Strategic design and financial development for individual projects, large developments anywhere in the world.

World’s Tallest Buildings

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We have a love affair with super tall buildings – those 3,500 to 4,000 feet tall, or the “mile-highs.” It not only needs to be safer than others, it has to be flexible and green, and preferably meeting a passive standard.

In one design this year for another super tall building, I was very unhappy about many of the safety-related aspects that I had to do, as the site dimensions dictated hash constraints – a usual situation for us architects.

So I took the experience and started to think about how look and function would look if as many things as possible were addressed. SoI composed the super tall building called “Bentley ACHOsim Symphony” – named for the best software around for dealing with also very large projects. I designed this to be as safe as it possibly can be – very green, with a sacrificial glass layer (with solar PV) exterior so it can be replaced without disturbing future clients.

Mega-Tall-5500 feet-NY City by Tapani Talo-s-It has vertical inner chimney turbines so that the height is utilized rather than wasted. It has eight exterior turbines harnessing wind all along the vertical facade and few at the top, depending on the final location and height beyond 3,500 feet (to about 4,000 feet). Extra stairs and exterior elevators can be called for both maintenance and rescue, and helicopter landing areas – plural – are there for immediate rescue and first aid.

Floor plates are as flexible as possible, which helps to make them also quite powerful, while in the upper regions, sky atriums give respite rather than forcing occupants to travel down to the city streets.

Since I am from Finland originally (and grew up in Aalto Campus), and as a painter and photographer, the building’s softer features offer a feeling of height with immense vertical clarity – it’s just as tall as it should be. With Philip Johnson in particular I learned to tackle high rise design, which is actually even more difficult than “normal” building.

There are plenty of towers that are super tall, but God forbid if something serious happens in the middle part of the building – as it did few months ago when flames engulfed several floors of the iconic Torch skyscraper in Dubai. In these situations, What happens to the people above it? The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, like many others in the same category, is a good example of the “needle” approach. I will get back to tower design, but I do want to say that the good building principles of the super tall towers are no different than the smallest single-family houses that I have created – they just have some added constraints.

One has to understand what makes buildings comfortable and easy to run (and economically viable with the least amount of equipment). In tall buildings, there are thousands of small pieces of equipment and controllers that all consume power, for instance, and up till now, nobody paid attention how much power they consumed. The passive building standard in Europe has finally shone a light for the benefit of our entire profession.

Architecture, like any other art or profession, requires experience. Accepting and understanding “good” is the goal and loving it, as architecture is a lifetime of learning, honing skills, perfecting balance and focus – the prize of losing the rush of the new and seemingly just different versus great. That’s why lucky architects who have had good clients, and thus good team of consultants, are in the position to offer great buildings to great clients. Without a great client, some great buildings – like Bank America Tower in New York City, for instance – simply couldn’t exist.

Working with Edward Barnes and Philip Johnson, I found that real architecture for real clients were so much better with age – just like Impressionistic painters started their real thing in their 50s.

I am starting with Philip Johnson in architecture (Barnes was similar, but 15 years younger, so Johnson is more suited for this example). He was 80 when I joined him, and I was six years into working as a principal designer on many projects around the world during those years. What was so beautiful was the fact that we did not flutter around options like in the many instances in the past, but were able to focus on real issues of current artistic thought and practicality (program and construction price). There was a sizzling atmosphere in our thoughts – although in retrospect, other results were not earthshaking, but good at least in each instance. And if we look around, good is hard to find. Good new cities with rich street life are nearly impossible to find. That needs travel, study and understanding people and their culture. Architects too often build objects, quite often as clients want it and demand it. But many objects in a row create a very dull and deadly cityscape.

The one thing we could not do, as we still cannot, is making a client able to understand the green of our means and methods. There is no room for extra time (cost of architects, engineers and consultants) or extra technology (small cost and payback over seven years) – developers need year-one, immediate payback. The fact that the country suffers from this approach is never entered into the equation. To talk about the planet means immediately being fired, so only clients who are already interested can get those goodies.

