Architectural Pornography: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower

231333-kingdom-tower.gifSaudi Arabia announced its Kingdom Tower, a skyscraper aiming for a new world height record of over 1 kilometer high in the sky.

Boys, boys, boys, when will you learn that size doesn’t matter as much as performance? Next Azerbaijan broadcast plans to top that with their own mile-high cloud-puncher. Then Pakistan upstaged both with their own biggest building boast. And performance brings us full circle back to Team Saudi who just commissioned the project delivery team for their kilometer-high Kingdom Tower. Is this engineering ingenuity or architectural porn?

Actions speak louder than empty press releases. Obama may have scratched another trip to the moon, but, regrettably, the terrestrial race towards the heavens is on.

Green Prophet’s told you all about Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower. First conceived years back, geological testing commenced in 2008 for the planned one-mile-high structure. That initial engineering resulted in a down-sizing of tower height, which still bests Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Now Kingdom Tower is off the theoretical and into production. Its staying power lies in its wider context of regional development and in the deep pockets of its owner, billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Prince likes his things big.

The Tower is the centerpiece of an ambitious urban development project called Kingdom City, a phased construction on 2 square miles of undeveloped waterfront property near the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Once the Tower’s erected, they’ll be multiple phases of expansion and major infrastructure works to support it all.

British-based EC Harris and Mace have hooked up to provide project, commercial and design management for the $1.2 billion development which will break ground later this year. (Construction, by Bin Laden Group, is planned to wrap up in six years.)

This team’s delivered over 100 skyscrapers including London’s Shard and Abu Dhabi’s The Landmark. Adrian Smith, the American architect behind the Burj Khalifa and New York City’s Trump Tower, is the designer.

Stack up those four skyscrapers and you could run a 5k race along their facades without ever treading on something sustainable. Despite their sky-high project price tags, they are devoid of innovative design elements that would reduce their gargantuan environmental impacts or enhance occupant safety.

Consider the waste generated, the power and water consumed, the resultant road congestion, and the devastating impact on local real estate. Consider the thousands of birds who die in collisions with the acres of tower skin (ornithologist Daniel Klem, Jr. estimates that collisions with skyscraper glass kills up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone). Are Jeddah emergency services equipped to handle fires a kilometer above ground? Think of the attraction for splashy acts of terror.

Then read through their project press releases. You’ll find nothing to address those previous questions, but spot a few ho-hum green features including proximity to mass transit, high performance thermal glass, and efficient plumbing fixtures. The same can be said about my little apartment which was built over 25 years ago.

Middle Eastern mega-projects tend to chase world records in terms of manly dimensions or bloated price tags. What would it take to incite project teams to hit new heights in green technologies? Buildings made from smart materials that don’t deplete already-stressed water resources, with on-site renewable energy-generation. International media would eat it up, and it would be a powerful project differentiator for all stakeholders to lay claim to, with bragging rights to the host nation.

Call me Miss Cranky, but these competitions to see whose is biggest are better suited for the locker room and not the world construction stage.

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6 thoughts on “Architectural Pornography: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower”

  1. Maurice says:

    I agree the Daryl. It’s a ridiculous waste of money. What are they trying to imitate – the Tower of Babel? A quick flight into the ionosphere can show anyone that Heaven is a still along way off.

  2. Daryl says:

    Couldn’t the money spent on humongous building be used instead to improve the health of the people and the environment….not just the wealthy and the corporations. I’d think the local economy would come first. Global economics has wreaked havoc on the people of this world only to help those at the very top.

    1. We agree with you, Daryl.

  3. JTR says:

    Indeed I am sad to see more than 7 billion people and their relentlessly growing economy overwhelm the biosphere with ever-growing tons of pollution. Hopefully, more people are recycling today and family planning education may spread around the World in time to stop the overpopulation, ecocide and extinction that otherwise awaits all of us unless we change.

  4. klem says:

    “All towering buildings and spires represent the male member, partly because they’re all built by men.”

    What rubbish. If that were true, I’d hate to see what kind of buildings women would design.

    “Planet Earth is dominated by male supremacy, endless wars and threatened with self-extinction.”

    Planet earth? I think you mean the thin layer of life on the surface. And life isn’t ‘t threatened with self extinction, extinction is a constant threat to all living things. Humans and most mammals are only one virus away from extinction at anytime.

    Wow what a depressing view of the world you have JTR, how do you get along each day? Get help.

  5. JTR says:

    All towering buildings and spires represent the male member, partly because they’re all built by men. I first understood that when viewing the Empire State Building in New York City. Planet Earth is dominated by male supremacy, endless wars and threatened with self-extinction.

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