SOM

At a quarter mile high, the Al Hamra Firdous Tower will be the tallest building in the country

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has recently added a new landmark to the skyline of Kuwait City: the Al Hamra Firdous Tower, now the tallest building in the country, peeks through the clouds with its quarter-mile-high torqued form. Unless record height is achieved, ‘supertall’ skyscrapers rarely sustain attention these days, but SOM’s latest tower has received notice for its unusual appearance. The Al Hamra Firdous Tower is the only skyscraper with an asymmetrical exterior; the structure wraps around like a robe, choosing to conceal or reveal depending on one’s angle of approach.

The Al Hamra Firdous Tower is notably constructed with malleable concrete as opposed to traditional steel. At ground level, curving concrete buttresses interlace to create stunning structural nets that again conjure allusions to fabric. The crisscrossing forms evoke the structural integrity of the Gothic as well as the latticed, exposed steel arms of architecture at the dawn of the industrial revolution.

In SOM’s design, 500,000 tons of concrete weave upwards to form a folded, monolithic tower culminating with a sharply asymmetrical, winged crown. The exterior of the ‘robe’ embraces the shiny, smooth façade of other buildings of its class, but its interior aspires to project a different image. Not only is this partially enclosed facade paved in lusterless concrete, but the windows also appear deeply set and unevenly coffered, casting a pattern of shadows on the matte surface that not only suggest the designs of Middle Eastern textiles but also make the building appear massive. In doing so, the design refuses to fully conceal its core material and recalls a more vernacular building practice. With an unexpected turn to concrete, the Al Hamra Firdous Tower respects its site and innovates accordingly, creating an impressive building to match its own impressive views.

All images courtesy SOM.

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Workers in downtown London head to their jobs.
    POV

    How Cities Can Rebuild the Social Safety Net

    In an age of employment uncertainty and a growing income gap, urban America needs to find new ways to support its citizens.

  2. Transportation

    The Diverging Diamond Interchange Is Coming to a Road Near You

    Drivers may be baffled by these newfangled intersections, but they’re safer than traditional four-way stops.

  3. The Presidio Terrace neighborhood
    POV

    The Problem of Progressive Cities and the Property Tax

    The news that a posh San Francisco street was sold for delinquent taxes exposes the deeper issue with America’s local revenue system.

  4. Poverty

    L.A. County’s Latest Solution to Homelessness Is a Test of Compassion

    Residents can get up to $75,000 to build a “granny flat”—if they open it up to a homeless family.

  5. Communal space at classroom in Espoo, Finland.
    Design

    Why Finland Is Embracing Open-Plan School Design

    The country’s educational successes are undeniable, but simply demolishing school walls alone won’t necessarily replicate them.