Scott Duncan: Guiyang WTC Landmark Tower


Introduction by Carol Willis to the series and speaker is placed at the end of lecture and discussion.

(Scott Duncan)

Thank you Carol for all the kind words and it's indeed great to see you again. First I'd like to talk about some of the design thinking and some of the tools we use at SOM to design or build buildings in a more intelligent way and more energy efficient way.

Then, I'd like to take everybody on a bit of a journey, as Carol said, to China to visit three cities: Nanjing, Xian, and Guiyang, which are thriving metropoli in their own right, but don't even make the list of the top 10 largest cities in China. In fact, I thought I'd share some of what's going on outside of Shanghai, in Beijing and Guangzhou, places that you hear about more often. And I think part of this is a bit of self indulgence. I just missed the travel being cooped up here, in our COVID quarantine. And so we're going to do a bit of a trip.

Guiyang means “precious sun” as translated. Guiyang itself is symptomatic of cities in China that are growing in size, and being tied into really a global network that I'd like to talk about. It’s driving an unprecedented amount of growth. Just to establish some scale here, we see a timeframe of roughly 140 years of Manhattan itself. Lower Manhattan is shown at the top and Midtown at the center, but I think we're astonished to see the pace and scale of growth that has occurred in a place like Manhattan.

By comparison, looking at Shanghai, Shanghai has been here in a time period that it's spending roughly 35 years or 25 years even. We see Pudong going from a centrally low rise warehouse district into this cluster of iconic skyscrapers, and if you look out the distance you see the degree to which that urban area has been filled out. The cities that I'll take you to tonight, one being Nanjing over that period of roughly the mid 80s to 2020 grew its population by 450%. So, going from this city the size of Phoenix, Arizona to something more like the size of New York City, you can see sort of expanding into its hinterlands. And Xian, similarly, in the same timeframe, you can see how it went from this city in 1984 with a population of 1.4 million, to in 2018 with a population close to 8 million. This is something like the scale of Hong Kong at 550% growth.

And then Guiyang, which grows from a city of just under a million to three and a half million, roughly, which is something akin to the scale of Los Angeles, for example. And it's really only the beginning. We're looking at 300 billion square feet of new construction in the next 30 years, which will amount to roughly one quarter of all of the new construction in the world.And if we think about the carbon footprint, the environmental consequences of doing this, one has to consider that building and construction are in the neighborhood of 40% of all the carbon emissions in the world. So, if we do the math quickly we're looking at roughly 10% of a contribution to those carbon emissions from building and construction in China. So, it's important that we get this right, and do it in a responsible and material efficient way. Much of the focus is on cities like Shanghai and I think we all know and love the icons that are created there. But much of the construction and growth across China is occurring more at this scale, at low rise or mid rise high density, where infrastructure projects are being planned simultaneously with construction projects and there's almost an industrial scale to the way in which the cities are being produced.


For our first stop on the journey here, we'll go to Nanjing, which you'll see on the map here is indicated with the large red dot to the right. This is roughly two to three hours on a bullet train from Shanghai, so just in from the coast. Nanjing itself has this rich history, tradition, and urban fabric. There's a Confucian Temple, which you see there on the right. It's beloved for its history and is very popular as a tourist destination. And so, in expanding this city, the Old City Center, and this is quite typical for the way in which we see Chinese cities growing, the Old City Center is preserved, it is kept, with its intact structure. But, the planning and growth is, as here, done in a strategic way that often connects with transit outside of that city core. So, this new Jung Bay core area is an example of just such a master plan. In its master plan form, so this is not architecture per se, it's an idea about massing and urban scale. We see a mix of uses, an ecological overlay, a greenway network running throughout, and a sophisticated transit network, as well. This particular district is planned as China's first hub of healthcare, education, and research. So, there's a kind of economic master plan that underlies a lot of thinking and strategy.

I thought I would share a promotional video from the planning bureau just showing the kind of optimism, thinking about green finance, and in particular here, a center for gene research and associated industries. And again, the kind of activity with a metro system and comprehensive thinking about planning. And then, how does that fit into a larger regional approach, which then fits into the global approach and the global economy, ultimately. It's this ambition that we see again and again in so many of our projects that we're involved with here in China.

