Petronas Towers

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Petronas Towers in Malaysia


Characterized as one of the most famous sights in Malaysia, the Petronas Twin Towers attract tourists from various parts of the world to visit the city center of Kuala Lumpur. The twin skyscrapers, shaped as two corn cobs, are an example of modern architecture. More than just a distinctive town’s landmark, the buildings are on the list of the tallest twin towers in the world. In fact, the Petronas Twin Towers are recognizable for an outstanding architectural work that demonstrates unique construction solutions and elaborate design.

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Construction of the Petronas Twin Towers

Compared to other Asian countries, Malaysia had been the least popular state for many years. To solve that problem and to show the richness of culture, it was decided to construct the tallest buildings in Asia. The main advantage of building the skyscrapers was a totally new perspective with which Kuala Lumpur could appear in the global community. The government of the country announced an international competition for the construction of the towers (Petroski 323). The architectural workshop ‘Cesar Pelli & Associates’ from Connecticut, the USA, won the competition for the best project. Eight well-known construction companies participated in the development of the project (Petroski 323). The main architect was Cesar Pelli who had already constructed a great number of original high-rise buildings. It is believed that the architectural style of this master is distinguished by the presence of the national cultural characteristics of the country for which the project is intended. While designing the Petronas Towers, Cesar Pelli considered both the uniqueness of the object and the national characteristics of Malaysia.

During the construction of the towers, architects faced many challenges (Petroski 323). Rarely were such complex projects accomplished without problems. Unfortunately, certain issues also hampered the process of construction in Kuala Lumpur (Petroski 323). Firstly, the high skyscrapers had never been built before in the country. In 1992, when the construction project of the Petronas Twin Towers was approved, architects began to study the composition of the soil on the surface and at the depth of 100 meters. According to Henry Petroski, “the challenges associated with designing and building a skyscraper begin in the ground” (323). After research, it was clear that the ground under the partially erected towers was unstable and, thus, the massive construction and the entire building had to be moved for 60 meters. Thus, the most important stage was the proper foundation of the double-headed skyscraper. The laying lasted three days. Every 90 seconds, special machine poured the base of the towers with concrete (Khatri 213). Despite all the difficulties, the construction of the towers was successfully accomplished in 1998. Malaysia was highly devoted to building the towers. That intention related to the fact that people always want to climb as high as possible. Besides, the buildings not only envisioned the technical progress of the country but also the pivotal role of culture in the city. Six years after the completion of the construction, the architect received the most prestigious award in Islamic architecture – the Aga Khan. The Petronas Twin Towers have been attracting a great number of admirers of modern art from different countries since its construction.

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The Petronas Towers were considered the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004 (Bunnell 32). The Petronas Twin Towers is 452 meters building that connects the sky and the city (Bunnell 32). Before, the towers in Chicago were considered the highest in the world (Bunnell 32). Thus, the architects decided to increase the height of the Petronas Towers with the spikes, which form a single structure. Even the Americans were forced to give the palm of supremacy to Malaysia.

The Function of Towers

The Petronas Towers are also called the city in the sky because approximately 10,000 people live and work there (Khatri 213). Various offices and conference rooms are located inside. In addition, the tourists prefer to attend the art gallery and the concert hall. The art gallery has both classical and contemporary art. The exhibition shows traditional Malaysian costumes and crafts. The emphasis is made on the work of local artists. Nonetheless, there is also many works of international artists. In the concert hall of the Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia’s Symphonic Orchestra gives concerts. As a result, the Petronas Towers are important to the life of the city. They stand as a business and cultural symbol.

The Design of Towers

The skyscrapers are rarely associated with classical notions of beauty. Nevertheless, there are wonderful exceptions to this rule. Undoubtedly, the Petronas Towers belong to this category. These towers amaze people with their magnificent view and the depiction of old traditions. The outer surfaces of the building are decorated with stainless steel and glass. During the construction of the buildings, the concepts of the cultural image were incorporated by the huge amount of concrete. In the book, Super Structures, it is noted that “these towers are made from high-strength reinforced concrete, not steel as with most other modern tall buildings, and each is perhaps twice as heavy as a steel frame building of the same height” (Denny 103). The towers are supported by sixteen columns put around the perimeter. The initial draft of the Petronas Towers contained a twelve-pointed star as one of the motives (Khatri 212). Eventually, Pelli generated the plan based on the eight-pointed star, or the Rub el Hizb, that symbolizes Islamic culture. The Rub el Hizb is a symbol of the integrity which also resembles two intersecting squares (Yeoh 308). In Islam, it symbolizes order and harmony. Moreover, taking into consideration the tradition not to depict human beings, the architect focused on different geometric shapes, symbols, and plants. Inside, the architect also planned almost all rooms of the Petronas Towers with high ceilings. Some floors arrange the attics creating a sense of spaciousness. In the preparatory phase, Pelly designed thousands of models for different parts of a future high-rise. While discovering the best windows, he developed several dozens of models. In the end, Pelly supplied tower windows with steel curtains.

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Another distinctive feature of these buildings is a bridge between them. A bridge serves as fire safety escape for these buildings. In the book, The A to Z of Architecture, it is written that “linking the two towers is a two-storey skywalk at the 41st floor, which provides an additional safety exit as well as a unique design to the towers” (Palmer 209). It connects the two towers. Thus, it means that if the fire starts in one tower, people will escape from another one. According to the architect, the construction has both functional and symbolic nature. The bridge is easy and elegant with no rigid fixation. The design allows to move freely between the two giants. This fact preserves the integrity of the bridge during strong storm winds.

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The Petronas Towers are a genuine achievement in architecture. They have become a symbol of the country and the whole region, even though the team should have resolved several problems during the construction. For several years, they remained the tallest buildings attracting visitors from the whole world. Paying tribute to the Islamic cultural heritage, the architect used traditional motifs of Islamic architecture in the design. He managed to create an aesthetic image of technological progress and cultural traditions. Nowadays, the towers are in the fight against the forces of nature. Despite the fact that the towers were built on the unstable ground in a short period of time, the Petronas Towers became a symbol of pride and progress in Malaysia.

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