As a result glass was used to fill larger openings with the iron and steel structures being used together with bricks. The walls were designed in a way that they were not to bear any loads of the building other than their own weights and that of the lateral winds. Advancements in the technology show the introduction of curtain walls as the structural systems improved (Khan, 1973).
The actual race of the Iconic structures began with the Park Row Building in New York that had 30 stories by the beginning of the 20th century. The race was further accelerated with the completion of the Empire State building which had 102 stories in 1931. The technology was however not highly developed at the start of the 20th century to cope with the rapid increase in the height of the buildings. Most of the building structures were made of non-flexible steel structures with wind bracings. Some of the remarkable iconic structures that used this limited technology in fabricating their structures were the Wool worth building which was completed in 1913, the Chrysler Building completed in 1930 and the Empire State Building. Due to the limitation in technological advancement especially in structural analysis the heights of the buildings were achieved through excess use of structural materials and “over-designed” architectural works. The constructors seemed to borrow from the architectural designs from the traditional quality expressions despite having pursued new styles on newer technology particularly from the Chicago architects. However the come back of the Chicago new styles and the introduction of the European approaches to the iconic structures was just a matter of time. The end of the World War II left the economy development as a major priority especially in major economies in Europe and USA. This was the driving force for intense need towards construction of the iconic structures that sprouted at the mid 20th century. The high demands show the successful completion of the World Trade Center in 1973 and the Sears Tower the following year (Khan, 1973).
The use of the conventional non-flexible frames as the dominant type of structure for iconic structures was put to an end in the 1960s after which the structural systems have gone through multiple developmental stages. The emergence of new architectural designs that were facilitated by advancement in computer technology that made it possible for detailed structure analysis and the consequent changes in the structural forms that included the use of tubular structures. In the 1980s a new order in the building industry evolved with the replacement of the monotonous exterior towers with novel high rise stylistic structures. More innovative structures incorporating the use of tubes, artificial damping systems, mega frames and outrigger systems have since been introduced (Khan, 1973).
In an Iconic structure the skeleton has to be capable of withstanding the full vertical gravity loads including both the earthquake and weight due to the lateral winds. The structure should not loose its load carrying capacity of the vertical loads both live and dead weights when subjected by the lateral loads. This therefore calls for materials with high shear and bending resistance. It was discovered that as a building advances in height it develops a “premium for height” because of the expected impact from the lateral loads. In addition the demand on the skeletal structural system of the building increases significantly effectively increasing the rate of consumption of the structure materials to be used in the entire project. In the absence of the lateral loads the design of iconic structures can be based only on the gravity loads. The floor design constitutes almost similar weights at each floor though the column girders are made heavier towards the foundation of the building so as to bear the increasing gravity loads from the upper floors and enhance the general structure’s stiffness. The lateral loads that tend to topple the building also require that the vertical columns be heavier at the base. The nature of the flooring materials for iconic structures is determined by the span of the framing elements rather than the structure’s height. With the assumption of same size of the bays, the total amount of the materials needed to effectively resist the lateral loads would increase and can exceed the costs of all other structures if the building uses the rigid frame system. With an iconic structure exceeding 10 stories the control of its design is mainly controlled by its lateral drift. In this case the stiffness of the structure is the main guiding factor as opposed to the strength, the premium for height would increase with the increase in the number of stories (Ali, 2001).
The classification of iconic structures in relation to their heights (Khan, 1973), brought a significant revolution in the design of complex structural systems. The classification was developed based on both steel and concrete structures. According to Khan (1973), the rigid frames that had become dominant in the design of iconic structures were not the only suitable system for the structures arguing that the analysis of the building should be given a holistic view in a three dimension approach using computer guided simulations instead of the traditional planar systems.
Systems for iconic structures can be broadly divided into interior and exterior structures on the basis of distribution of its load resisting system. A system is said to be interior if its system that resists the lateral load is mainly located in the interior side of the building. In the other hand if the main part of the system that resists the lateral load is situated at the perimeter of the building then the system is referred to as exterior structure. Each of the categories however has its minor components located among the main components of the other category (Khan, 1973).
