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Revolutionary buildings

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:40 pm    Post subject: Revolutionary buildings Reply with quote

Revolutionary buildings
Engineering: Clever construction techniques could usher in a new architectural era in which entire buildings are capable of rotating

Mar 5th 2009 | The Economist

IN BIOLOGY almost nothing revolves freely. An owl's head, for example, can twist so far round that it faces backward, but when the bird wants to look forward again, it must turn its head back the way it came. There is a reason for this. Animals are wired up internally by blood vessels, nerves, intestines and so. Evolution has not yet come up with a way of keeping these links intact while allowing different parts of the body to revolve independently of one another. And this is not just a biological problem. Even human engineers have difficulty with it, which is one reason why revolving buildings—with their need for water, sewerage, gas and electrical connections—are so rare. But that could now be changing.

The simplest approach to such a building is what might be called the owl solution—in other words, incomplete rotation. This allows fixed but flexible connections to be used. Some years ago Bill Butler, an amateur architect, used this trick in a house in Snow Creek, California. Water and gas are delivered, and sewage removed, via vertical steel pipes in the non-rotating base. Rubber hoses connect the uprights to their mates in the mobile part of the building. The house's ability to rotate is thus limited only by the length of the hoses at full stretch. In the case of Mr Butler's dwelling, that allows it to sweep out an arc of 120º.

Two other Californians, Al and Janet Johnstone, however, have gone the whole hog. Their house, designed by 3sixty Technology of Henderson, Nevada (of which Mr Johnstone is a director) and built in the aptly named neighbourhood of Mountain Helix, revolves completely, once an hour.

Rather than using rubber hoses to connect the stationary and moving parts of the building, 3sixty's ingenious plumbing system employs horizontal ring-shaped pipes made of steel. Or, rather, it employs two ring-shaped half-pipes that rotate with respect to one another (the lower one remaining fixed while the upper one revolves along with the building). The joints between the half-pipes have rubber seals to stop the contents leaking, and each half-pipe has a vertical pipe connected to it, to introduce or dispose of the fluid concerned. Electricity, meanwhile, is delivered via a conductive brush that sweeps around a metal ring in the stationary base.

Electricity, of course, is needed to turn a revolving building. But if the building is well pivoted to reduce friction, that requires surprisingly little power. The motor that moves Mr Butler's house consumes about 370 watts; the Johnstones'—which is solar-powered—a bit over a kilowatt.

A couple of bespoke houses does not amount to a trend. But larger commercial developments are under construction, too. In April, for example, the world's first owners of revolving flats will begin moving into the Suite Vollard in Curitiba, Brazil, built by Moro Construções Civis. Each of the 11 apartments occupies an entire circular floor, costs about $550,000 and revolves at the occupant's command, in either direction, once an hour. (Moro has sidestepped the plumbing problem: the kitchens and bathrooms are located in the building's stationary central core.) Rogério Kffuri, Moro's head of sales, says the firm has signed contracts with developers in America, Canada, Japan, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE, in particular, seems keen on this sort of novelty. Dubai Property Ring, a local developer, plans to build a 30-storey block of flats called 55° Time Dubai. Instead of revolving platforms or individual floors, the entire structure will turn once a week, a pace that Tav Singh, the project's manager, calls “dignified”. The owl problem, meanwhile, will be solved using a system similar to 3sixty's.

The most ambitious proposal yet comes from David Fisher, an architect based in Italy. He wants to build a skyscraper called the Dynamic Tower in Dubai. It would have 80 independently rotating, non-circular floors. This would give the tower a continuously changing shape. Solar panels and horizontal wind turbines between the floors would generate the power needed to turn it.

Mr Fisher has provided few details. But Antony Wood, head of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an industry association based in Chicago, says technological limitations no longer rule out such towers. If the Dynamic Tower is not built, Mr Wood says, the explanation will not be an unavoidable lack of know-how, but an old-fashioned lack of money.
The Suite Vollard

The Suite Vollard is a futuristic residential building in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. It is the world's first spinning building.

Opened in 2001, the Suite Vollard was constructed by Moro Construções Civis LTDA, and Fritz Georg Gehbauer. The architect was [Bruno de Franco]. It was built in the Ecoville District in Curitiba, and has since became a famous, well-known building in the city.

The floors each have double sheets of glass on the façade, tinted silver, gold, or blue, depending on the floor. This provides "a spectacular effect" as the floors rotate in opposite directions. The bottom floors of the building are mostly an executive center.

Each of the 11 floors, comprising the majority of the building, can rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise, with a full revolution of 360 degrees taking an hour. The building was a case study that was used to gather data for more than thirty companies in Brazil, as well as one in Germany. Apartments sell for $400,000 each.

The Suite Vollard apartment complex is named after Pablo Picasso's collection of etchings, the Vollard Suite, which was held on display when the building was inaugurated.


    This building is the only one of its kind in the world, as each of the 11 apartments can rotate 360º.
    Each apartment can spin individually in any direction. One rotation takes a full hour.
    The facades are composed of double sheets of glass, in different colors (blue, gold, and silver) on different floors. This gives a spectacular effect as the floors turn in different directions.
    The apartment rings rotate around a static core used for building services, utilities, and all areas which require plumbing.
    Suite Vollard was a case study for more than 30 companies in Brazil and one from Germany.
    Each apartment was sold for approximately R$ 400,000.00 ($US 300,000.00).
    The first two floors of the building are an Executive Center.
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