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Canton Tower Has Complex BIPV System

Credits: ©2011 Canton Tower

Canton Tower, also known as the Guangzhou TV Tower, is 600 meters tall, twisting over the Haizhu District of Guangzho (formerly known as Canton), capital of Guangdong province in China. Canton Tower’s BIPV (building integrated photovoltaics) system is one of the most complex projects in the world, sheathing part of the building under its giant lattice framework. The solar power system is comprised of a-Si (amorphous silicon) thin-film that modules that are installed on facades from 438.4 to 446.8 meters heights, between E-section (the tourist layer) and the damper layer. As of February 2011, Canton Tower is the tallest tower in the world at 610m, beating Toronto′s CN-tower at 535m. LED technology is used for all lighting so that the tower consumes only 15 percent of the allowed maximum for facade lighting. The dynamic twisting form of the tower is composed of straight shafts that encircle the core of the structure, creating a cinched 'waist' that is designed to be as small as possible at a span of 15.6 meters while still accommodating the elevator shafts and fire escapes. Designed by Information Based Architecture (IBA), a firm based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, it was the product of an invited international competition and collaboration with engineering firm Arup and the Local Design Institute. This green building project included the design of a 17.9 ha park at the tower’s base and the master-plan for the surrounding 56.6ha which includes an elevated plaza, a pagoda-park, retail facilities, offices, a television center and a hotel. (Scroll to bottom for additional resources)


Canton Tower Initial Construction

Information Based Architecture (IBA) of The Netherlands designed the Canton Tower in China that opened to the public in September 2010. ©2010 Information Based Architecture (IBA) / Mark Hemel

The concept consists of a twisted tower, resulting in a highly complex and challenging design. The form, volume and structure are generated by two ellipses, one at foundation level and the other at a horizontal plane at 450 meters. The two ellipses are rotated relative to one another, where a tightening caused by the rotation between the two ellipses forms a cinched ‘waist’. The lattice structure, which at the bottom of the tower is porous and spacious, becomes denser at waist level that occurs about halfway up. As the waist becomes tight, like a twisted rope, transparency is reduced and views to the outside are limited. As the structure ascends, the lattice opens again, accentuated by tapering of the structural column-tubes.

The waist of the tower contains a 180-meter open-air stairwalk (“Skywalk”) where visitors can physically climb the tower starting at 170 meters and spiraling almost 200 meters higher, all the way through the waist. There are outdoor gardens set within the structure, and at the top, just above 450 meters, a large open-air observation deck is encircled by a sort of Ferris wheel. The interior of the tower is subdivided into programmatic zones with various functions, including TV and radio transmission facilities, observatory decks, revolving restaurants, computer gaming, restaurants, exhibition spaces, conference rooms, shops, and 4D cinemas.

A deck at the base of the tower hides the tower's functional workings, and infrastructural connections – metro and bus stations - are situated underground. The underground level also includes exhibition spaces, a food court, a commercial space, a parking area for cars and coaches. There are two types of elevators: slow-speed panoramic and high-speed double-decker.

The zone from 80 to 170 meters consists of a 4D cinema, a play-hall area, restaurants, coffee shops and outdoor gardens with teahouses. The top zone of the tower begins above the stairwalk, housing various technical functions as well as a two-story rotating restaurant, a damper and the upper observation levels. From the upper observation levels it is possible to ascend even higher, via a further set of the stairs, to a terraced observation platform rising above the tower's top ring.

At night, the tower glows and emits light, rather than being uplit. Every node in the lighting design is individually controllable to allow for animations and color changes across the entire height of the tower. The concept lighting design was done by Rogier van der Heide. As all lighting is based on LED technology and all fixtures are located on the structure itself, the lighting scheme consumes only 15 percent of the allowed maximum for facade lighting.

Performed by Arup, the structural engineering includes near mass customization - the use of flexible computer-aided manufacturing systems to produce custom output – that was introduced to the joint design, in combination with parametric design methods and a simple structural concept using three primary elements: columns, rings and braces. The constructability of the nodes was an important challenge; although none of the 1100 steel nodes are identical, the design-team was able to create one single type of node to be used in all areas.

The rings are placed on the far inside of the columns so that they miss each other spatially and are connected off-center. This creates an inside view dominated by rings, while the outside views are dominated by the sloping columns. All rings are placed at an angle of 15 degrees so that an opening is created for the entrance at the base of the tower, and a sloping deck is created at the top of the building, offering magnificent views over the city. The ring distances are laid out in a gradient that is denser toward the middle of the tower in order to produce a more intimate and closed space within the structure, while at the same time putting steel where it is most efficient.

Columns and Bracing
Columns, rings and diagonals together form a web that varies over the section of the tower. The columns are all perfectly straight although they lean towards one direction, giving the tower its dynamic twist. The columns also taper from bottom to top, further amplifying the perspective view up the tower from the ground. The diagonals are more or less everywhere the same at 800mm. They consist of straight tubes that run between columns, fixing the web of nodes into a stiff web. The circular rings are placed on the inside with a fixed diameter of 800mm, following the curvature of the facade along the inside.

At the bottom of the tower the columns are two meters in diameter, constructed of 50mm thick plated steel that is bent round in 3.7m wide bands that are welded together. At the top of the tower the column diameter is reduced to 1100mm with a plate thickness of 30mm.
The Core
The core of the television tower consists of a concrete elliptical shaft with a short and long diameter of 15.6m and 18.6m respectively; it was constructed with the help of a sliding formwork.

Prefabrication of Steel
The nodes and tubes of the steel web, that give the tower is characterizing profile, were fully prefabricated and delivered by truck to the site from a factory in Shanghai. The elements are first connected by bolts, and only after the tubes have been welded together were the bolt connections burned off. After the first six rings plus matching columns and tubes were constructed, the columns were lined out and filled with concrete for stability and fire-proofing.


Information Based Architecture (Netherlands)

Canton Tower (China)