If one is to talk about young architects, yes, general design can be achieved, but for them to have an internal and external consultant team that can give real deep detail, material and truly green info at the right moment is nearly impossible. The showmanship of big comes to my mind – interesting-looking buildings, but not cheap, nor green, despite somewhat loud language trying to say so.

An Architect’s Profession: Career and Value to Society

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Frank Lloyd WrightWE admire beauty, to the extent that we admire even F.L. Wright, whose buildings often reached 10 or 20 times their original budget. We architects working today cannot even add 7% to the building budget that would make it totally passive, green and over a lifetime produce enormous savings and comfort to the owners.

What’s the most precious thing in life – beyond personal health?



Heat (in winter)



Power/fuel (no food, water, movement, heat or communication without these)

In all these categories, architects and planners have enormous possibilities to make things either perfect, safe and near everlasting. If we keep doing what we have been doing, itmeans the end of the world. There is no other profession that can shape the world for the better. Yet people think of us as? what exactly?


Near USELESS, that’s what. This isbased on the fact that we are not able to do anything to make the world more peaceful, use water more efficiently, build buildings that do not need heat or cooling and could provide even sustenance and power – nearly for free. Peace is easy if most people have what they need in life, and if we do not waste, more people would have what they need.

Couture or Start architects are barely surviving these days. Half of our professionals from 2005 are no longer in architecture.

Yet in every developed nation, buildings alone in general use most of the energy, bleeding our scarce resources into WHAT – outdated utility companies and energy production? No one seems to know that a TRILLION in a year is unsustainable in the long run, even for the wealthiest nation in the world. It cost about 6 trillion to do the 10 year war in Iraq (and the same for Afghanistan), and that was considered HUGE and unsustainable.

If architects’ and professional salaries and fees – along with respect for real professional ability to do good and green – were respected, we could fix this issue in a reasonable time frame, and stop focusing building fancy bubble gum (high tech, one of a kind, difficult to maintain) architecture (in fashion these days in order to stay in the news).

Naturally, only if the incentives from our government would make it financially viable to provide the extra 7% in cost to make buildings (and efficient transportation) 90% to 95% more energy efficient for the developers.

This 7% would make nuclear power stations obsolete and many conventional ones too. As a nation, we would save a trillion dollars a year in today’s money…and the little power to live from can come from solar and wind nearby. And in buildings that can operate without a grid, it makes business possible even with outages.

Professional planning / zoning would help to provide local substance, but who seems to care as we shop at ease in our super markets with enormous parking lots around them.

So why is it that the only profession that could make FREE money in trillions a year, that is trained and works as hard as doctors, gets paid a fraction and has no respect or proper use these days?

It started in the 70’s when lawyers took away fees that were based on job difficulty, and replaced it with competitive bidding. First, we lost the ability to train which meant that continuity and office experience was lost as soon as people moved on or were laid off. Then came computerization that temporarily allowed efficiencies, and thus survival for few years. Then came overseas drafting to cut cost in China and India. Then recessions, and so we were left with a skeleton crew of offices that have started to collapse into a  few ‘collectives’. What is next in store? Neither architecture schools nor industries have yet to wake up for the national or global) security dilemma. Only extreme effort can save us now, by being totally GREEN beyond our wildest imaginations.

Any nation that depends on long fragile power and food supply as we are now) cannot enter a world conflict, and yet the general view is that the world with its hunger for endless resources will sooner (possibly within a decade) again go through the unthinkable (WAR) due to stresses in energy and raw materials, geo politics, coupled with growing number of people in our little fragile planet.

We have seen in New Orleans and NYC what happens when power is no longer available. To see the whole nation / continents in this state of affairs is catastrophic and yes, very biblical. Even green passive structures and healthier ways of producing food and conserving water cannot completely save us, but they do buy time to rebuild and survive…for some, but certainly not for all.