In this category there are two subcategories in which a system may resist its lateral load; these are the shear wall system and the moment resisting frames. The systems are assembled together into a larger intractable system. In the moment resisting frame category a grid of girders and columns are jointed together to form a stiff system that offers resistance to the load. The actual size of the vertical columns is basically determined by the overall gravity weight that accumulates on the columns. The load increases towards the base of the building and therefore the size of the columns are designed in such a way that they increase towards the base. The size of the horizontal girders is based on the stiffness of the grid and it ensures that the building takes and maintains an appropriate lateral shape. The shear wall system is very popular in iconic structures as a means of resisting lateral loads as a result of both wind and earthquakes. The shear walls are usually fixed at the base of the building and are therefore taken as vertical cantilevers. In cases where more than one shear walls are jointed together by a beam or a slab like in the instances of a window or a door opening, the overall strength of the system is more than the sum of the jointed individual walls because the jointing beam allows them to react as a single unit (Corrin & Swensson, 1992).
For iconic structures having thirty to seventy stories, reinforced concrete or steel braced cores are the most appropriate systems to resist lateral loads but are not efficient for greater heights. The core outrigger system is the best suited system for structures above seventy stories. The system normally constitutes of trusses contained in stiff steel structures or walls contained in firm concrete structures. For the super-tall structures the outrigger system can be jointed together with the exterior mega-columns to overcome the challenges brought about by closed tubular systems. The outrigger systems have been found to have great potential for super-tall structure of up to 150 stories. The system however, reduces the space for rent and also its lack of repetitive style in structure framing may give rise to problems during the erection process. These challenges can however be overcome by having a more prudent architectural and structural design. Due to its benefits the system has become very popular around the globe in most of the modern iconic structures as in the Jin Mao Building in Shangai China (Connor, 2003).
Iconic structures are very vulnerable to lateral forces occurring from wind and earthquake loads, for this reason the nature of the structural component around their perimeter is very significant. It is advisable to direct most of the lateral load to the perimeter of the structure to ensure effective resistance against the lateral loads. Among the most significant exterior structures is the 3-dimensional tube which is fixed all around the building’s perimeter to help in resistance against the lateral loads. The first such tube was designed and used by Fazlur Khan in the DeWitt Chestnut building in Chicago (Ali, 2001). This pilot 43 storey projects was successfully completed in 1965. Other Iconic structures that employ the same concept includes Sears Towers (Chicago), John Hancock Center (Chicago), Amoco building (Chicago) and the World Trade Center of New York destroyed during the September 11, 2001 attack (Connor, 2003).
The tubular concept can assume different types depending on the height and nature of the iconic structure. The most popular is the framed tube system usable in a building with columns that are close together and with beams that are jointed together in the entire exterior frames. The exterior columns should leave a space of between 1.5 Meters to 4.5 Meters from the centers and the spandrel beam should have a depth of between 600mm to 1200mm. Another system type of the tubular concept is the braced tube. The first application of the braced tube system was on the John Hancock building center in Chicago (Ali, 2001). In this method the perimeter columns are sparsely spaced unlike in the framed tube system, the columns are then stiffened by use of diagonal braces that helps to create wall like structures. The framed tube system has been found to be inefficient for iconic structures exceeding 60 stories because the web frames under such heights behaves like ordinary rigid frames. As a result the design of beam and columns is by bending action a fact that leads to large sizes of the columns which further undermines the cantilever attributes of the systems effectively aggravating the shear lag effect (Ali, 2001). This problem can be overcome by use of the braced tube system in which the perimeter frames are stiffened from their own positions. The braces of the braced tubes also bear the gravity weights induced by the floors of the structure acting as it inclined columns. The diagonals are interconnected to columns at every joint hence eliminating the shear lag effects in the entire system. It is therefore practical for the columns to be sparsely spaced and their sizes including that of the spandrels can be relatively small compared to those used in the framed tube system a fact that effectively allows for larger openings for windows. The other type of tube structure is the bundled tube system that consists of a clustered separate tubes interconnected together to form a jointed unit. For super tall iconic structures several framed tubes are necessary because of the wide base and the need to maintain practical height to width ratio. This ensures that the building’s flexibility is checked and that the swaying is not dangerously excessive. The use of a single framed tube significantly reduces the efficiency of the system due to the effects brought about by shear lag. The Sears tower which was the first iconic structure to utilize bundled tube system has 110 stories with 9 framed tubes of steel bundled together at the base of the building. The framed tubes are terminated at different stages of the building with only two remaining from the 90th floor to the roof (Ali, 2001).