Here it is under construction, and SOM actually did the original master plan here around a relatively tight, street grid, which facilitates a pedestrian scale, which we're accustomed to in the US but is perhaps less common in China. It has a very urban quality to it and you get a sense from this photograph of the multi-layered complexity. all of the loading is handled below grade, there's a kind of comprehensive urban approach that's very difficult to imagine happening, certainly at this scale within the US.

We were fortunate to win a competition for the landmark tower that would mark the center of this district and you can see the design on the screen here. It is 500 meters tall and marks an axis that’s an important organizing feature within the master plan. It, from an early kind of conceptual approach, was rooted in Skidmores’ and Owings’ who were architects and Merrill who was an engineer. They were always thinking about the means by which a tower of this height, in particular, a dynamic 500 meters, would be constructed, conceived, and held up. And this became an inspiration for the tower form and this structural system, which utilizes a series of arches, which you can see periodically at height throughout the tower's form.

The strategy for creating stability at this height relies on locating the forces, redirecting the forces, to the perimeter and corners of the buildings where the building can be most stable, given its footprint. If you think about it, just by analogy, a bar stool to a coffee table for example. The broader base, the wider the stance, which gives much more strength. So, these arches that are shown here with the red arrows going through them carry the forces of gravity periodically for these trunches of 20 floors, into the large perimeter columns which, then, create that stability. There was a resonance between that arching form, and that city wall that encircles the historic center of Nanjing, and everyone in Nanjing is struck by the beauty of these arched openings that punctuate that city wall. So, in a way it is a reference to the structural heritage of Nanjing itself. It is important for us that those spaces within the tower become inhabited, and become feature rooms at the building height. Too often, buildings are just sleek and undifferentiated, and there was an idea here that, given this design and this structural approach, we could give some expression to that, and habitation, and the human scale, even if you add a distance to the overall towers. So, these are some of the sky lobbies and hotels. There was a hotel lobby for the top most segment of the building. The main arrival experience has one looking out through one of these arched openings and out to the city of Nanjing beyond. And similarly, at the ground level, the lobby is column free. The exception of those large piers to the right and left, that you see. And then again, the arch redirecting forces outward and creating that sense of arrival.


For our next stop on the tour, we'll go to Xi’an, which is technically Central China, but in many ways, feels like it's at the edge of the urbanized areas of China. Much of the west of China is desert, and very sparsely populated, and so, Xi’an itself has been that kind of historic launching point that points west.

It is also the origin of the Silk Road, the fabled Silk Road, and the birthplace of the Han Dynasty, which is basically the first emperor of the Chinese Empire itself. So, historically, it is a very important place. And that Silk Road, as I'm sure you're aware, was a trade route and a logistical route that really bound together much of Asia into North Africa. There is an important initiative that the Chinese government has launched that you may be familiar with, which is the One Belt One Road initiative. And full disclosure, there is not one belt. There's not one road. It is really a network of belts and roads that connects through maritime routes, as well as overland routes with the extended continent, and all the way to Europe. On the maritime side, there are container terminals of Provo River Delta, for example, one of the world's largest ports, being part of that and this translation railway project, which is stitching together China to all of Europe and North Africa. We can see some of the key destinations on that route, again. The lines here are notional to give an idea of the intent of this that was thought of as the 21st century Silk Road.

Xi’an itself has this important position as a launching point for that Silk Road. And so, in thinking of this landmark tower again, similar in scale to what I showed you a minute ago, it's the tower in Nanjing, which is 498 meters. We started with an idea about cardinal orientation that has a quatrefoil plan, which sort of gazes out in all directions. It's a pylon that marks this important crossroads and point of destination as well.

