SOM wins the project for the Smart City Financial Tower in Hanoi

© SOM I View of the Smart City Financial Tower of Hanoi.

The American firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has won the architectural competition for the Financial Tower in Hanoi. It was announced on May 14 by the Organizing Committee under the North Hanoi Smart City Project (Smart City) after the second plenary session of the Organizing Committee. The competition saw the participation of a shortlist of four international practices specialized in towers, among which – in addition to SOM – the following were invited: Gesler, Pelli Clarke & Partners and Terry Farrells & Partners (TFP), all admitted to the contest because they were experts in design of towers over 80 floors high as well as the authors of at least one of the 20 tallest skyscrapers in the world today.

To give an idea of ​​the scope of this competition, we recall below some works created in Asia by these “magnificent 4”. The 632-meter-high Shanghai Tower, designed by Gensler, is the tallest building in China, located in the Lujiazui financial and commercial area, next to the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. With its 127 floors, it houses class A offices, entertainment venues, shops, a conference center, a luxury hotel and cultural spaces. One of the tallest buildings in Tokyo is, however, the Azabudai Hills Mori JP Tower, designed by Pelli Clarke & Partners, known for the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. The skyscraper reaches approximately 330m in height for a development of 64 floors above ground and several underground levels, which host a mix of office spaces, residential units, retail outlets and public services. The tallest building ever designed by a British architect is the one built by TFP in Shenzhen (China). The Kingkey Finance Tower (or KK100) has 100 floors and 441.8 meters and was, until 2011, the eighth-tallest skyscraper in the world. To date, the KK100 is only “so to speak” in twenty-fifth place, demonstrating how in just a few years the ‘race to the clouds’ has become very competitive. As for SOM, the studio that undoubtedly has the richest portfolio in terms of skyscrapers built, it is currently designing the 8 Shenton Way in Singapore, a 305-meter-high tower with 63 development floors. Once completed in 2028, this tower will become not only the tallest building in Singapore but also one of the most sustainable skyscrapers in all of Asia.

© H.G. / Tuoi TreAn artist’s impression of North Hanoi Smart City Project (Smart City).

The Financial Tower is just one of the works planned as part of the ambitious urban plan known as Hanoi North Smart City Development Investment Joint Stock Company (NHSC), a program promoted by the joint venture between BRG Group (Vietnam) and Sumitomo Corporation (Japan), in collaboration with the Vietnam Association of Architects. The idea of ​​the master plan was launched in October 2019 at a ceremony organized in the Vietnamese capital. The project was then proposed again in July 2023 after the Hanoi authorities had approved the detailed plan at 1:500 scale and then made official during an event held on November 11 last year (again in the capital) coinciding with the 50 years of partnership between Vietnam and Japan (1973-2023). On this occasion, the desire was reiterated (with a resolution of the Politburo of the Vietnamese Party) to build at least five world-class smart cities in the country by 2045. In fact, this project takes its name from a package of new generation services called “6 Smart Solutions” which includes: Smart Energy, Smart Mobility, Smart Management, Smart Life, Smart Health and Learning and Smart Economy.

Group photo of the Hanoi Smart City Financial Tower competition committee at the first plenary session.

The applications were submitted on February 29th. The first plenary session was held on April 1, during which the Organizing Committee announced the establishment of the Examination Council, announced the Working Regulations of the Examination Council and introduced the participating firms and their project proposals. The examination commission was composed of international and Vietnamese experts including representatives of the Ministry of Construction, associations and institutes operating in the fields of construction, urban planning and architecture in Vietnam.

