Two very large and very different edifices in distant parts of the world are nearing construction. In China, the futuristic spiraling pink Phoenix Towers will not only be the tallest buildings in the world, but also especially environmentally innovative featuring wind turbines, an ambitious air cleaning system, and a vertical garden. In Dubai, currently home to the world’s tallest building, plans are underway to build a ginormous, 48-million-square-foot, glass-domed, temperature-controlled district that will include the world’s biggest shopping mall, 100 hotels, an amusement park, and parking for 50,000 cars.
The two massive undertakings have widely divergent purposes from those backing them. While they may both be breathtaking, the Phoenix Towers are part of a larger environmental strategy for the Chinese city of Wuhan, a transportation hub sometimes compared to Chicago. The Dubai project, called the Mall of the World, is tourism-driven in the lead-up to the city’s anticipated hosting of the World Expo in 2020, the first to take place in the Middle East.
Reaching up to one kilometer, the Phoenix Towers will rise out of a 116-acre site on an island within a lake along the Yangtze River as it runs through the city of Wuhan, the capital of central China. Designed by London-based architects Chetwoods, the lake will support the towers and the towers will support the lake.
“You can imagine the pressure those lakes are under, with a huge dense city growing around them,” Chetwoods chairman Laurie Chetwood told CNN. “So we thought we could not only attract attention with the towers but also breathe life, literally, into the lakes.”
The Phoenix Towers, which will also doubtlessly be a tourist attraction with their sunset-themed coloration and suspended network of shops and restaurants, will aim to clean the surrounding water and air. A thermal chimney in the center of the taller tower will draw air from the surrounding lakes to cool the buildings. The air will then be filtered and released back into the environment in a better condition than it arrived. Water use and treatment will undergo a similar complete-cycle cleansing process. The taller tower will also feature photovoltaic panels. Together the towers will generate more than enough power to support themselves.
The open space at the bottom of the towers is meant to invite public gathering and conjure the idea of mangrove trees as part of the overall effort to combine 21st century Western technological know-how and experience with Chinese tradition and culture according to Chetwoods Architects.
“The scheme will provide an environmental catalyst to re-invigorate the city of Wuhan, actively avoiding the disastrous consequences of developments elsewhere in China,” said the firm.
If all goes as planned the towers will be completely in 2017 or 2018. The design still awaits final approval from the government.
Meanwhile Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, United Arab Emirates Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, is overseeing the Dubai Holding-financed Mall of the World. The integrated city will feature temperature-controlled streets covering nearly 4.5 miles as part of a vast entertainment- and luxury-driven effort to encourage tourists to stay in the city for up to a week straight.
“Our ambitions are higher than having seasonal tourism,” Mohammed said in a statement announcing the plan. “Tourism is a key driver of our economy and we aim to make the UAE an attractive destination all year long. This is why we will start working on providing pleasant temperature-controlled environments during the summer months. We are confident of our economy’s strength, optimistic about our country’s future and we continue to broaden our vision.”
Temperature-controlled promenades may not be enough to protect the thriving emirate from the impacts of climate change. While heat is clearly the utmost immediate concern, sea level rise could put much of the low-lying city’s infrastructure underwater by 2100.
The statement from the developers touches on the idea of sustainability without offering details.
“The project will follow the green and environmentally friendly guidelines of the Smart Dubai model,” said Ahmad Bin Byat, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Holding, in a statement. “It will be built using state-of-the-art technology to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, ensuring high levels of environmental sustainability and operational efficiency.”