In thinking of the design itself, we use some very advanced tools in shaping it and optimizing its form. What you see here, (replaying animation) is a transformation of a square form to this quatrefoil shape that I described with four diagonal axes coming out. The optimization process that you just saw animated is something that is an output from a multi objective optimization process, which we call mu. It is a tool that we've developed together with MIT to maximize parameters, like floor plate efficiency, and minimize the amount of structural material that's required given a certain set of parameters for the floor plan, while also considering the core, the elevator core, and all of these service core functions. So, the resulting shape isn't something that we sketched per se, it was something that emerged again from this process of optimization and an iterative process of testing these different parameters to arrive at that shape.

The design that you see here clearly bears a resemblance to that form, and has a unique approach to its expression and structure. Once again, if we think about the table comparison or the need to create the broadest footprint and locate the greatest forces of gravity, as far as we can from the center of the tower, we developed a series of four blade like walls. As you can see in the image, the walls have a kind of silvery texture, and there is blue glass in between those flanges. It's almost like a wide flange beam with the flanges being those textured walls on either end. Those are actually the main structural walls holding up the tower at its edges. And we, in thinking about the articulation of the tower, looked to something very local, which is the Terracotta Warriors that you may be familiar with from some of the traveling exhibitions that these beautiful 1,500 year old sculptures have made in various places around the world. The Terracotta Warriors were an army of 8,000 statues of soldiers that were buried with the Emperor to protect him in the afterlife. And so, there was a great amount of effort put into this site in Xi’an, where the Terracotta Warriors have been excavated as one of the most visited tourist destinations in China. There's this beautiful kind of texture of the bronze armor that we see in those Terracotta Warriors. And again, it's hard not to think of the Terracotta Warriors for people who are familiar with Xi’an.

We brought some of this inspiration into our expression of architecture. And those planned walls that I described before, together with our structural engineering group and our digital design group, created this multi-objective optimization script that allowed us to better understand force flows, and then develop periodic moments throughout that flange wall, wherein the vertical forces were actually directed horizontally and transferred from one element to the other, which thereby made the structure more efficient. This is not something that we would necessarily intuit. But again, the tool revealed something that was ultimately more efficient. So when we talk about things like artificial intelligence in buildings, this is one application of something like that, as shown by the kind of K shape or the splayed H shape that one sees there (referring to image). And so we've made those spaces inhabited within the design of the building within elevator lobbies, transfer lobbies, and hotel functions as well. You can just get a sense of the scale of them as they become balconies from which one can take in the surrounding countryside, as shown in the city. The top, the crown of the tower, states this kind of cruciform crossroads geometric relationship, and once again, becomes a balcony or a point from which one can observe those trade routes extending in all directions.

The building is at the far left of the image, to the lower left. You can see that it is part of a network of highways, transit systems, and parkways that have all been integrated in the master plan. These photographs are from a few months ago and give you an idea of the general structure with the concrete core at its center, the floor framing, and then the perimeter walls going up where you can see the flanges at each of the four diagonal directions from the center of the core. The cladding of the building has two distinct characters, one that is glassy and the other, more solid and textured. Those structural walls, which are clad within the visual mockup that you can see on the screen here, take on some of those bronze tones to make a subtle reference to the bronze armor of the Terracotta Warriors. Therefore, there's a kind of subtle but important cultural reference being made, even in a super tall, to the history of the region.


Context: So the city that I'd like to take you to next is Guiyang, which is in South Central China. It is, if we talk about One Belt, One Road, a point of tangency between the two, between the maritime and the terrestrial or land base. This is because it is an important pathway point along the trade routes and national transit network that goes through China. It's a beautiful region, which has very dramatic topography. It's an eroded plane, and has this kind of very variegated set of hills and pretty spectacular architectural or engineering solutions to this very typography. It's frankly quite a difficult place to build, but it was this point historically from which the trade route could continue around some surrounding very tall mountains. This picture gives you an idea of some of the characteristic geography of the place. There are these limestone karsts, as they're called. They’re actually eroded out of the rock and create these other worldly environments. So that's the kind of context of Guiyang.

