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Turning torso

20 March, 2008

Click to view detail of Turning Torso

Somewhat continuing in the spirit of the previous post whilst in the process of planning my summer travels to Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Tønsberg, Tromsø) and Sweden (Stockholm, Göteborg, Halmstad, Malmö), one of the many attractions I greatly look forward to visiting is Skåne’s famed HSB Turning Torso. Located in the southernmost province of Sweden, this skyscraper designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was completed in 2005 (construction beginning summer 2001) and is the tallest residential building in the European Union.

Based on a white marble sculpture of a twisting human by Calatrava entitled Twisting Torso, its design is a feast for the eyes: nine five-story cubes twisting as well as rising, with the top-most segment twisted ninety degrees clockwise in relation to the ground floor below. Surrounding the central core, each floor is formed by a rectangular section, along with a triangular section partially supported by an exterior steel scaffold. It is split into both commercial and residential space, with cubes one and two designated for offices, and three through nine boasting 149 luxury apartments with premium hotel-style amenities. Even an exclusive website is available to residents for easy access to various on-site services. Furthermore, the HSB Turning Torso Gallery is conveniently situated next-door, housing high-end shopping boutiques, meeting and event halls, an ‘Experience Center’, and the Torso Twisted Lounge and Restaurant.

Folklore has it that Johnny Örbäck, former CEO of the Turning Torso contractor and Board Chairman of the Malmö branch of the co-operative housing association HSB, saw Calatrava’s torso sculpture back in 1999 and contacted him shortly after to ask if he would design a building using the same concept. What is most fascinating about Calatrava’s work is that he is first and foremost an artist: a genius in the understanding of form, achieving such a magnificent balance between structural engineering and aesthetic harmony between a solid built entity and the unoccupied space surrounding it. With a background in Arts and Crafts (drawing and painting) as well as Architecture, the 57 year-old studied at the Valencia Arts and Architecture Schools, followed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Calatrava’s headquarters is based in Zurich, and some of his most significant projects include the Athens Olympics Sports Complex, the Alamillo Bridge, and the Ciudad de Las Artes in Las Ciències. He is currently designing the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub at Ground Zero, New York City. And as an accomplished sculptor, he has held an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (‘Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture Into Architecture’) and has also exhibited in Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. In 2005, Calatrava was awarded the Eugene McDermott Award by the Council for the Arts of MIT, one of the most esteemed arts awards in the United States.

Amongst various accolades, the Turning Torso has won the The Emporis Skyscraper Award (winning out over the Q1 Tower in Gold Coast City, California and Montevideo Tower in Rotterdam, Netherlands) and the 2005 MIPIM award in Cannes for Best International Residential Building (over 1 West India Quay in London, UK, and Espirito Santo Plaza in Miami, USA). The construction of the Turning Torso has also been featured in an episode of the Discovery Channel’s series Extreme Engineering.

Sarah Badr © MMVIII

See also: HSB Turning Torso

Santiago Calatrava

Malmö Municipal Site

Works of Santiago Calatrava (TrekEarth)

‘Wings, Eyes, Trees’ (Specifier Magazine)

Q & A: Santiago Calatrava (October 3, 2006 CNN)

‘Turning Torso – Living the High Life’ (The Scandinavian Insider)

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