Diagrid system has also emerged as an exterior feature of an iconic structure constituting upgraded versions of the tubular systems with more efficient structure form. The system is taking a center stage in the modern construction industry due to its enhanced aesthetic value. In the John Hancock building diagonal grids were placed in the whole exterior perimeter to enhance the structure of the building and create a unique aesthetic style. This form of relating the structural effectiveness and the aesthetics has generated interest with the modern designers of iconic structures. Super frame is yet another exterior feature that consists of mega-columns that comprises of enlarged braced frames that are fixed at the corners of the structure with linkages to trusses at every fifteen to twenty stories. In the other hand exoskeleton is an external structure that resists the lateral loads towards the building and are fixed outside the building line. It acts as the basic structure identification feature and its thermal properties must be considered in its design due to the outdoor frequent changes in whether (Moon, 2005).
Development trends of Iconic Structures
For many years people have always dreamt of erecting buildings that would penetrate the clouds. Such attempts have been made in the past centuries with the construction of such structures like the Great pyramid of Egypt that stood as the tallest iconic structure in the world for 4,000 years with a height of 146.5 meters. The race to reach the heavens have intensified in the modern times with the latest world record of the tallest iconic structure being the Burj Kharifa building in Dubai, Middle East with a height of 828 meters! The race stiffened with the crowding of population in the western countries making space for horizontal construction rare. There was a great need to maximize the use of the available space some of which was reclaimed from the seas. There have been critics from among the planners and other leaders who have continuously campaigned to have policies that would limit the heights of the buildings but it does not seem to work. Some cities like Toronto have in the past enacted some temporary by laws limiting the height of the building in fear life in excessively tall buildings. Paris has also enacted such restrictive laws to protect the aesthetic nature of the historic land mark iconic structures (Ali, 2001).
In America major architectural designs were designed and implemented especially in Chicago. Khan Farzul is particularly known for his remarkable contribution in the design and construction of these iconic structures including his last works on the sears towers that was the world tallest structure at his death in 1982. The trend has ever since been that of building higher and higher in to the skies as the need for more office spaces increases. From America the concept of construction of modern high rise structures spread rapidly in other big world economies. After the World War II the boom in the global economic status that was fueled by industrialization wave gave a big boost to the development of the iconic structures in countries like Japan and UK (Ali, 2001). The increased office space in the major cities influenced positively the economic growth a situation that enabled the sponsoring of more skyscrapers.
In our times countries that have not been in the picture as far as the construction of these leading iconic structures have come in rapidly and are actually taking the lead. China and the Far East countries seem to be in a contest with the Middle East countries in search for great heights (Moon, 2005). China has recently been enjoying a stable political atmosphere that has enabled the country to maintain a high economic growth making it one of the fastest growing economies in the World. China and India have the highest populations in the world and this growth in economy has also called for development of the infrastructure including office buildings, shopping malls and trading centers that would effectively cater for the population. With enough funding of the iconic structures, China has therefore joined the world in designing and construction of some of the tallest structures in the World (Abalos & Herreros, 2003).
Middle East has also joined the race for height after the economy of its countries was threatened by the global fluctuations of the oil prices calling for an urgent need to diversify the source of the national revenue. With enormous potential from the oil sector funding the construction industry in Middle East has taken a short time to rise to competitive international standards. Being pushed by the need to diversify the action in the Middle East in erecting iconic structures is taking the world in storm. While the development of these structures took slower pace in the regions like North America due to technological limitations and pressure from the critics, Middle East seems to enjoy the benefit of later timing to overtake the rest of the world. Middle East cities are rapidly growing due to the growing trade relations between the region the Far East and Africa. Due to its strategic positioning the area has become a hub of the trading activities between these regions. The iconic structures have therefore become a welcome development in the area due to the great number of traders that are frequenting the area every day. Though the region does not have a problem in space for horizontal construction the high rise structures offer the benefit of centralized services. In addition, the iconic structures of Middle East act as tourist attraction land marks that bring great numbers of tourists from all around the world. The increased numbers of tourists are also accommodated within the same iconic buildings. This has made the tourism industry to rise significantly as a foreign currency earner in the Middle East countries especially in the U.A.E. Though the iconic structures requires huge capital to complete and can take many years to pay back from the revenue earned from them, the success of the completed project and the yearning to remain at the top has continued to push the Middle East to remain in action (Moon, 2005).