Our site for the project that I'll describe is shown here and looks pretty much (in this photograph), as it did when I first went to visit it. There was an incredible amount of a city that had already been constructed. Once again, in this model building outside of the city centre, and creating a poly-nodal city that many people are talking about and many cities are considering this new city, which is obviously not at the city center. And so, it was primarily well under construction, as roads and their infrastructure were starting to be built. This site at the center at the bend in the river, is where we were to design this new center for the city itself. You'll see a flat area that had been cleared, right at the end of the river, and then, a fairly steep side of the mountain, that extends up behind this site.

In thinking of the approach to the site, we look to some of the vernacular of the region, such as the Mao villages that would often claim the high ground and leave the low land for agriculture, and paradoxically often build up on the hillsides. And I think we really surprised our client, but very quickly, he was delighted with the idea that we would preserve the low lying part of the parcel as it was given for a public park at this bend in the river. And so, the plan that you see here has a series of curving or elliptical forms at the lower level, which is this public park with a series of pavilions within it. Then, a majority of these 22 buildings that are to constitute the center of this district, would occupy the hillside. The resulting composition is like this, wherein the hillside becomes occupied, and this is something that really resonated with the client because of its connection to the traditional urban forums that one sees in Guizhou and around Guiyang, the province, and in the city. The foreground then becomes this public room with lower rise buildings and recreation spaces, which are connected directly to a riverfront promenade. So, within the park, there is a feeling of a rolling landscape as well.

Periodically though, features as you can see are these domed elements, which give light to a series of recreational and shopping spaces beneath the park. So, the public spaces are occupied at two levels, both in the rooms and outdoors, and beneath a series of these indoor rooms that are for public use. On the hillside, there's a very steep topography. It was interesting to design these small scale buildings, which contained both office uses and shopping retail uses, and activate them at multiple levels, which is something that is relatively uncommon in retail.Because the hillside was stepping down so much, we effectively get two shop fronts. And so, the client was particularly taken back in thinking about how we would step down this hillside and create a very unique place for the people in the new district to visit, which is also something that is distinct because of its connection to the geography of the place. The client had one request, which was that he was concerned about the construction quality and in particular that the coffer construction in Guiyang was heavily driven by concrete. So while the tower to be at the center of this district is 380 meters, he had one request, which was that it'd be built in concrete.

(around minute 30)

We began thinking about that, and returned to, as we often do a lineup of topologies, this kind of taxonomy of different tower heights and different structural systems that are most appropriate for those heights of building. This was developed by Fazlur Khan, an esteemed SOM engineer, and is still very relevant for us today. Again, these shouldn't really be viewed as designs, but more as topologies. And so the Guiyang World Trade Center, sort of fits between two types: the tube and tube type system, which is a concrete system, and a trussed tube system, which we couldn't really do in concrete. So, we had a little bit of a structural predicament, if you will.

We look back to some of our own tube in tube construction, actually the first concrete tube structure here in Chicago 1965, The Chestnut Dewitt Apartments. You can see the first time, where that load bearing wall was the primary structure. And the building looks great today with these beautifully proportioned Windows within, a tab that stood the test of time. Buildings like One Shell Plaza in Houston, where the concrete tube is actually transformed and reflects the structural forces at play here. You can see a floor plan, where in the depth of the primary structural elements, those little colonists are increasing where the forces are being transferred from the core itself. That becomes a key aspect of the building's expression. Its neighbor across the street, the sibling to Shell Plaza, has a different take, where the concrete is sort of deposited if you will, at the lower portions of the building in this beautiful gradient that expresses the structural forces as they come down and open up to create a ground floor arcade. Another example in Chicago, the Brunswick Building, where the piano noble above the lobby is used as a structural beam or lintel to make that transfer. So you can see that we have many different approaches. The Burj Khalifa, many people don't realize is concrete itself. We were not averse to it and embraced this problem if you will.

