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Beyonce inspired as a skyscraper

Celebrity-shaped skyscrapers certainly have the wow factor but their design comes down to much more than just aesthetics.

​In Melbourne, the Premier Tower, backed by funding from a Singaporean real estate tycoon, is inspired by the curves of Beyoncé and her dancers in her music video “Ghost”. While not as bootylicious as the real Beyoncé, the tower is a “complex form – a vertical cantilever,” according to a statement by architecture firm Elenberg Fraser. It is “actually the most effective way to redistribute the building’s mass, giving the best results in terms of structural dispersion, frequency oscillation and wind requirements,” it says.

As competition heats up, companies are increasingly seeking ways to differentiate their structures, says Stuart Colquhoun, JLL’s Head of Leasing in Melbourne. The pull of celebrities mean that many developers choose to have a well-known face to help drum up interest in buildings of all shapes and sizes.

One recent example is Melbourne developer Larry Kestelman’s hiring of Oscar-winning Charlize Theron for a reported AUD 3 million to help promote his South Yarra apartments.

“There will certainly be added costs when you start to add differentiating factors and bespoke effects; it will be more expensive than building a simple square box,” says Colquhoun. “However, such designs also command a premium and using celebrities certainly helped with international branding.”

Inspired by Marilyn Monroe

In Toronto, the Marilyn Monroe towers won the “Best Tall Buildings in the Americas” award in 2012 and picked up many international admirers along the way. However, its design created an array of issues for builders, primarily because of the late star’s curvaceous appeal.

Created by an architectural firm called MAD, observers had questioned whether the design could actually be built due to the towers’ varying degrees of rotations. “The design presented complex issues involving thermal transfer, forming and concrete usage,” according to a research paper by the Council on Tall Building and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). “Innovative construction solutions and engineering design were required to realize the vision and achieve results within budget and on schedule.”

In Jeddah, the one-kilometer tall Kingdom Tower is currently being built at a cost of US$ 1.2 billion and will be completed by 2018. An aerial view of the tower, which will be the tallest in the world, shows a Y-shape structure. The Y-shaped plan forming the base of the design offer several advantages, according to a CBTUH technical paper.

“A 120-degree separation between the three wings allows for views to be expansive but not directed toward adjacent units, which would have created privacy issues,” it says. The Y-shape structure also allows “every element to participate in both gravity and support.”

More than just a distinctive shape

Structural challenges aside, a super tall building, a description that covers anything taller than 300 meters, typically serves to become a city’s centerpiece and often help to support the regeneration of an urban area.

The Marilyn Monroe towers helped to regenerate a downtrodden area and were seen as an opportunity to redefine Mississauga’s urban landscape. Melbourne’s Premier Tower is aimed at the “regeneration of Docklands, Fishermen’s Bend and Southbank.”

“Such skyscrapers will also help boost the values of real estate in the surrounding regions and using celebrities is certainly a good retail and precinct strategy,” says Colquhoun.

Who could be next?

Along the theme of celebrity architecture the mind boggles as to how far the imagination could stretch. “For iconic buildings, it would have to be Elvis Presley lifting up his finger tip,” says Alastair Hughes, JLL’s Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific

“I have a feeling that the Kardashian approach to brand anything and everything may result in a set of shapely skyscrapers at some stage in the future AKA “Kardashian Distrikt” – People could choose to live in Kendall, Khloe, Kim or even Caitlin,” says Kara Keough, Associate Director, Investor Services Marketing.

Adele Carter, Marketing Manager, Investor Services Marketing, says: “I think for GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) type start-ups, part of their vision will be to mold their businesses into some sort of architectural form, whether it is working in buildings that spell out business names, or working in a building that has the shape of the founders’ face or body. I could see Mark Zuckerberg doing something like this.”

This article originally appeared on Real Views, JLL's news site that features stories exploring the world of real estate and its impact on the wider business world. Visit the Real Views site to subscribe for our weekly email of top stories, delivered direct to your inbox.