Skyscrapers And Symbols

Skyscrapers And Symbols

By Gerald Harris

Things were already looking up in Tel Aviv, so try to imagine how much more they will be a few years from now. By that time, the highest skyscraper in Israel will have been completed and will be a prominent part of the city’s skyline.

The new structure is being built by the Azrieli Group, an Israeli firm that develops and manages real estate. The cost will be an estimated 2.5 billion shekels, or approximately $666 million.

When completed, the building will be 91 stories and soar to a height of nearly 1,150 feet. It will be home to commercial, office, and residential units, and even a hotel. The tower’s top floors will be used for meetings and entertainment; a 360-degree observatory will give visitors a unique view of Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas. And a garden and restaurant, planned for the roof, will offer an added dimension of luxury, calm, and enjoyment.

Look At That

The tower’s eye-catching spiral design is the brainchild of the American architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, which has also designed five out of the 10 tallest skyscrapers in the world. The Israeli firm Moshe Tzur Architects & Town Planners will also be working on the project.

“The exceptional financial investment in the project is a testament to our great confidence in the Israeli economy and its growth, and continues the strategy that has led us in building the country for over three decades,” said Azrieli Group chairwoman Dana Azrieli.

The Azrieli complex is already one of the most recognized landmarks in the city. In part this is because of the three skyscrapers already there, each one nearly 50 stories high. However, they also stand out for their unusual designs: one being circular, another triangular, and the third one square. The new tower’s intriguing spiral design will give the complex an even more compelling look.

Snails And Scrolls

According to, “the [design of the] tower draws inspiration from the curves of a snail shell. However, ancient biblical scrolls were another source of inspiration.”

Preliminary work such as clearing and excavation began several months ago, and the actual construction is expected to start in the near future.

When completed, the footprint of the Azrieli Center will grow by almost three acres, and span in total more than 12 acres. Six underground parking levels covering 45,000 square meters will be built at the base of the structure.

The complex will serve as a major transportation center, connecting the existing Hashalom railway station with a light-rail network now under construction as well as with many bus lines. It’s estimated that every day 100,000 people will either work there, shop, tour the center, or be part of a maintenance crew.

Nowhere To Go But Up

Super-tall skyscrapers are more than eye-catching; they also add prestige to a city’s skyline. However, these are not the only reasons planners have decided to reach for the sky. There also is a very practical one: coping with the demand for space.

An amazing statistic explains this very well: Seventy percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. Since cities have only a fixed amount of space to accommodate them, they have only one option: to build up.

The skyscrapers that line cities around the world differ in height, width, and color, but essentially all of them are rectangular shaped. Early in the 2000s, this began to change, as some builders began to construct skyscrapers that have twists and turns.

“A stunning variety of textures, view angles, and ripple effects result from these manipulations, making these ‘twisters’ some of the world’s most iconic buildings,” says a report from the Chicago-based Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a non-profit organization that researches tall buildings and urban design.

This trend emerged because of a number of factors, the report explains, and those include improved technology, enhanced building materials, and an increasing desire for more “green” buildings. Twisting buildings can reduce energy consumed because of the more varied ways windows can be placed.

Twisters also allow for substantial savings in building costs. For example, the recently completed Shanghai Tower’s twists reduces the wind pressure on the building by 25 percent, which enabled the developers to save $58 million in costs for structural materials.

In The Eye Of The Beholder

But not all twisting and turning towers are made with dollars and cents in mind; many have their designs for aesthetic reasons.

“When you introduce the twist, the parameters change,” says Shawn Ursini, author of the CTBUH’s study.

The Twisting Torso, built in 2005 in Malmo, Sweden, was the world’s first twisting tower. Since then the trend has been for towers to get even taller and be even more complex. The Diamond Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, twists a full 360 degrees.

Given the benefits the new designs bring – lower building costs, environmental advantages, and aesthetics – the trend toward twisting towers may just be getting underway. In other words, in the coming years, twisting towers will no longer be the exception that stands out in a skyline, but the new normal.

The Big Leagues

Standing at 1,150 feet, the new Azrieli Tower will be high by anyone’s standards. However, it’s not even close to being the biggest tower in the world. That distinction goes to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai; standing at 2,717 feet, it is nearly as tall as one Empire State Building on top of the antenna of another Empire State Building. By comparison, the World Trade Center in Manhattan is 1,776 ft. high.

The Azrieli complex and the new tower in particular are symbols: of Israel’s economic strength, growth, and its increasing importance on the world stage. Who says buildings can’t make statements on their own?


Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at