The Architect’s Journal Construction Tower Competition

4 - 22 September 1997

  • The winning design, by Sutherland Hussey with Ian MacGillivray and Adam Sutherland

The competition brief was to design a tower, serving some useful or pleasurable purpose, using the skills of architects, engineers and an artist in combination. The tower was to be built in spring 1998 on a roundabout in front of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

An exhibition, hosted by The Architecture Foundation for EMAP Construct, showcased a selection of entries for the nationwide competition to design this 100ft high landmark to celebrate the achievements of the construction industry, and coincided with the announcement of the winners of the Construction Tower Competition.

The winning design, by Sutherland Hussey, Blyth & Blyth and Adam Sutherland, was for a tower made of 2000 glass disks laid on top of one another to form a slender double helix spiralling upwards around a central steel tube. The helix makes two complete revolutions, one for each millennium.

About the winning design:

Two thousand layers of glass make up the structure of the tower, a sheet for every year of the two millennia. Each sheet is of a diminishing size and transforming shape, rotating slightly from the last, to form a tapering helix spike. The helix makes two complete revolutions, one for each millennium. The glass sheets are threaded through a steel rod, connected top and bottom by stainless steel caps. Once threaded through, the caps are tightened to post-tension the glass structure. At the base, the stainless steel cap is supported by the apex of an inverted, ceramic-lined, concrete cone, and is held laterally by tension cables, connected back to the rim.

The inverted cone is filled with water which is then drawn up through the central rod to be released at the top of the tower. The water flows back down along the surface of the helical glass profile, transforming the play of light on the glass. Screen printed on each hundredth sheet of glass is a drawing of the structure whic most clearly embodies that century's structural development. The tower, in effect, becomes a time capsule where, like the carbon-dating of a tree, a historical record of mankind's development over the last two thousand years is stored.

Sutherland Hussey Architects with Nadi Jahangiri, engineers Ian MacGillivray (Blyth & Blyth) and Dewhurst MacFarlane, and artist Adam Sutherland.

Norman Foster (Foster and Partners)
Roger Burman (NEC)
Mark Whitby (Whitby & Bird)
Anthony Caro
Paul Finch (Architect's Journal)
Andry Montgomery (Bryan Montgomery)
Andrew Coulson (Birmingham City Council)
John Hadley (Parkman).

In partnership with

EMAP Construct