Tapani Talo, AIA

 11 Heatherbloom Road, White Plains, New York 10605, USA. Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,


Green Architecture Produces Green PROFIT – 85% More Efficient Than Current Buildings

Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, New York | Tags: , , | No Comments »

From a very green architect’s desk:


Today’s architectural income was not dependent on market gyrations, or the usual fluctuations in stock evaluations– just smart bottom line directive. “Green” as it is called these days, was called smart, and just plain savvy in the past. One thing for sure, this type of investment returns profit many times over when compared to the return on Wall Street.

Today the press their publications are too open, glossing over an overused term in US.  While the name has changed, the services have not.  Green is not always what companies claim it is. Instead of 15 to 20% improvement, those of us in the architecture and engineering field want to see and provide an 85% improvement.  We truly wish to create HIGH return on investment now and in the future.

Most corporations lack an overall view, which combines health, lessening absenteeism, diminishing the hiring of new people (hugely profitable but almost never included in building design evaluation) efficiency in all buildings (easier to quantify without the health aspect), transportation, and production (which is the most scientifically studied aspect). The Bank of America tower in NY City is perhaps one of the only buildings trying to it all.

I propose to give a short overview evaluation in about one month’s worth of hours.  This means 150 or so spread over 4 months time.  This leaves a decent amount of time to think things through thoroughly (very economical to say the least).  This can then be followed by precision consultants in each sector identified as potential for both immediate and long-term profit.

From my website one can see a few green architectural projects ranging from 1000 sq ft to 10 million, all of which I have single-handedly been in charge of in terms of high designer and project architect. What cannot be shown are the professional services that I have done during and before these architecture projects.  Those professional services have enhanced my ability to understand and provide a quality green architectural service to my clients, with the consistent approval of each client.

Many of the high-end architectural projects (even when done with a tight budget) were ended right at the time of full documentation due to markets collapsing.  Of course, that is something that is beyond our control.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Architecture and 9-11, and the Lack Raw Materials for Green Building

Posted: September 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, New York | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Last week was the 10th anniversary of the terrible day when many things shifted and changed, most of it unknown to most people.

But very quietly we had also passed a major point in the world without any fanfare or alarm. It was roughly the date when we exceeded the use of raw materials as what the earth can supply to us at a time when the planet was growing in population at alarming rate.

As I recalled that bright beautiful day and the moment my sister called from London to say that a plane had hit World Trade center tower, and I just said: Oh, it must be a small plane and no worries.

On the train at 125th street station, a conductor ran through the train and said this train stops here.. as the first tower collapsed. We still didn’t believe that it was serious and so I joined two UN in a cab, and so were off and running as usual.

Until 14th street. I saw this wall of dusty and bloody wall of people heading our way and I said to the cab, I guess I won’t make it for the meeting in Down Town after all.

The floors at World Trade center had pancaked one after the other from the tremendous heat and so the weight of one hitting the other created a cascading collapse.


Conceptually it is very similar to the last century. The 20th century started with tremendous explosion of industry, transportation, science, and everything was turning better, like the blue sky I saw September 11 morning. Until the 60’s when first alarming notes of impending global heating, seas losing their fish, unusable rivers, water shortages, presented by few people who saw this happening and making a very simple equation that if this goes on, there will be a cascading event like the World Trade center Towers collapse.

And here we all thought, oh well, just a small event, nothing to worry about: we can fix things. But things are 100 times more difficult and dangerous geo politically than the 70’s oil embargo nuisance, and we still think that way, but we cannot afford to change the course. The world is suffering from ever increasing prices for raw materials, energy, and commercial competition. Our way of living cannot go down we think, and so we do more each year, consume more.

During WW 2 there was an interesting parallel during and after Normandy landing: the MOST important commodity was oil. Nothing moved without it, so the highest efforts for the central command were to make sure oil and gasoline shipments went to front line. Everything else was secondary, bridges were built for this purpose, police made made sure the supply was not interrupted.

Single tanks consumed 8000 gallons of fuel per week. One Division needed 125000 gallons to move 100 yards.

