Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Is Chongqing’s ‘horizontal skyscraper’ the answer to overcrowding?

A 42nd-floor ‘skybridge’ in the dazzling Raffles City project could help solve overcrowding — or will it simply let the super-rich escape to the skies?

By Helen Roxburgh  /  The Guardian, CHONGQING, China

An army of 6,000 construction workers is hard at work at a large site overlooking the conflux of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers in the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing. Eight skyscrapers are rising from the river banks: two above 350m and six above 250m.

Raffles City Chongqing, a project headed by the architect Moshe Safdie, will boast 134,000m2 of homes, shops, offices, entertainment, transportation links and a public park. It also features a more unusual claim to fame: a “horizontal skyscraper” 300m in length, stretching across four of the main towers at the 42nd floor. With the building situated in an earthquake zone, it “floats” on top of the towers to create the necessary sway.

No landmark development in China is complete without a world record, and Raffles City Chongqing has the highest skybridge linking the most towers. With an adjacent pair of towers connected by smaller skybridges, workers and residents can move around the eight-tower development without needing to return to ground level.

“It’s going to become like the heartbeat of the city,” Safdie said of what he describes as his most complex project to date. “In these dense cities like Chongqing there’s no room for big public parks [on the ground], so we have to lift them into the sky.”

Chongqing is certainly dense. Outside the building site, the streets are crowded with markets and wholesalers, hawkers and food stalls. Construction workers huddle over bowls of spicy noodles, vendors carry heaving baskets of fruit on their shoulders and shoppers barter over prices.

Safdie said the development reflects a growing trend in urban planning: having developed vertically, skyscraper cities are starting to spread horizontally.

“I see a period in which zoning changes to being more three-dimensional,” he said. “Rather than just thinking of land as two-dimensional, zoning will start requiring people to connect between one property and another — first at ground level, then above ground.”

The skybridge is going to house a public observatory, a residents’ clubhouse, hotel lobby and several restaurants, plus an outdoor viewing deck. Safdie and his team have already trialed connecting bridges between towers at their schemes Sky Habitat and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

There have been other seeds of experimentation. Minneapolis is home to the world’s most extensive skyway system — and in Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok skywalks are publicly run facilities, connecting buildings, stations and walkways. These often run only a few floors above the ground — but as towers become taller, skywalks are ascending with them.

Beijing’s Linked Hybrid complex is a series of towers connected by a series of skybridges between the 12th and 18th floors. Singapore’s Pinnacle@Duxton is a large public housing project with seven 51-story apartment blocks connected by skybridges and skyparks, and the Velo Tower in Seoul has two skyscrapers joined by a 30-story-high skybridge.

SKY-HIGH CONNECTIONS

“The idea of requiring connectivity could be extended — you could even zone off a public street at the 25th level, and anything that reaches 25 floors up would have to accommodate that,” Safdie said. “You’d have all these opportunities to do things beyond a single parcel of land, and I think that’s where we’re going.”

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