A Permeable and Polycentric Urbanism: The Atlantis and Other Projects

James von Klemperer
President, Design Principal
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, New York City

The tall building community is evolving past pure aesthetic impact and satisfying real-estate pro-formas, into an integrative practice that weaves skyscrapers into our increasingly diverse cities. Technology has allowed us not only to go higher, but to incorporate more aspects of the cities we treasure into habitats at height. At the same time, the growth of cities is moving away from the single-core-and-radial-suburb model, to something more complex – the polycentric city. This calls for a new kind of response at both the urban and building scale. Projects presented here aim to nurture, support and accommodate this growing trend.

At Dubai’s Royal Atlantis, the curvilinear form of the building is punctuated by voids within the structure, creating sheltered outdoor spaces shaded from the desert sun, while also taking advantage of gulf breezes passing through the openings to providing passive cooling for the building. The structure’s vertical transportation system is set within six reinforced-concrete building cores, from which extend a series of shifting floor plates, arranged as a set of two towers stepping down to a large central void. The void is topped with a “spa-bridge” that features an expansive amenity deck, complemented with pools, lounges and cabanas, all located more than 100 meters above the ground. As such, it is polycentric within itself, and permeable to the natural conditions of its seaside site. This and several other projects discussed in the presentation are representative of the permeability that will allow tall buildings to become stewards of healthy, vibrant communities in polycentric cities, whether historic or still on the horizon.