Today in the USA we are like this army division. We need unreal amounts of energy to do simple things. Small disruption, the doubling and then quadrupling of energy and raw material costs has a dis-proportioned adverse effect on our economy as we have BLOWN it by not protecting ourselves in any way. 150 years ago each farmer knew that if he hadn’t stored grain, grass, firewood etc, he could not survive the winter. They knew that self reliance was the key.

The saddest of all, it was Jimmy Carter who put it bluntly that saving energy and raw materials was moral equivalent of WAR, and since we didn’t take to heart, we surely will have one as we all compete for the same – raw materials. We would have had almost 40 years to change our ways.

Instead we build cheaper, more temporary energy hungry buildings, and cars etc. And architects and engineers fees are made completive in bidding instead of being based on levels of professionalism. Hence there is no real long term training for young architects and engineers to do better, as we have to hire and fire at will to cut down on cost.

For instance, when we do Green, it comes out of our overhead, making us truly even poorer each year. And thus very little in effect is done to green our country. Building a little bit more expensively and making buildings save the nations’ future is a very poor calling card to present to future clients.

In my previous blogs I have pointed out means and methods for the Government to address some issues, as developers cannot change their habits until there is a tax or other incentive to DO so.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Art, Architecture & Love

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

For the sake of humanity, I am taking a break from being just ‘Green’. As everything in life really is about sincere love and art when it is at its best.

So August is the time when we renew ourselves mostly, and this poem that my fiancée and I read to each other in Nantucket reminds us of the higher calling whenever engaged in making life worthwhile.


It is true.

I once had an ear that got sold to a fish.

Lean back: I will be glad to tell you all about

How it happened,

But first I must digress a bit,

Perhaps way beyond any logical sequence

Of events

We may ever again piece together.

Let’s see,

We could start anywhere,

With any word,

In this fertile luminous world in which I live.

What is the first letter of your alphabet?



That will be just fine.

Art is the conversation between lovers.

Art offers an opening for the heart.

True art makes the divine silence in the soul

Break into applause.

Art is, at last the knowledge of

Where we are standing—

Where we are standing

In this Wonderland

When we rip off all our clothes

And this blind man’s parch, veil,

That got tied across our brow.


Beijing: The ‘New’ Old City to Enjoy

Posted: August 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

While handing over the entire Philip Johnson Architect archive of diaries and drawings (six years’ worth of projects that I had worked on with Johnson as principal designer to Tsinghua University School of Architecture), I had a week of rare uninterrupted time to really see how Beijing had changed.

And changed it had from my first visit working there some 12 years ago on the most exclusive private club near The Forbidden City.

The food was even MORE excellent than I’d remembered from my first visit and I ended up buying 6 cookbooks on Beijing and Northern Chinese cooking as a consequence.

Traffic had become more like in LA. The wide boulevards were now packed, but the subway was extraordinary; with full 3G connectivity.

The entire city (which is about the size of Manhattan) seemed to have been rebuilt in the last 12 years, and because if that now rivals anything in our seemingly connected small planet. The buildings have detailing, fun, and use materials that I can dream of in New York, for instance. It also has an art district where art and energetic people abound. Walking around the Olympic Stadium, even the concrete seemed to have qualities of marble with fine craftsmanship. And just like in New York, real Green approach is still a misnomer, instead like most architects it is about image for its own sake.

Local architects have grown into their own, and thus having their own impact on the future of the world of architecture. The only wish is that enough ‘seemingly old Beijing’ is left in order to keep pedestrian richness within the city proper.

The real delight each morning was to walk through different gardens and palace grounds. This is where the hundreds of years of culture are apparent, and like anywhere else with similar history, soothes our minds by being able to touch base with our past artistic minds.

If Beijing transforms itself at an equal pace in next 12 years to be Green, we have a true 9th wonder in the world.

In the University known for its high reputation in China and abroad, the students’ work indeed was fabulous in its rigor and execution. Focus was on real programs and real buildings that are buildable within budget, unlike too many of our students in our universities in the US.

But at the same time, real zero energy buildings were equally lacking in consideration as much as in the other Universities around the world. This is truly sad as it seems that only in the 70’s did we address and tackle what I consider most normal issues like energy, comfort and ‘low mileage’ buildings.

