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Dizzying heights

Multiply-bespectacled architect Rafael Viñoly has been swanning about in New York claiming that his slender 432 Park Avenue apartment skyscraper will be the tallest in Manhattan.

Once completed, the tower will allegedly stand 425.5m tall – 9m above the ‘eligible’ peak of the One World Trade Centre designed by David Childs, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Debate still rages about whether the record books will be allowed to take into account the 124m spire proposed for the ‘crown’ of the Trade Centre tower, which completes next year. Viñoly hopes not.

Meanwhile back in London, a panel discussion at last week’s Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats conference considered the question: ‘How tall can buildings go?’ The answer seems to depend more on human biology than on any limits imposed by engineering skills. William Baker, structural engineering partner at SOM, believed that the high-rises of the future would be restricted by the comfort of the inner ear, which would suffer due to the change in pressure at such extraordinary altitudes, stating that ‘a mile-high tower would begin to get uncomfortable’.

Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the British Council for Offices similarly had effects on the body in mind. He said: ‘Buildings will be restricted by the pizza test – whether or not a pizza order still arrives hot by the time it reaches the top floor.’

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