The program for the NHSC will cover a total area of ​​270 hectares, located across three municipalities of Hai Boi, Vinh Ngoc and Kim Tuyen in Dong Anh District, with a construction area of ​​more than 30.5 thousand m2 and a total area of ​​more than 320 thousand m2. The intervention area is located near the Nhat Tan Bridge, which connects the center of Hanoi with Noi Bai International Airport (Soc Son District), acting as the gateway to the capital. The Nhat Tan – Noi Bai route has a total length of 11.7 km and includes an area of ​​1,810 hectares belonging to 13 municipalities under the districts of Dong Anh and Soc Son which together have a total population of 140,000 inhabitants. This will mean that this project will have effects on a large land area north of Hanoi. It is estimated that around US$1.55 billion (VND33 trillion) will be needed for investments in infrastructure and land clearing, which is expected to be completed by 2025. The masterplan includes multiple functions (tertiary, commercial, hospitality and residential), which, in addition to relaunching the socio-economic development of the Capital and attracting investments, will make this intervention a symbol for the development of Hanoi and Vietnam.

© SOM I One World Trade Center, CTBUH 10 Year Award 2024, Award of Excellence

The implementation of the urban plan is expected by the end of 2032 and will be divided into five phases, of which the first four include public works (planting of trees, construction of roads, metro lines, sewerage, ..) and the construction of schools, car parks, shops, religious works, monuments and accommodation. Phase 1 will cover 72.7 hectares; phase 2,67.5 hectares; phase 3,65.7 hectares; phase 4,30.2 hectares and phase 5, 35.3 hectares. The tower will complete the project and will be a mixed-use building (offices and commercial spaces) with 108 floors and a total height of 639m, which will make this building the tallest in Vietnam as well as one of the tallest in Southeast Asia.

© SOM I Center and 175 Park Avenue, CTBUH Future Project Award 2024, Award of Excellence

Although not much is known about the project at the moment, the “architectural grammar” of SOM is well known. The firm is, in fact, famous for its innovative projects, especially for skyscrapers. The company’s distinctive approach includes pioneering use of materials, a strong focus on sustainability, and aesthetic elegance. SOM pushes the limits with materials such as glass, steel and concrete, as exemplified by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (2010) – the tallest building in the world – showcasing its engineering prowess and sophisticated design. Sustainability is an integral part of SOM’s philosophy, which incorporates “green” technologies to reduce environmental impact. The Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou (2013) is an example of this with its wind turbines, solar panels and efficient HVAC system, setting new standards for “green” skyscrapers. Great attention is given to the integration of the new buildings in the urban contexts of intervention, enhancing the urban landscape and promoting community involvement. The John Hancock Center in Chicago (1970), for example, features public services on the ground floor, enriching the urban environment. In addition to beautiful structures, SOM buildings are also artistic, combining functionality and beauty. The One World Trade Center in New York (2014), with its elegant design or the “dated” and always beautiful Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai (1999), which blends traditional Chinese elements with modern principles, highlight the long tradition and experience of American firrn in the design of timeless architectures.

© SOM I Greenland Century Center, CTBUH Best Tall Building by Region, Asia 2024, Award of Excellence and CTBUH Best Tall Building by Height, 300 meters and above 2024, Award of Excellence.

Today’s news published on the SOM website states that the American studio has won seven awards of excellence from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH): in New York for the One World Trade Center and 175 Park Avenue and in Hangzhou (China) for the Greenland Century Center and Wangchao Center which won a total of five awards in different categories. The CTBUH Annual Awards program recognizes projects, firms and individuals that have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of tall buildings and the urban environment and that achieve sustainability and human well-being at the highest and broadest level.

© SOMWangchao Center, CTBUH Best Tall Building, by Region, Asia 2024, Award of Excellence; CTBUH Best Tall Building, by Height, 200-299 meters 2024, Award of Excellence and CTBUH Systems Award 2024, Award of Excellence.

The City Financial Tower has the potential to be a transformative project for Hanoi, elevating it to the ranks of other major Southeast Asian capitals. By focusing on modern infrastructure, economic growth, and sustainable urban development, it can help Vietnam capitalize on its opportunities for smart development. However, careful planning, execution, and inclusive policies will be vital to ensure that this development is a driving factor in matching the expectations of a rapidly advancing capital city.

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