As students it is the only time in our lives when we really can do buildings that WORK in ideal way so far, as rest of the world with our clients, incentives by local and national governments is still struggling to ‘grow up’.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Fashionable Architecture vs. Common Sense

Posted: July 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Metropol parasol - SevilleIn my first week at Architecture School, our very new and progressive professors wanted to make a point: They took us to architecture projects that were 10 to 20 years old (1974) and made us give them our view of how we thought they had achieved their purpose as buildings and as part of urban landscape.

This same process was repeated with each assignment; research, field study and a presentation to the entire class by students working in three-person teams.

We all vowed NOT TO REPEAT the previous generation’s mistakes of NOT being fashionable at the expense of owners and neighborhoods. (This helped to prepare me for life as a NY Architect).

So, how is it then that we are back to MOONSCAPES? High profile buildings and architects have again lost their tactile quality. These buildings are shapes hovering above ground, NOT OF IT and, just as in our field trips, no one is gathering under them or next to them as the wind blows and shadows creep. Instead we go to inside malls.

One can tell which generation CAD software these buildings were created on as people are looking for gimmicks rather than substantive acknowledgement and an understanding of architecture as a broad development where we are supposed to learn from our mistakes.

Magazines that publish architectural design need desperately to show off projects that look good on the cover, or they headline the article worded in such a way as to attract advertisers — much like our TV news or general shows these days. Green is a byword, not a reality. The smallest features are exaggerated in order to call a project green. Real Green Building, like practiced in some European countries, is truly green and not a gimmick. But this form of architecture is done by architects that are paid professional fees, unlike in the U.S and some other countries where we bid against each other, and end up with such a small fee that we cannot train our staff or ourselves, or keep staff long enough to develop essential skills.

Many editors have visited my projects and they say that they are not splashy enough, despite the fact that every normal person visiting them, including building inspectors, love them.

Media selling is a must for an architect’s or landscape architect’s survival too, but at the expense of quality of purpose. No one goes to a restaurant that does not serve food that is not based on a chef’s years of experience with best possible teachers. One can change a menu but not ignore our palette, habits, and the basic enjoyment we get from dining with friends who have many different personal preferences. So we are forced to be more of a ‘Harlot’, as Philip Johnson once said, than professional like a doctor for instance.

A purely nice ZERO CARBON GREEN normal building is unpublishable, and thus has a very limited audience from word of mouth. Our world will not change fast enough in this way for our children.

Recently, I visited a colleague a couple of hours away and she showed me some student resume projects from some of the foremost universities that were submitted to her for employment. None of them were BUILDINGS, but abstract mathematical planes forming clouds or shapes. These poor souls were taught by professors who were not practicing architecture themselves and had no respect for or understanding of historical progress. After 5 years or so these students arrive at our doorsteps, but very few of us can start training architects to do the real work of building real buildings and real programs at a time when the economy for us is beyond AWFUL, and our own families are looking for us to feed them.

PS. These abstract mathematical programs have beautiful practical purposes too as they solve real world program and technical issues for us so that we can focus on our client’s needs more, but everything has to be in balance, historically, today, and in the future.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Architecture and Humanity

Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Before returning to ‘Green and Savings’, I’d like to go back to my roots – architecture and humanity, and the idea of Man and Woman and our children.

We love to be in cities, or at least visit them beyond our work for all that they offer. Varied, rich cultures of all kinds exist in larger cities like NY, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.

These days, cities are struggling to retain excitement as people move out due to cost, density, or other issues like lack of required level of education or places to play for children. This in turn changes local buying power, and creates an issue with diminishing vibrancy of street life with cafes, small stores, small intimate movie houses, etc.

So cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, try to make waterfronts and cultural institutions more accessible. Inner city has turned into day business districts with ever higher looming high rise towers and dull storefronts with mega stores – none green in ANY way due to all the restrictions for the landlord.