Also, the environmental benefits of using concrete are substantial when one considers a comparison to a steel frame building. The chart here shows the primary building content components that go into a tower, and their relative embodied energy, which is the amount of energy that goes into their production. When we were working on this project, it was on the heels for a design we had done that was for a super tall that was really focused on reducing operating energy and it became clear that more than half of the building's energy goes into its construction to the extent where we could reduce the amount of embodied energy we would put there and by overall, reduce the energy profile of the building. And so, we wanted to think about how these exoskeleton projects, these concrete rigid monocoque shells, could be more intelligent. We looked to inspiration, whether it's from seashells or crustaceans, or even bone structure. The way in which material is smartly deposited is based on forces, and this is an ongoing theme in much of our recent work.

Our design, obviously much more simple, takes a tapering form to lay the floor plates smaller to create suitable hotel functions at the top, and create large regular rectilinear square plan floor plates at the bottom. The shape is transforming from a soft square with radiused corners, to an oval at the top of the building. And so, it was this kind of optimization process that we went through on an interior floor area. The size of this lattice is this structural exoskeleton that goes around the perimeter. The columns are actually subtly reducing floor by floor through their height, so there's a kind of lightening of the structure as it goes skyward. It's a mixed use building, so the lower roughly half to two thirds, is an office building and then the hotel occupies the top third of the building. The floorplan is quite unique in that this would be a floor plan for the office, for example, where the corners are these radiused edges. But the surprising thing is that the interior is otherwise column-free. There's no interruption in the office space by columns, and the glasses’ insets of those red boxes are relatively small, considering the height of the tower, frequently spaced concrete to structural columns, which make up the structural skin.

The exterior wall was articulated to express that with slab edges and heaving profiles of the colonnettes, which serve the purpose of communicating the flows of gravity, but also have an important role in the environmental performance of the building because of this fact of pushing this exoskeleton structure into the plane of the glass even beyond it. Our sustainable engineering studio is prone to pointing out that more opaque towers are better. By better, we mean better energy performers. So much of what we're building in our cities is our glass towers, and while I think New York Mayor de Blasio’s comment about glass buildings maybe wasn't praised properly, there's some truth to it, in that if we want to be serious about better performing buildings we need to consider something other than all glass buildings, and this would be an example of that. To talk a little bit about the light levels and daylighting strategy within the building and see what this additional opacity of the exoskeleton does, we looked at the analysis. I'll draw your attention to the left of the screen here, where we see that soft square of the plan and a red ring around its perimeter. That zone is the overlit zone of the plan, which is essentially unusable and is taking out a lot of heat gain. Therefore, it would require excessive cooling and, paradoxically, lighting because it is very likely that the shades would be drawn.

By comparison, the exoskeleton which you see in an abstract form here again on the left, dramatically reduces that overload zone. We get light levels on the interior that are much more balanced, much more comfortable, and are not as prone to the variations that we see throughout the day. So there is just an inherent amount of daylight savings, and yet it's not a dark building and the views are not inhibited by those perimeter colonnettes that form the exoskeleton. This was just a photograph that I took on site back when we could travel, and it gives you a sense of what that's like. For those of you who follow structural engineering of tall buildings closely, there are no outriggers in this building. So that, again, getting to our clients’ wish to keep this simple, really made for a less complex construction and save time in the construction with it's a highly repetitive system throughout. That series of colonnettes becomes a filigree down at the lobby level, and adds a kind of texture filter at the lobby, bringing light in a series of vertical lines in a very tall space at the ground level. The relative clarity of the exterior structure, not impeding the floor plate, allowed us to have spaces like this, where the pool for the hotel wraps around and has a very clear edge coming out to meet the perimeter columns. I look forward to getting there again when we can travel. And here, you see the tower sitting on that public park.

