Earthquake proof buildings: Reforma Tower, a modern building in Mexico City, has won the 2018 International Highrise Award, a model of sustainability combined with aesthetic and internal spatial quality
The “2018 International Highrise Award” has been won by “Torre Reforma“, a modern structure hailed for its innovative design and conceived with features typical of earthquake proof buildings in the heart of Mexico City.
The Frankfurt-based International Highrise Award announced the finalist after a selection of 1000 projects from around the world that were built between 2016 and 2018, recognizing excellence in skyscraper design. The building was unanimously elected by an international jury as the “world’s most innovative skyscraper“ that best exemplifies the criteria of functionality, sustainability and anti-earthquake measures.
The Mexican designer Benjamín Romano was awarded the prize by the City of Frankfurt am Main together with the German Museum of Architecture (DAM) and the DekaBank, after the building had ranked second at the 2017 “Emporis Skyscraper Awards”.
In the middle of a region at risk of earthquakes, the Reforma Tower on Paseo de la Reforma stands out from the surrounding highrises.
With a height of 246 metres and 57 storeys, the skyscraper is mainly occupied by offices, but it also houses a commercial area and a panoramic auditorium. Currently, the Reforma Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the city, but it should be surpassed by the Mitikah tower, 267 meters high, that is still in construction.
It is organized into 14 four-story clusters, buildings within the building, and each floor is divided into 4 sections hosting its own indoor garden.
The building is designed with an unusual shape, partly as a result of local building regulations which requires that skyscrapers should not be more than twice as high as the width of the nearby street. If a building exceeds this height, as the Tower does, the upper part must be tapered or recessed.
Ina Hartwig, deputy mayor of the city of Frankfurt, said that the Reforma Tower stands out for its
“extraordinarily clear, almost sculptural architecture and its triangular footprint. The futuristic façade looks out over one of the world’s largest downtown parks. Its sensitive, intuitive design is an impressive response to the local topographical challenges”.
The new building not only embodies the most modern soul of Mexico, but also carefully integrates a historic building. In fact, an early 1930’s house, that has been protected and restored, forms part of the skyscraper’s main lobby.
After Mexico’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 2017 that caused the collapse of dozens of buildings and also many victims, the Reforma Tower has been praised for its walls that can bend without breaking.
“Why did only some buildings collapse while others remained standing?”
Judges responded to this question by highlighting how the architect Benjamín Romano had taken the Aztec building traditions as a reference and interpreted them in a modern key, reaching a technological solution where the massive external concrete walls of the building are “organized as an open book “.
In fact, its walls reach 60 m deep in the ground, while during the construction phase, the concrete was poured very slowly to deliberately create “seams” between layers that serve as predetermined breaking points and ensuring that the building remains intact even in the event of a strong earthquake.
Every four floors, there are windows three times higher than the standard size. This system can dissipate the seismic energy that, combined with the elasticity of the cement, guarantees a high flexibility to the walls. According to the architects, the skyscraper can withstand any type of seismic event and last for 2500 years.
Benjamín Romano, after receiving the 2018 International Highrise Award (consisting of 50 thousand euros and a statuette of the artist Thomas Demand), stated that this project was a joint challenge of architects, engineers and developers due to its structural, environmental and financial complexity.
“I believe that the best architecture is the one that finds the answer to these challenges. The one that emanates from needs, context and reality, and not only from someone’s imagination or aesthetic taste”.