While the early American race in iconic structure was basically on defining technology, every new erection in Middle East is received with a renewed sense of power and exposure. Eight of the top ten highest iconic structures in the world today are from Middle East and many believe that the region will have continual leading in the majority of the skyscrapers in the region going as per the current trend. The area is said to be have stable soils and it is not susceptible to strong earthquakes. Security issues of the structures have however continued to be debated by many especially after the collapse of the World Trade Center killing thousands of people. Designers are changing the materials of the structures with those that are more resistant to fire. With frequent typhoons in Asia the question of efficiency of the dampers is significant. There are also a number of seismic fault zones in Middle East region and its nearness to such regions as Iran whose geological status is highly susceptible to major tremors is a matter of interest. The Engineers have however repeatedly assured the world that all safety precautions have been observed in every stage of the construction of each super-tall iconic structure (Taranath, 1998).
Iconic Structures in the Middle East
Middle East region has a population of about 230 Million on an area of 82,880 Km2 that stretches from Egypt on the West up to UAE on the East (Harbi, 2004). Construction of iconic structures in this region is growing rapidly than any other regions in the World. Middle East has been highly dependant on oil resources in its development agenda for a long time. The recent global advancement and environmental issues have raised doubts on sustainability of oil as a driver of most of the World economies. There are debates and researches around the world towards reducing oil dependence and adopting better options that are environmentally friendly. These resolutions threaten the economy advancement in the Middle East where oil has been the backbone in every activity. While the iconic structures in the rest of the world was driven by lack of office and business space, the development of the structures in the Middle East is being driven by adopting alternative means of revenue earning especially from the tourism industry. The construction of the iconic structures is therefore going on in the spirit of achieving international standards in the quality of the materials used, having special aesthetic touch and achieving the highest skylines in the world. This would then attract millions of tourists and act as a leading foreign currency earner replacing the oil industry. Middle East has worked hard on this and has started bearing fruits with 8 of the 10 highest iconic structures in the world being found in this region (Harbi, 2004).
The competition in the Middle East currently is to build impressive and eye catching iconic structures that would win the highest world awards. The use of innovative materials and highly skilled workmanship has given rise to quality of structures that has no comparison in the world. The oil resources have remained the key financier of the ever rising structures in the region. Land in the entire region of the Middle East is cheap and therefore the authorities encourage horizontal construction. The explosion of the skyscrapers in the region was therefore not because of the limitations in space but a way of proving to the world that the region could achieve and set world standards with land marks that would set a new era in tourism industry. With the sudden change in the global approach in oil use at a time when only the world great economies were leading in development of the iconic structures, the Middle East governments started a hot pursuit in the investment in this area. In Holy Mecca however, the land is extremely expensive with the prices getting up to USD 40,000 per M2 near the holy mosque (Harbi, 2004).
The iconic structures construction boom in the Arabian Gulf countries has also been facilitated by the political and economic stability that the countries in the region have experienced for a very long time. The fluctuation of the oil prices therefore came at good time when the countries had already accumulated wealth and the political atmosphere was suitable to start campaigns in developing tourism industry and trade hubs through establishing unique iconic structures. The global instability in oil prices contributed in triggering the action of economic diversification and also sponsored the available option of developing the tourism sector. The region has therefore lately become a center for the world’s tallest iconic structures especially in Dubai and Riyadh. Such structures have as also come up in Tel Aviv in Israel as both residential and commercial buildings with others coming up in Cairo, Egypt. Study shows that from a sample of twenty Asian countries and cities with the highest number of high class iconic structures and active projects in such structures the Middle East countries have rapidly risen in the past view years to dominate the list. Some of the leading cities are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Amman, Manama and Jeddah. This iconic structures stand as pieces of artistic works and unique land marks that has attracted attention from all corners of the world (Harbi, 2004).
Dubai is the fastest growing city in U.A.E and a study carried out in 2004 indicated that the city already had 112 completed iconic buildings of international standards the city had 44 major projects under construction 3 that had been approved for construction and 17 others awaiting approval (Harbi, 2004). The city now boasts of the highest building in the World, Burj Kharifa with a height of 828 meters completed in 2010. The building has 162 floors that encompass a city complex within a city incorporating residential centers, commercial wings, hotels, entertainment centers shopping malls and many other features. Burj Al Arab 7 stars hotel is also in Dubai with 60 floors and its unique nature has made it to be the only 7 stars class hotel available in the world today (Ali, 2005). The hotel is an innovative art work that stands on a beautiful man made Island in a reclaimed sea that was built in 1999. The building has become one of the leading land marks in the city attributing greatly to the tourism sector. It has exposed exterior diagonal steel grids used acting as wind bracers on the artistic concrete structure that takes the form of a boat on sail. The Emirates office towers is another unique iconic structure in Dubai with 54 floors built on a combination of steel and concrete materials. Abbco Rotana Hotel which is the tallest specialized hotel in the world is also a remarkable iconic structure in Dubai that has become a significant land mark in the city. The structure is built by a combination of steel and concrete and has the potential of accommodating up to 684 guests at a time (Harbi, 2004).