What I'd like to do is open up to questions. But before we do that, I’d like to share a few images of the project now under construction. These images were from a couple of weeks ago, so they’re very recent. You can see the cladding being applied to the structural skin, and the kind of variation that occurs as the tower begins to taper. I didn't talk too much about the buildings that sort of flanked the tower. It’s a 24- hour city, so it includes many residential buildings, including these that you can see here on either side (referring to image). The two in the foreground have a series of terraces at the top and very special apartments that have panoramic views out on those terraces. And here, we see we're flying over the park, and you can see there were some beautiful historic buildings in the traditional Chinese style that were constructed by local artisans, and they're just complete works of art, they're amazing. Some of the openings you see here in the park, and the domes that I referred to before are giving light to those recreational centers. Below, you'll note at the lower part of the screen here, that there are buildings in a kind of French style. The client was very enamored by some of the French concession architecture of Shanghai and wanted to bring some of that into the waterfront promenade, but perhaps the bend in the river. There's a hotel that's just here on the left that has a courtyard in each of its major loads and sort of adds a human scale to the buildings that surround the park, something that's just more comprised of stone, natural materials, and the human scale.

I understand that Carol and the Skyscraper Museum Team will make these videos in their entirety available on the website after the talk. But I'd like to thank everybody for their time and we'd be happy to answer any questions.


(Carol) That was fabulous. Scott, thanks so much!

We got bonus towers, even before Guiyang, and it's great to see the progress on Guiyang, which is very advanced, compared to what I saw some five or six years ago. I think you spoke about it as a project that was just underway in a talk that you gave for CTBUH. It's amazing to see how much you realized those ideas that were still in the planning stage, including the sustainability features of the tower. Also in the phenomenal scope of the whole development. I wonder if you could help us understand a little bit more about the client developer and how he operates on this scale of investment. In addition, as I tell other people that they can put their questions into chat, could you also tell us with that charge of "economy and concrete" that he gave to you at the very beginning, was that realized in cost savings in the tower? Were there in fact per square foot cost savings? How does the tower relate to the rest of the development, the kind of complimentary value-added proposition of a landmark tower, and then to the wider development?

(Scott) Yeah, it absolutely did bear out the economic or efficiency promises. The construction team had no issues with any of the superstructure work. We struggled with the cladding, because it's curvilinear and varies over the height of the tower, but through work and through many mockups, we got that sorted out as well. I think this tower plays an important role in creating an epicenter for what is a new outlying district for central Guiyang. The chairman that I was talking about before is a very important person in Guiyang. Growth – I talked about 350% growth – is the actual physical expansion of the city and is of political consequence because of the scale and decisions that could be made there. The method of delivering projects in China is quite different from here, in that the government is really working together with the private industry and private developer to realize projects like this. I'm laughing because I think about how many of our clients here in the US would love to have that level of cooperation and support from the government in undertaking projects like this. The client was a person of political importance. He was very important and influential, and I think also wanted to do the right thing.
I think his decision to create a park at the center of the plan was, in part, motivated by his desire to "give back." This cluster of historic buildings that he created (SOM didn't design them) are traditional house forms. They had a texture, and I think his motives were to create a successful public space, and a new one, all at once. We're getting close, and we'll see once it opens what the ultimate success will be.

(Carol): We are getting a lot of questions. One is about the embodied energy and the life cycle and sustainability issues. I know that you spoke in the past about the relative value of concrete in terms of having less embodied energy than steel, so could you elaborate a little bit on those points?

(Scott) First of all, all concrete buildings of scale have some amount of steel in them. To be clear it's not obviously all concrete. But in the case of a steel building, it almost always is all steel. So, the amount of energy to fabricate the steel, to smelt the ore, or recycle the steel, is so much higher than what's required for the processing of concrete. If one wants to reduce the amount of embodied energy in a building, it almost always points toward the use of concrete. So, we think that concrete is unfairly criticized as a material, it's really all how you use it. And the target, maybe to talk about a concrete structure being light, the one that we designed in Guiyang is very thin for a tower of its height. The amount of material is much lower than it would be in another structural system for example. So, it is how you use it, but it is a good place to start to reduce the overall embodied energy profile of the building.

(Carol): I see a few other questions: ‘China has a limit of two children per family for many years and cities are growing so fast, where are all these people coming from?’ is one question. If you just want to talk about urbanization and that explosion and how it's impacting the commissions that you're getting, that would be great.

