nov 08 Architectural Record

Review: The Architecture of Adrian smith, 1980-2006, SOM: Toward a Sustainable Future

by Judith Dupre

A quick tour d'horizon proves that great height is an instant means of putting a place on the map. This monograph on the work of Adrian Smith, who has designed three of today's 10 tallest structures on earth, is a de-facto history of the elite supertall - towers that exceed 1,000 feet - a ferociously expanding building niche, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. With the Jin Mao Tower, a dazzling pagoda wrapped in a dense, elegantly wrought metal latticework, Smith reaches the apogee of the stand alone tower.

The Burj Dubai, now the tallest structure of any kind, achieves its height with a tripodal arrangement three structural wings that deflect the wind like cutwaters. The Burj is rooted in Smith's earlier designs, notable the tripartite Tower Palace III in Seoul and the inbuilt telescoping form of 7 South Dearborne in Chicago. Pearl River Tower in Buangzhou, China, the first skyscraper designed to produce its own energy, is now being developed by SOM, albeit with modifications to the original zero-carbon design by Smith and Gordon Gill, who left SOM in 2006 to start their own firm.

But Smith's work is not only vertical mastery. His master plans for Chicago's Lake Shore East and Millennium Park, which suprr3ed a building boom, suggests that traditional notions of context are being redefined. In the face of burgeoning urban populations and environmental crises, Smith's most enduring legacy may be his conviction that the tall building - one that responds to the larger global context of a site's weather patterns, topography, and geological conditions - is the most efficient means of effecting a new urban paradigm.

Copiously illustrated with photographs, plans and structural renderings, this book is simply beautiful. It is a paean to Smith's long career at SOM, and quite possibly, given the looped, squared and intertwined forms of recent towers - the book may also mark the swansong of the monolithic skyscraper.