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Sat 1 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Flights of fantasy

David Fisher's rotating tower took a beating from critics around the world when it was launched in June.

David Fisher's rotating tower took a beating from critics around the world when it was launched in June. Since then little was heard from Fisher who had everything from his designs to his qualifications challenged. In a breaking exclusive interview Benjamin Millington quizzes David Fisher on some burning unanswered questions.

There have been reports questioning your qualifications saying that you did not receive your degree from where you say you did, is this true?

I have not seen the reports, but I heard about them and I am not bothered. I received my degree in architecture from Florence Design University on April 13 1976 and now I teach and give lectures and have been invited to speak at several universities including Harvard and Columbia. So if somebody has doubts, they should check their history better.

When this building is built, that will be my best response to critics.

I can only say what I know and have done, these people are just trying to be smart or have some other interest. Besides I don't think the project should be judged on a personal basis, it has the biggest engineering firms in the world working on it, it has Boshe, which is a US $72 billion (EUR58 billion) company of high technology, our MEP and fire engineers have worked on the tallest towers in Dubai - so maybe someone should question them as well.

Some people have said that you don't have the necessary experience to design such a building, having a background in pre-fabricated bathroom units and no previous tall tower experience, what do you say to those critics?

Well, besides practicing architecture, I was in construction with a partner and built hotels and industrial buildings. We went into development as well.

I went into an industry related to construction, so I went all the way around and think I have enough experience to do this tower. I don't think the partners, the investors or the engineering companies have any doubts about myself and my people's ability to build this tower.

Those that do, should just wait and be patient. When this building is built, that will be my best response to critics. I would also like to point out that to design this building is so simple, to build it is going to be so simple. I know some people say it is impossible, how can a building move?

How can you build it? How can you lift up the floors? But it is so much easier than a normal construction site and it is so much easier to design it because all the floors are the same and the shape of the building is determined by the movement, not by the imagination of an architect.

What do you say to people who say this building is a fantasy?

Before the first aircraft was invented people thought it was a fantasy and going to the moon was a fantasy and having a laptop was a fantasy.

This is much easier and much more simple and cannot compare to what I just mentioned. I honestly have no doubt this building will be a reality within the next two years.

How is the project progressing?

As soon as we have the final land approvals we should start construction. We have just started producing the first pre-fab units in our factory in Italy.

Any idea on when construction might start?

When everything is in order, hopefully in the next two to three months we will start excavations. We should be ready in any case to lift the first floor, which will actually be the top floor, in about 13 months from today.

That means having the foundations and the core of the building finished by then. The construction will take only 22 months to complete from the time we start excavations, so the entire tower should be completed two years from now.

How will you construct the building?

We will first build the core of the tower, then we put the floors together on the ground and then we lift the whole floor up to the final position where it is connected to the core.

The first floor to be lifted will be the top floor and the next will be the second highest floor, and so on. The last floor to be installed and connected to the core will be the ground floor.

Has the enabling and piling works been awarded?

We are talking to one of the big companies in the UAE to do the foundation and the site preparation and everything that is conventional. Also the core, which is quite conventional and has been built before for non-rotating towers - it's a proven technology.

What is the current cost of the building and has it increased?

No, it has not increased. The total cost is something like $700 million.

Will each apartment rotate independently?

If you have an entire floor then yes, of course, it will be voice activated. It will not be the owner of one single apartment who gets to choose the position unless we decide, which has been suggested, that once a week each owner will be able to rotate the apartment where they like at dinner time to show friends.

Will they ever get dizzy up there?

No, not at all, the movement is very slow and there is no vibration. There are enough tests about movement, in terms of air simulators and so on, to make sure that nobody feels dizzy.

Some industry experts have questioned how you are going to service the apartments with plumbing and electrical, can you explain how this will be done?

I can tell you that on each floor there is a smart connection that allows a fixed pipe to move all around and the important thing is that we will have normal water pressure and fresh water flow to all the floors.

We found a technical solution to the problems and will explain it further once it is installed and we no longer have to hide it. But now I can only say it is a very simple smart connection for water and for waste that will continue to operate regardless of the rotation.

Is it like a rotating joint on each floor and will it solve the problem?

Yes, in a way. Absolutely yes, we have some of the most experienced engineers worldwide working on this. We have Boshe working on all the interface - they are the biggest developers of drive and control systems in the world.

They work on missile systems, drive systems for planes and cars, moving bridges, aircraft simulators, you name it. All of our engineers are very stimulated by the challenge of doing something that has never been done before.

It's not just another concrete column but we are bringing technology that exists in other sectors into construction, and it's about time. Technologies existing in aircraft engineering or train engineering or offshore platforms are much more complicated than what we are doing.

For each floor we will have a brush system similar to the system used for trains or subways. That's a simple one that somebody else invented years ago.

Have you experienced any problems with manufacturing your pre-fab units?