(Scott): Yeah, I love being in the middle of dynamic building environments like China's. They're having their industrial revolution now and the 300 billion square feet that I described at the beginning of the talk is real. And to whoever asked that question, it's exactly because of the scale of the population and the fact that now we're seeing an expansion of births, and a young population as well. There's really no end in the short term to this growth. And as designers and engineers, it's therefore a fantastic environment to be testing out new tools, as those that I shared today. Also, to do true city planning. We're always, by the way, partnered with the planning bureaus of the cities where we're working. It's not as if we’re just working in a vacuum. There's a great deal of infrastructure and knowledge that undergirds all of the work that we do. It's a genuine collaboration. But I think to the person's question, I would just agree, it's astonishing to think where we're going in China.

(Carol): A kind of corollary question im the Char asks: Where are all the companies coming from that are going to populate these buildings? There has certainly been criticism in the past about the overbuilding, suggesting that in some of the cities buildings seem not to be finding tenants. There seems to be a kind of rush to build without a commensurate development of a corporate culture. So do you want to talk about inventing spaces for future work, and how that impacts the business world?

(Scott): Yeah, I think much of that criticism is actually well founded. You know there's a lot of space that has been built on a promise. I've worked in China for 12-15 years and I've continued to just be impressed with the level of resolve, I'll say. So, in other words, the amount of upfront investment that China is willing to make in cities, and even green infrastructure or autonomous vehicles, is impressive by anybody's lights. I guess to answer the question, I'm sure there'll be some areas that never materialize, but I actually do have faith based on what I see, that development will be utilized. Those cities will see their ultimate kind of realization in habitation. It's going to take some time. What's happening now in tech is particularly interesting, the Alibaba pay app. has become the number one downloaded app in the App Store these days. And so, it gives you a sense of the potential of the market. I'm a designer, I'm not an economist, but what I can tell you is from where I sit, it's quite impressive and likely to follow through on transforming and succeeding. So, that's what I would say but again, it's hard for me to comment too much on politics or economics.

(Carol): Yes, part of the reason we lined up all of the people speaking in the architect series is so that we can understand the genesis of the design. But also, to understand the way that architects operate and interact with clients who are local, who have a vision about the future of their city or their country. We can see the connection they have, not just to their culture, but to their governments, and into their economies. And we can see through your experience of meeting these people who are the movers and the shakers of the society how they are going to shape the built environment for the next 20 or 50 years. Architects are in a fairly unique position, and there's only a small number of architects like you who are "in the room where it all happens." You’re invited in competition, or you're awarded a commission, and then,you begin to work with a client. Jamie von Klemperer talked about this last week in his lecture as well, about how one works with the CEO or the developer to find and then realize a vision about what they want the skyline of their city to look like, or what their corporation is supposed to communicate in a tower which is so conspicuous within the city that it will change the look of the place. So tell us, what is your experience of being invited to be a futurist, in a room where you have to balance the business and the pragmatism of having an economical structure, but also making sure that you actually are securing this commission, and can bring value added about ideas about how architecture shapes a community or society.

(Scott): Yeah, I have the best job in the world. You're absolutely right. We go in and get to shape these amazing and important cities at an important time in their evolution. By the way, to everyone on the call, I don't only work in China, I'm working here in the US, Southeast Asia, in the Middle East, and many places around the world. I often think about the kind of freedom of approach that is taken in China. There's a kind of rigidity, I feel, in many areas of the world where we're working when it comes to placemaking and architecture or super tall tower design. There's a sort of formula that's established, and I think one of the things that's exciting for designers, architects, and engineers working in China, is that if you can make an argument about efficiency, and prove it out, it will likely be embraced. There's an open mindedness, which might be surprising to hear from people, but there’s an open mindedness to new ideas if they're well founded and rooted in engineering. I think it's true in some other cities or other markets, but it's particularly true in China. I like that ability to make measured arguments and present sensible ideas and then ultimately to be able to execute them together with the infrastructure that I described before. It doesn't just stay on paper. These master plans, as you saw in the images, are actually happening. Urban planning in the US by comparison is relatively tame, the scale is just something completely different. So, yeah it's exhilarating and it's fun, and getting to the carbon story, I think that if we can identify solutions that work in one project and can be applied at a scale across multiple projects and influence the way that designs are being done in China, then we will have done something good. It's a substantial amount of the built environment that will be made in that country within the next decades.

