Nov 6, 2013

TID Tower | Excerpt from Log 29

We've previously talked about the not yet completed TID Tower in Tirana by 51N4E and have many times speculated its possible future. You can read a more in-depth piece on this project on Log 29. Here's an excerpt:
TID Tower
September 2013
Excerpt from Log 29, Fall 2013 
The form of the tower and the cultural intentions that accompany it successfully frame the otherwise Sisyphean construction process, which mainly consisted of getting rid of bad imitations of international building techniques and replacing them with simpler solutions. With this context, Tirana offered us the opportunity to design and build in an environment not found anywhere else in Europe. Together with the client, we had to find and create local capabilities. The primary challenge was to verify that everyone involved in the building process was imagining the same thing. While the contractor could read our drawings, he could not extrapolate from them, which often resulted in wrongly executed elements that subsequently had to be dismantled. Architectural drawings had little purpose in this context, other than as legal documents for the municipal authorities. After a year of struggling with inadequate communication we managed to establish a specific way of working, which can be described as "collaborative drawing": projecting plans on a whiteboard for all team members to sketch over freely. This extremely physical way of adapting working drawings became the true motor of the process and resulted in an unexpected range of high-quality but low-tech solutions. 
During this process, the tower became more and more basic. After budget constraints forced us to abandon our initial facade proposal--a brick claustra surface hiding an inner glass facade--we found a simple but effective alternative using standardized elements to clad the tower. Albanians are magicians with on-site cast concrete. Trying to cash in on this craftsmanship, we developed a design concept for the facade whereby the morphing circumference of each floor plate was uniquely augmented by gradually shifting triangular protrusions that resemble the teeth of a circular saw. The serrations at the base are the most angular, gradually flattening into a smooth line by the top floor. As a result of these protrusions, the perimeter of each floor is the same length, making it possible to clad the entire facade with uniform precast concrete panels. The panels are roughly half a floor high and are connected directly to the floor plates but not to each other, creating alternately standing and hanging sunscreens. This rough skin (half open, half closed), in combination with the generic layout of the floors, allows the tower to accommodate either housing or offices. The gap between panels offers sufficient construction tolerance, yet is small enough to make the paneled facade look continuous. Its texture reflects Tirana’s light in such a way that the TID Tower does not necessarily symbolize anything, but rather simply highlights an environmental, and therefore cultural, condition. 

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