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Architect Adrian Smith to discuss supertall buildings, green cities

Adrian Smith Lake Forest will present talk 'Supertall Towers Green Cities' Wednesday Oct. 2 University Chicago campus. | Submitted photo

Adrian Smith of Lake Forest will present the talk "Supertall Towers and Green Cities" on Wednesday, Oct. 2, on the University of Chicago campus. | Submitted photo

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“Supertall Towers and Green Cities”

What: Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust’s 2013 “Thinking into the Future” lecture

Who: Lake Forest’s Adrian Smith, designer of the tallest building in the world

When: 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 2

Where: Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago, University of Chicago campus

Tickets: www.gowright.org

Updated: November 2, 2013 6:03AM



Designer of the world’s tallest building and Lake Forest resident Adrian Smith has long been fascinated with supertall buildings, sustainability — and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Smith, the leading expert on monumental skyscrapers globally, will present “Supertall Towers and Green Cities” on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the University of Chicago campus, as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust’s third annual “Thinking into the Future: The Robie House Series on Architecture, Design and Ideas.”

Before he appears locally, the designer of the famed Burj Khalifa in United Arab Emirates shared ideas on sustainable architecture and how a local legend has inspired his work. This is an edited version of that interview.

Q: The title of your speech, “Supertall Towers and Green Cities,” seems like an oxymoron. How can supertall towers be green?

A: “In some places, they do interrelate. It all gets down to the issue of density. If you have a need for a very dense urban core, there are certain advantages, obviously, for height. Supertall buildings are high buildings — tall buildings in a compact environment where everyone can walk from every building to every other building. In the planning context, there are very strong possibilities for sustainable solutions. These are small-site areas.”

Q: What is an example of a small-site area?

A: “The Chicago Loop is an example. It’s essentially less than one mile by one mile and contains several hundred million square feet of space. Basically, you can walk from any building in the Loop to any other building in the Loop. The thing that complicates it is the commutes — the commuter driving in — and also supplies that have to come in and out. But, basically, it’s a walkable city. The problem with the Loop is it doesn’t have a lot of residential at the moment. It’s a work environment not a live/work environment. What I’m going to be talking about is a mixed-use, live/work environment as it relates to supertall buildings.”

Q: What will it mean to you personally to speak at this Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust event?

A: “When I was probably 12 or 13, I showed an interest in buildings and my mom suggested I look into architecture, so I started going to the library and looking up what an architect does and there was Frank Lloyd Wright. If we went on a road trip, I’d make sure we would find a Frank Lloyd Wright piece to look at if there was one anywhere on the way. I was highly influenced by him and highly interested in his work and it was probably the catalyst for me becoming an architect.”

Q: How does your architectural style compare with Frank Lloyd Wright’s?

A: “He did a famous mile-high skyscraper scheme. Some people have compared a couple of my projects, like Burj Khalifa and Kingdom Tower, to that (unbuilt) building in terms of expression. In my talk, I’ll show what the real differences are and why they probably shouldn’t be compared. Frank Lloyd Wright was a tremendous innovator and a tremendous architect. He had a set philosophy, which was organic architecture. My work doesn’t really compare to his in any of those veins or venues. My architecture is much more contextual to its surroundings, whether it’s nature, or whether it’s the culture, or the geography or the geology of the place. It’s quite different, in many respects.”

Q: What’s next for Adrian Smith?

A: “At Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, we are working on a supertall building in New York City and we’re working on two very tall buildings in China, each one to be taller than the Sears (Willis) Tower.”



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