Uncomfortable Tower

: hotel + residence + gallery + theatre + pool + gym

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard Graduate School of Design, Core III
Date:      Fall 2016
Critic:     Maryann Thompson

         Adding to the Doha skyline of glass and steel towers, frozen icons, and geometric extrusions that ascend from the ground using dangerous labor practices and endure through time in precarious climatic conditions, the Uncomfortable Tower feels uncomfortable among its neighbors.  But how does the tower operate practically? The functional description of the Uncomfortable Tower is nothing extraordinary, nor uncomfortable. A proposal for a 600-foot mixed-use hotel, the tower’s programmatic arrangement, circulation, and structural strategies are straightforward. 

The Uncomfortable Tower houses:

306 hotel rooms of two sizes, a hotel lobby at ground level, a restaurant vertically adjacent to the lobby, 22 artist studios of two sizes, 3 gallery spaces and a black box theatre nested into one another, 3 structurally co-dependent open-air pools, a 4-story gym and fitness center terminating at the level of the physical therapy pool and yoga terrace, 4 means of egress – 2 in isolation at the northwest and northeast corners of the building and 2 nested as scissor stairs spanning the width of the south façade, 6 elevators – 4 of which climb the full 600’ tower, 2 of which terminate at the level of the lap pool, dozens of private and public planted terrace spaces, and spaces to support the servicing and back-of-house maintenance for the functionality of the mixed-use tower

         In such a banal assembly, is there agency or hierarchy? The tower need be analyzed beyond the numbers. Instead of solidifying into permanence like its neighbors, the Uncomfortable Tower explores the potential of assembling the tower type as a provisional solution, itching from its inception to escape its own skin. Can a tower anticipate its own ruin and evisceration? The Uncomfortable Tower tries to do just that, positioning the tower as frame, or container, wherein the tower typology and its vertical density may be exploited.        

         The potential for provisionality is created through a three-tier hierarchy. Established in the following order, the tower must first provide the structural container, followed by permanent, large-scale program spaces necessary for the creation of life, density, and culture within the tower, and finally the small-scale program spaces are allowed to aggregate into the container and around the large-scale program plug-ins.

         Formally, the three elements are easily differentiated. The container is established as two volumetrically identical rectangular boxes, one as the south tower and exterior wall, one as the north tower and exterior wall. Each is equipped with two means of egress and an elevator bank. The large-scale program spaces are formalized as ellipsoid volumes that appear to have been flung and anchored into the containers. Some ellipsoids sit in isolation (the gym, for example), some nest together (the three galleries and theatre, for example). Around the ellipsoid spaces, small program spaces – hotel rooms and artist studios – aggregate freely according to the simple structural grid as rectangular modules. The relationship between the wall, the ellipsoid and the box represent the critical hierarchy of the Uncomfortable Tower.

Detailed wall sections illustrate the different tectonic and formal conditions between the south and north facades: