The “Rotating Tower” Concept by David Fisher @ Kenetic Architecture is not as “Dynamic” as it appears.
Let us begin by examining the feasibility of such a concept from a structural and kinetics perspective.
History of Revolving Structures
The concept of a revolving building or spaces is nothing new. In fact, there are dozens of rotating restaurants in the United States and many more throughout the rest of the world. The first revolving restaurant was built in Germany in 1959. In 1961, the “La Ronde” restaurant in Honolulu was the first revolving restaurant to be built in the United States. The Architect was John Graham of Seattle.
In every case, the structure elements, exterior walls and ceiling of the structure is stationary and it is only the outer dining area floor that actually moves. Like a platform sitting on ball bearings. There are three reasons for this. 1. Electrical, Mechanical & Plumbing systems (duh) 2. Access to the space can (should) only be made by stepping across a single joint in the floor and within an open space that circumscribes the structure. One would not want to create a condition where a severed limb might result if the rotating portion were to cross two perpendicular walls or openings. 3. Vertical Access and Egress by elevator & stair.
With the “Rotating Tower” design, there is no structural reason that would prevent a portion of the tower from rotating about an axis. Span limitations are based entirely on the strength of the material in a cantilever. Which would probably limit the section that is cantilevered to about 30′. Assuming a really good truss system.
However the problem with this concept is not with the structure, it is with the mechanical & electrical systems.
As presented, the design is an absolute failure in terms of Mechanical, Plumbing & Electrical. To be even remotely feasible, a rotating tower design would require that the Kitchen, Bathrooms & Utility Rooms be stationary and remain within the core itself. This means that the tiny narrow core, shown in the video, is misleading. It would have to be much larger in order to accomodate the kitchen, bathrooms & laundry facilities, as well as two sets of stairs & and at least 4 elevators (a small tower).
While it is technically possible to transfer electricity from the stationary space into the moving space through a “bushing”; such as is found in an electric motor; to do so with a live 120V system on each and every unit is a recipe for disaster. In terms of both safety and reliability. Yet, without such a system the rotating spaces wouldn’t be able to have lighting or even power outlets for appliances.
Of course, there’s the small problem of finding a building department willing to ignore the IBC and let you build large sections of spaces without any power (for wall outlets). But then again, this project could be built overseas where they have much lower building standards.
Forget about attempting to transfer Gas, Water & Sewer from the moving section to the core. There simply are no reliable systems in existance that can effectively accomplish such a task. While a good designer might be able to design around rooms that would require gas & sewer, every space needs water for fire sprinklers.
Therefore, the rotating space could be no deeper than the reach of the sprinklers, as sprayed from the stationary core section. Currently, this is about 12-15 feet.
In terms of a Return on Investment, the cost of the units would have to be extraordinarily high. As in, “several thousand dollars per square foot” kind of high. Each unit would have to occupy an entire floor in order to avoid walking into your neighbors bedroom from your kitchen. That is, unless the space only rotates 180 degrees.
A gap would necessarily need to exist between each rotating Floor / Ceiling. This would allow for both movement of the structure for seismic & wind as well as prevent any potential for binding up of the floors. This creates a point of entry for water infiltration. It also becomes a trap for debris. It might be possible to close this space with some sort of flexible membrane, but to do so would create another costly maintenance issue.
At a 60 foot radius the maximum acceptable rotational speed in a restaurant is approximately 6 degrees of rotation per minute (one full rotation per hour). This is slow enough that most people don’t “feel” the rotation. As for long term effects of rotational motion, there are no studies so we just don’t know what will happen to the human brain.
The Design Concept video shows the tower rotating at a ridiculously dizzying speed. Of course, one would simply state that the designers couldn’t show the actual rotation speed because the video would take an hour and be about as interesting as watching paint dry.
However the “coolness” of the towers movement is what makes it so engaging from an outside perspective. Without being able to actually see the movement, it’s just another tower. One may notice that it’s shape has changed from what we saw a hour ago – but so what? As an owner of a unit, is it really worth it to me to spend $100 million so that other people can be entertained as they watch my house rotate?
The value in all habitable structures is what they do for the occupants of that structure. In this case the only real value is that the view constantly changes. But is that really an asset? To accomplish this task, each resident would have to occupy an entire floor anyway. Which means that residents already have a 360 degree view. Full floor units can be found everywhere; is it really worth the cost to have one that moves?
In addition, the orientation of a structure or spaces within a structure is better served (and more eco-friendly) when the location of the sun can be determined and is predictable. With a rotating space, this is not possible. Some days the morning sun might blast in your bedroom window – other days it wouldn’t. What happens when your living room happens to be pointing directly to the south at the hottest part of the day?
The bottom line is that this concept is one of those things that “looks cool” at first observation but in reality it creates more problems than it solves.
In my book, this concept gets the full – Two Thumbs Down.