(Carol): We're getting to be over our time and we could go on for so much longer with discussion on any one of the fascinating points of this project, especially Guiyang, which connects to my particular interest in concrete. It's something that we're going to talk a lot about, and in particular with the SOM engineers who will appear in the second half of the program. But tonight, was our topic by my request to Scott was to talk about urbanism and to talk about the exponential growth through China, as we will be seeing in several of the lectures that follow him in the series.

I thank you Scott for relegating what I know is so important to you – the sustainability analysis and the data that you bring to projects – and bending to this idea about the larger forces of change in places that are less known to us, the places we don't see so much. You've given a lot of dimension to that particular idea tonight, and I hope that we're going to continue to explore it over the series, as we move into engineering and to other issues that help us define what's happening in the 21st century with the supertall. Thank you everybody for your patience tonight as we go a little bit into overtime and thanks so much, Scott Duncan, for a really wonderful presentation.

Everybody, we will see you in two weeks when Brian Lee of SOM, also of the Chicago office like Scott, will talk about his extraordinary project, the Tianjin CTF Tower. Good night, Scott. We will see everybody in two weeks!


(Carol) Hello, everybody. It's six o'clock, and so we're about to begin the second in our series, WORLD VIEW: Designing Global Supertalls. Welcome to our zoom-enabled worldview, where in little boxes we talk about traveling to parts international, to far flung cities, to places that we don't know, and most of us have never seen.  Tonight that is Guiyang, a Chinese city of some 4 million people.

We’re going to learn a lot tonight, and that's the purpose of this lecture series--to try to get up to date on some of the vast changes in the world of skyscrapers and supertalls built in the past two decades, but especially in about the last 10 years. Sometimes, these are very conspicuous buildings like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is the world's tallest. But also, ubiquitously, in Chinese cities and in other cities around the world. So I'm going to, just very briefly before I introduce our speaker tonight Scott Duncan, show a couple of other slides of some of the towers that are the focus of our lecture series and are featured in our exhibition Supertall 2020.

Last week, Jamie von Klemperer talked about two supertalls he designed. The China Resources Tower in Shenzhen is the one you see on the far left of our lineup of featured towers, as well as the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, which was featured in the previous exhibition of supertalls way back in 2011. More than 30 of what we call supertalls (380 meters or more) have since been added to the list since 2011. And the second one in the lineup that you see here, Scott Duncan will talk about tonight. It is his design for the Guiyang World Trade Center Landmark Tower, which is the landmark in the center of a complex master plan of 22 buildings that are all now simultaneously under construction. Scott will show us some footage of the towers under construction at the end of his talk.

Tonight I'm particularly pleased to introduce Scott Duncan. It's with pride and great affection that I introduce him to you tonight because, with pride in particular, Scott is the designer, not just for this particular tower, which is the first one that he's got under his belt as a supertall, he also has another one that’s just beginning construction in Nanjing and he has designed several more.  I've known Scott for a little more than 20 years, since he was a junior associate at SOM, working on his very first project out of Harvard Graduate School of Design. His first project was to oversee the drawings and the development under Roger Duffy, the principal architect, of The Skyscraper Museum. Scott was our day-to-day architect. He made all of the drawings, he detailed the cases, the very cases in which the model of the Guiyang Landmark Tower now sits proudly as one of the featured buildings in our show. So, with those particular bookends of his first job, and now his first individually-designed skyscraper included in an exhibition in the museum, it seems quite a journey, as they say.

So speaking of journeys, we want to go with Scott through his explanation of getting the job in Guiyang, the challenge of coming to terms with a city that is growing phenomenally and astronomically in scale. And then, he’ll speak about some of the other places that he's working on in China, which are third tier cities, by the Chinese metropolitan definition, and which present opportunities and challenges that are somewhat different than the more well known global centers and global cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong. So here's Scott Duncan.