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A Prefab, Rotating Skyscraper Coming to a City Near You?

July 21, 2008

By Tim McKeough

If architect David Fisher manages to achieve his dream, the world will soon have its first prefabricated, net-positive-energy skyscraper with floors that rotate independently of each other.

Rotating Skyscraper

Image courtesy Dynamic Architecture Group

Italian architect David Fisher has designed a prefabricated, net-positive-energy skyscraper with revolving floors. According to Fisher, construction will soon begin on two of these buildings, one in Dubai and the other in Moscow.

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In late June, at a press conference in New York City attended by a crowd of international journalists, the Italian-Israeli architect presented plans for what he has dubbed the Dynamic Tower. The high-rise features revolving floors and would generate enough energy, via wind turbines and solar panels, to power itself and surrounding structures.

In the coming months, Fisher says, construction will begin on not one, but two of these buildings, in Dubai and Moscow. The 80-story Dubai tower is expected to stand 1,380 feet tall and cost about $700 million, while the project in Moscow will rise 70 stories, or  1,312 feet, and total more than $400 million. Both are scheduled for completion in 2010.

Dynamic Tower seems fantastical, but Fisher does have some heavyweight help. New York-based Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA) has signed on as structural engineer for the two commissions now underway. The firm, founded in 1923, has worked on scores of high-profile buildings, from the former World Trade Center in New York City (1977) to the soon-to-be-completed Shanghai World Financial Center. LEHR Consultants International, a 40-year-old mechanical engineering firm, also is involved.

Fisher, 59, has never built a skyscraper—or a major project, for that matter—and some have brought into question his credentials. According to a recent CBS story, for instance, Fisher’s bio inaccurately stated that he received an honorary doctoral degree from Columbia University (he didn’t). In the face of criticism, Fisher emphasizes that he does have experience in prefabrication and construction. In 1985, he says he founded the New York-based Fiteco Ltd., a design company whose portfolio ranged from hotels in the Caribbean to cladding for skyscrapers. He also says he developed the Smart Bathroom for the Leonardo Group—a pre-assembled bathroom system that has been installed in hotels in Dubai, London, and Moscow.

More recently, Fisher founded Dynamic Architecture Group, whose sole focus is the Dynamic Tower. “I decided to put all my beliefs into this building,” Fisher says. His vision comprises three core ideas: the skyscrapers should not be static, they should produce their own energy, and they should be made with modular components built in factories.

Construction plans call for erecting a fixed concrete core, and then hoisting prefabricated living units up in sections—a process that Fisher says would be 30 percent faster than conventional construction. The shell of each living unit would be made of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and glass, and the interiors would be fully finished before installation. Fisher says the units would be “mechanically fixed” to the core, but didn’t provide further information. “It’s very simple, just like any machine or mechanical thing,” he says. He adds that construction of the prefab components will begin “within weeks” at a factory in Italy.
 
At the press conference, Fisher fielded an array of questions from skeptical journalists, including queries about who would control each rotating floor. The answer wasn’t clear. The architect described several scenarios, from a time-based sharing system for floors with multiple apartments, to a central control that would allow a single person to twist the entire building into different shapes. Others wondered about the wind turbines, to which Fisher replied that his group is still developing them.

While it appears the details are still fuzzy, Fisher is confidently optimistic. He’s already targeted his next city: “Our intention,” he says, “is to build the third rotating skyscraper in New York.”

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