No, absolutely not, we have only just started. In the past our associated manufacturer has shipped much bigger and much more complicated pre-fab units to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These have such complicated MEP systems that making units with just waste and hot and cold water is a joke.

You've also said that the tower will produce energy for itself and surrounding buildings. Can you explain how this will work?

We are going to have wind turbines between the floors and this is a challenge that we are still working on and cannot guarantee they will work because we are still in the process of developing it.

Are you finding wind won't turn the turbines between the floors?

Well, there are several issues such as the noise, for this we have probably found a solution but it hasn't been completely proven. And for the other issues, I believe that the solutions will be found, but it may take a few more months to be able to say yes, everything is 100% OK.

The rest of the building is going to work, no doubt, and in fact the building does not depend on wind turbine because it will be connected to the grid.

So if the wind turbine problems aren't solved you will be powered by the grid?

In any case the building will be powered by the grid and the wind turbines will be a separate thing where we sell power back to the grid.

If the shape is constantly changing, will it be able to withstand wind loading?

Yes, of course. In places where there are storms, the building will be reshaped according to the power of the wind so that it is more able to take the wind. So if the wind was more than 100 miles an hour the floors will not be controlled by the tenants but by a computer system that will shape the building in the best way to take the load of the wind.

In Dubai we don't have wind issues, so this will not be the case here, but we are considering it for places like Miami where there are severe storms and other places where there are severe earthquakes.

What is the driving mechanism that is going to rotate each floor?

It's quite a simple mechanical system on each floor. I think to rotate the whole building on one system would be very very complicated, but just one floor is not a big issue.

Is it a hydraulic system?

I cannot go into details unfortunately because we have very strict confidentiality agreements with Boshe and so on.

What about maintenance of these systems, is that going to be an issue?

Most buildings don't have any maintenance facilities, you have to break the building to fix anything, which I found to be so ridiculous. This is why I picked bathrooms years ago, which some people put as a joke, but this was in order to try and solve the prefabrication of the most complicated part of the construction of the building which are the bathrooms. It has everything - plumbing, electrical, everything you have in a bathroom system.

This was a very big challenge because also one of the issues was to be able to do maintenance in a real time. So this building you can do maintenance for anything, for plumbing systems or electrical systems without having to break into any part of the building.

And the rotation itself has a very low requirement for maintenance. It can take many years before you have to do any maintenance.

If someone's floor breaks down, are there any problems getting access to the driving mechanism?

Absolutely not, we have access to everything going into each floor including the normal plumbing system, the electrical system, everything - I don't want to use a hammer on this building when something goes wrong.

This is also why we believe this building will live much longer than a normal building. Today buildings are built for between 50 to 100 years which is completely ridiculous when aircrafts fly the same number of years with much more complicated systems and risk factor, why? Because you can do maintenance to airplanes. So we are going to have a complete maintenance service to this building.

Dr David Fisher

Fisher, architect and creator of the Dynamic Tower, the world's first building in motion, began his career in Florence Italy, after graduating with honours in architecture from the University of Florence.

He later became a lecturer of Architecture and Structural Engineering at the same university.

Over the last three decades, he has been designing buildings in harmony with nature, as well as redefining the technical and technological extremes of buildings, particularly in major cities like London, Moscow, Hong Kong, Paris and Dubai.

At the same time, Fisher has been involved in restoring ancient monuments and designing public buildings through the New York office of Fiteco Ltd, which he launched in the 1980s.

He became involved in prefabrication and construction technologies as well as in the building and development of various hotel projects.

Among the technologies he developed was the "Smart Marble bathrooms" by Leonardo Da Vinci (LDV) system, a completely pre-assembled marble construction for luxury hotels and homes.

The Smart Bathroom is the first mechanical approach to civil construction and the only existing factory producing an integrated bathroom system.

Fisher's LDV Group first incorporated this system into the Le Meridian hotel in Dubai, where he extended his work to construction sites in different locations throughout the world, such as Milan, London, Moscow, Paris and Hong Kong.

Infinity Design company is his architectural office that is located in Florence but he cannot be considered an architect in the traditional sense of the word.

Throughout his professional life, he mastered a wide range of experiences in the world of construction, from teacher to designer, from preparing feasibility studies to allocation of finance for large projects, from construction management to real estate development, from designing products to the construction and management of large industrial plants.

 He considers architecture to be a combination of feasibility, functionality and engineering. His experience in all of these areas has provided him with vast knowledge in the field, and prepared him to revolutionise traditional building techniques with the architecture of the future.

Fisher's professional activity has always been focused on two concepts: an industrial approach involving the use of prefabricated units, and Dynamic Architecture, where the traditional three-dimensional design meets a fourth dimension - time.

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nowayman 11 years ago

The world's first rotating tower is a building in Curitiba City in Brazil, already constructed.