The Cube Tower, an office highrise in a new-development district of the Mexican city of Guadalajara, stands out for its high-quality, multi-functional character. It is the key feature of the burgeoning Jorge Vergara Cabrera (JVC) Centre that will also house a mix of cultural and commercial activities including museums, conference hall, trade fair, mall and an urban park designed by Carme Pinós. A landmark in an urban fabric of non-descript buildings, the tower asserts itself as an icon of international architecture.
The “Cube” is not the usual parallelepiped-shaped office highrise. The singular composition turns site constraints into key design features. The starting point was to opt for a mixed structural system. As well as ensuring a building with lighter overall dead weight, as required by local earthquake regulations, the design also provides efficient vertical distribution and a rational pillar-less floor plan for all office floor space. The initial sketch outlined the main features of the project: a structure supported on three vertical elements in reinforced concrete, surrounded by a circular sequence of spaces and volumes.
The horizontal section shows three parabola shaped structural elements that generate convex and concave forms, on the exterior and interior respectively. At the centre, the scooped out shapes of the three structural pillars create an entrance atrium of alternating concave masses and openings.
A huge central well allows natural luminance and air flows across the glazed façades. The outward-facing convex sides of each structural pillar contain staircases, lifts and ancillary services.
Static problems were solved by using reinforced concrete to anchor the cantilevered steel beams in the vertical structures. These variable section beams are also connected to oblique and vertical members to provide further strengthening, and to support the floor slabs which were cast in place and craned into position. This system of external supports and struts allows for column-less, wall-to-wall open interiors.
Viewed as a whole, the building appears made up of three pieces. The office blocks are staggered trapezoid shapes, their shorter sides facing the inner court. Set like spokes around a hub, they cantilever outwards, the larger volumes on the outside. Three floors of each cantilevering block have been eliminated at different levels, in a staggered fashion to create covered terraces: in one, the first three floors are missing, in the other two, the gap is half way up. As well as lightening structure and design, the voids also facilitate air flow and natural lighting in the central tower court.
The external elevations have double skins: an inner glazed façade with anodised aluminium frames, and an elegant outer envelope of sun-shading slats in treated northern pinewood, secured by a modular steel frame. Gaps in the brise-soleil skin leave exposed expanses of the full-height inner glazed walls. Metal grid walkways in the air space allow access to the façades for cleaning and maintenance.
Climate conditions in Guadalajara do not require the use of artificial air conditioning systems. Natural ventilation is sufficient especially when, as in this case, the building encourages air circulation through the central tower well.