Beyonce-inspired tower throws Melbourne skyline a curve

Slinky profile: Although modeled on Beyonce’s figure, as displayed in the video “Ghost,” the curvature of Melbourne, Australia’s Premier Tower will resolve a number of structural challenges associated with the slender high-rise. (Images from Share Cat)

It’s not for nothing that it’s been dubbed the “Beyonce Building.” Renderings of a planned 79-story tower to be sited in Melbourne, Australia, bear more than a passing resemblance to the figure of the Grammy Award-winning pop music diva, especially as attired in a body stocking in the 2013 music video “Ghost.”

Complex contours: Architect Elenberg Fraser relied solely on parametric modeling to render a vertical cantilever for the 79-story Premier Tower

There’s not a ghost of a chance the likeness is coincidental, acknowledges Melbourne-based project architect Elenberg Fraser. However, the curves and contours also proved structurally efficient for the concrete-framed Premier Tower, a $315 million mixed-use facility that broke ground in late 2016 and will house 796 apartments, a 187-room hotel, cafes, and retail upon completion in 2020.

Elenberg Fraser relied solely on parametric modeling — a method that applies algorithms and geometries to design parameters such as building height and floor area — to render a vertical cantilever for the unusually slender tower, undertaken by Fragrance Group, the property-development arm of Singaporean billionaire Koh Wee Meng. “The complex form 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,” the architect noted in a statement.


— Reade Dixon, Principal, Elenberg Fraser

“We worked closely with our engineering consultants to understand design criteria for winds, structure, and servicing, and then coupled that with our understanding of the client’s commercial objectives to try and develop a compelling piece of architecture,” Jamsen Aui, formerly with Elenberg Fraser and a principal architect on the project, told reporters. “The unique form relates directly to the unique set of design demands.”

Multiple uses: In addition to apartments and a hotel, Premier Tower will house shops and cafes upon completion in 2020. Shown here is the project’s lobby.

Of particular concern was floor area, given that some Premier apartments will measure only 440 square feet. With slender towers, “a typical response from structural engineers is to put more concrete, more steel in it to make the structure bigger and bigger until it stops moving,” Reade Dixon, principal with Elenberg Fraser’s Melbourne office, told Civil Engineering, the magazine of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In collaboration with the Southbank, Australia, office of WSP Structures, the structural engineering branch of WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, “we started distributing volume and mass throughout the building until it allowed us to reduce the structural column size to something we thought appropriate for apartment residences,” Dixon added.

To achieve Premier’s spiraling curvature, perimeter-reinforced concrete columns “slide in and out the height of the building to accommodate the slab edge, which shifts by up to 3.6 meters [12 feet],” Kevin Winward, executive chairman of WSP Structures, wrote in a message to Civil Engineering. “Every two floors, [the columns] step out by one-third the column width.”

Due to Premier’s slender profile, Winward noted a central reinforced-concrete core incorporates shear-wall outriggers that extend to perimeter columns, a means of enhancing the structure’s lateral stiffness.

Upon completion, Premier will be sheathed in aluminum and glass. “The architectural skin is an expression of the many forces that shape the project, in the same way a body stocking is an expression of the body within it,” Elenberg Fraser noted in a statement. “For the interiors, we conceptualized what this entity within might be, unpacking Beyonce’s multiple personalities.” Accordingly, various spaces will be themed “The Muse,” “The Fighter,” “The Performer,” and “The Temptress.”

Sydney, Australia-based Multiplex is the project’s general contractor.

No word on whether Beyonce will be dropping by for a stay once Premier Tower is completed.