Landlords maximize rental income within a zoning envelope (this in turn makes curtain walls thin and are expected to last 30 years, no more! How to replace is a good question.) and there is no local population at night. But these areas too depend on local population and not just visitors. So WATERFRONTS (or PARKS) are truly important last ‘forts’ for vibrancy and for keeping active people in the city itself before they relocate to car culture suburbs (which will be addressed in a future blog).

Our (USA) public image is at stake too as businesses and tourists visit these locations more than others. The fact that our great plans for real linear parks along the water front have withered to mere strips of pedestrian and bicycle paths at most places is still better than it was before. We have access to the river at least.

The common element that keeps the waterfront out of use (by local people or tourists) is access. If public transportation is not close, both housing density changes, and also the usage of the waterfront. The success of Central Park in New York City is because of its size and excellent transportation.

Had New York City built the lower Manhattan Hudson riverfront based on our proposals in late 1988, the entire lower Manhattan would have more families living there longer than the usual early career professionals. This in turn would have created a need for new subway line, better serving waste areas in now off the beaten track areas.

No real parks have been created since Riverside Park in New York City in 1910, one hundred and ONE years ago. Thinking of our children would have been a reason enough to create some. (The attached images from my first prize winning competition serves a quiet footnote to what could have been, and what is).

Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco have also all cleaned up and enriched their waterfronts but the dream where real people stroll every day and enjoy various activities is a gone era.

As a point of reference, within the top 10 cities in the world for livability, 8 of them are on waterfronts that are highly usable. And personally I have to agree knowing most of them well.

Tapani Talo, AIA
NY Super Studio Architects
NY Architecture Firm

Love and How to Start Good Design

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Love (personal with couples, artists, intellectuals and general society) is the root of good design. In looking back throughout my career, only clients with this attitude created good designs. Others were projects.

No one (except one person who relocated his job) has sold or rented my residential projects. They love them so much. In commercial designs I have been 100% successful delivering what clients want in my own practice, as well as with masters like Edward Barnes, James Polshek, Philip Johnson, and others at earlier parts of my career. And this has applied to my portrait painting, and photography art.

Now at 60 – almost 61 — and having had a sort of a sabbatical during nursing my late wife through stage 4 breast cancer for 8 and ½ years up until last year, I had the opportunity take a Zen look at what is important and why I‘ve had this fortune.

So yesterday at Shakespeare and Co. Book Store it dawned on me that all my designs and art had a common root. The composition and light feel similar to the works of Rembrandt and Picasso. Because I have the desire and ability to listen to client’s wishes I am able to adopt not just one way of designing but am at ease with almost any look needed for successful designs that fit city or neighborhood – and occasionally become true contemporary art pieces.

The Zen position of design is harmonious and modest –even when the project is hard hitting and contemporary– and it requires respecting every client.

I find that it is also sometimes like a good sentence: short, snappy, vivid, and with character. In architecture,the beginning words of the sentence are “material” (one or two main materials are picked at the beginning of a project), “light” which represents color scheme, and “site” — the views upon which the client’s program gets molded.

The next step in the Pre-Design phase is the most difficult as none of the national contract forms address this correctly:

First, double check the program! Many times huge savings have occurred just by helping the client rethink the initial program.

All designs and art start with taking time to THINK (including time with key consultants). The duration of this time should be 3 months minimum (6 to 9 months or even longer for High Art).

This also applies to GREEN Building and cost effective design. Currently all software, materials, means and methods are changing so rapidly (monthly), that if one does not adopt the best and absolutely latest software in the beginning, the client will lose 20% in wasted contraction costs. For larger firms adopting the latest software is very difficult, as they have to change so many work stations and train staff. NY Super Studio Architects adopts the latest software for each job individually.

Finding the right mix of consultants and contractors who really understand GREEN Design and respect it is even more difficult, as they have to build differently from how they did in the past. Most contractors and engineers do not know how to price this thinking. They don’t know how to change and thus are unwilling to provide customers with what’s new and prefer to proceed only with known methods and suppliers.


Tapani Talo, AIA