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has a size of 2,240 Km2 and a population of about 20,785,955 the study on the iconic structure development established that 86 major structures have completed in the recent past with 18 others under construction (Harbi, 2004). Many such projects have already been proposed across the major cities of the kingdom and in Jeddah. 50 magnificent towers were also announced in the city of Mecca which are to constitute remarkable tourist attraction land marks as well as act in the promotion of the trading activities in the region. Jeddah was found to be leading in this region in the development of iconic structure taking 61% of the total activities. Mecca follows with 14%, Medina 11%, Riyadh 11%, Al Kobar 2% and Dharan 1% (Harbi, 2004).
In Riyadh, The Kingdom tower stands as a main landmark iconic structure. The tower is 300 M in height which constitutes of 200 meters of solid concrete from the base with an addition 100 meters of artistic U shaped steel made structure. The entire structure which was completed in 2001is enclosed in a unique aluminum curtain wall along the lower 200 m. Close to the Kingdom tower is another fascinating Al Faysaliyah Tower whose aesthetic value is added by having a globe sphere hanging from its top. The tower is built on a direct alignment to the kingdom tower to enhance the landmark features of the two structures. Al Faysaliyah Tower makes use of exterior A-bracers to connect its four corner beams at 4 different levels with the upper most level having galleries surrounding the bracers. The tower connects directly to a major shopping mall and a high class luxurious hotel making most of its operations to be done under one roof (Harbi, 2004).
There are some special features in the iconic structures in Mecca especially the Burj Al Gowar towers. The tower which is the tallest in the city stands on extremely expensive land in a very crowded city. The entire tower makes use of a sewerage system that is over 35 years old and recycles its water as a way of eliminating the excess load on the sewer lines. Due to the limited space the tower has no parking space that has forced architectures to formulate designs to create parking floors within the tower that can allow cars to be parked on top of each other (Harbi, 2004).
Future Conceptual Trends in Iconic Structures Development
The evolution of iconic structures has primarily been on the ways of increasing the efficiency in tackling the lateral loads without compromising the structures’ self weight requirements (Ali, 2005). The design of iconic structures in major cities requires prudent studies on aesthetic content that is relevant within the urban area in which the new structure is to be erected. The braced frames used in the past served as interior features and therefore served no aesthetic purpose. There is therefore a need to improve on the exterior braced frames to achieve the required aesthetic expressions for future buildings. With most of the activities in erection of the super iconic structures shifting from North America to Asia and Middle East it is important that the countries embracing the technology adopt their own architectural designs that would borrow from their rich cultural values in the construction industry. A good example is the Jin Mao building that retains the aesthetic expressions that are relevant to the city in which it is erected. There is also a need to improve on the aerodynamic elements of the future iconic structures to ensure that effect of wind forces to the structures is eliminated. This can be accomplished through appropriate treatments of structure forms and masses. A good example that can be developed further is the technology that uses rotating aerodynamic fan systems against an axis facing the main wind direction in such a way that they are made to rotate at the impact of the wind forces effectively reducing its impact. Another approach is such as used in the Kingdom Center in Riyadh in which an opening is left out through the building to allow some of the wind currents to pass through the building at zero impact.
In regions where the forces of wind are significantly high the aerodynamic fans driven by such winds can be used to generate electrical power that can be stored in the building. This will not only protect the building from damages from the lateral wind loads but will also be an environmental friendly way of utilizing the wind energy. Another way in which the iconic structure can become environmentally friendly is in utilizing solar sensitive cells in the finishing exterior features. With an enormous surface area exposed directly to the sun then the potential of the power that can be generated from the entire structure is great. This should be done carefully to ensure that the electricity generated from the exterior features of the building does not work against the building in case of electrical faults. The power should be enough to run the operation of the building with other out-sourced power connected as standby sources. With the rapid growth in Technology at a time when the world is suffering from the diverse effects of environment it is certain that any modern developmental projects including the construction of the iconic structures all over the world will consider environment issues among other technical structural and aesthetic issues.
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