Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Accra Twin Towers in Ghana by Frederico Valsassina Arquitectos
December 8th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Frederico Valsassina Arquitectos
The present proposal occupies a central position in relation to urban design of the city of Accra. It has place in a regular small sized plot, located on Liberia Road, near to the British Council.
The scale of the urban mesh on which it is inserted, stands from the density of the suburban construction that surrounds this central area of the city, underlining a privileged treatment of the spaces. In this sense, as a major action, with an ambitious program, it was understood that the planned object should take advantage of all these constraints in order to be able to assume an emblematic role in the urban and architectonic context of the city.
The road axis in which it is inserted, the proximity of the Gulf of Guinea as a sight-booster, the centrality of the intervention and the program are identified as crucial factors for the carrying out of the proposal. A distinctly contemporary image promotes the dynamics into the group of buildings and to the scenery that surrounds it.
Predicting the program into two towers of 40 floors, the action sought to exploit the small size of the lot in the design process through the theoretical occupation of the entire plot. Corresponding to the maximum volume of occupation, a 160 meters height parallelepiped with a base equal to the construction polygon was conceived as a starting point. Volumes were gradually subtracted from the monolith found, whose absence meant to imply the existence of two autonomous bodies, although formally dependent on each other – the Twin Towers – and to focus on each of the spaces proposed, improving the quality of its essence.
The void is also responsible for defining the basement of the building, which appears as a physical extension of the towers. Positive and negative have here the same weight, in a balance that is vital to the success of the intervention. It is the intention of the project to take advantage of the absence of matter in order to achieve volumetric spaces, to define “superficially” the whole and to manipulate the notion of scale. Concepts such as micro and macro-scale converge to define the whole, emerging the city as a pretext for its achievement.
The object is reflected directly as a consequence of the urban environment, resulting from the topographical transformation of the structural occurrences that characterize it; therefore, it grows as a “live” form that is transformed as it frees itself from the media that contains it.
There’s a deliberate difference between the two proposed blocks, although both have the same genesis. The contrast between them and the subsequent tension are essential for its dynamics and to identify the parts that make up the whole. In this sense, each tower is programmatically isolated in order to focus the program according to the nature of each one of them: the office tower stands for its organic, and contrasts with the sobriety of the residential tower, whose level of innerness increases through the overlapping of hierarchically different spaces.
The building is designed to create transition shaded areas between interior / exterior and this concern exists also on a material level. Thus, although the presence of glass is dominant, it exists isolated in the background, in order to protect the interior from sun exposure. In the foreground, in order to emphasize the abstract nature of the intervention, the mesh is introduced as an additional protection, a reflective filter to the outmost intense radiation. The exception occurs in the office tower, breaking the glass element as a surprise factor for the intervention, although the stratification of the plans also protects the interior.
The coverage of the ground floor as an additional recreational space is restricted to the residential area. Health club, swimming pools, green areas, outdoor terraces and covered seating areas are assumed to be as decompression spaces in order to attenuate the density of the construction and enhance the quality of the solution. These spaces are assumed as the “intervention’s lungs”, and its utilization can be optionally extended to other users through a separate entrance.
Below this platform, as an extension of street retail, there’s a shopping gallery with three different entries, from which offices and housing are acceded. The office tower breaks the ground floor and extends itself into the interior of the gallery, marking its projection on the platform and revealing its presence to visitors; the exterior stretches to reach it and communicates with the void that drives forward the shopping area.
Proving the versatility of the floors and aiming to broaden the typological range of the dwellings, different types of divisibility are proposed. This flexibility allows to articulate bigger or smaller typologies, according to the market trend during construction and marketing phases, without changing the external image of the set. However, empty spaces are alternated in each floor in order to extend the outside to the inside of the housing and to merge natural and constructed; the location of these voids was thought so that it could bring dynamism to the space within the housing and avoiding overlapping with the repetition of the floors.
The design of the office spaces was also based on a versatile logic of occupation. In this sense, it allows different appropriations according to the specific needs of those who will come to occupy them. A smooth operation is guaranteed whether for situations of a single fraction as for solutions of extreme fragmentation, by the repetition of the module.
Modulation exists in order to provide standard conditions (repeatability) and to systematize the design. In a building of this scale this issue is fundamental in order to turn the solution homogeneous, profitable and economically viable. It contributes simultaneously to an optimization of the building reducing, therefore, the duration of the design and construction phases.
Due to the real height of the construction, two exclusively technical floors are foreseen on each tower.
The parking lot is projected in six floors below ground level, considering all the assembled functions. The entrance is made in the back of the building, through a common ramp leading to floor -1, serving separately residential and commercial areas. From there on, independent ramps give access to the lower floors, individualizing housing from offices. In order to differentiate public from private users and to assure the physical separation between the different functions, there are specific and independent cores for each one of them.
Thus, it is intended that the intervention could be considered as an icon of the city of Accra, being gradually assimilated as inseparable from its Urban and Architectural landscape.
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