Friday, 11 May 2007

Richard Horden and the Wing Tower

As mentioned before, aviation is one of the inspirations for my research. Quite a few architects make references to aviation, like Le Corbusier, Richard Horden and Norman Foster. In due time I will write about these architects and their aviation connections.

First in line is Richard Horden, a British architect well known for his ability to use advanced technologies tot make very special buildings. Well known is his Ski Haus, a light weight structure that can be transported by a helicopter to a place high up in the snowy mountains and give 4 people the opportunity to stay in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The picture shows it all !

But to me, far more exiting is the Wing Tower in Glasgow (UK). This 100 meter lookout tower is standing freely without any external supports attached to it. To avoid vibrations, that would give an uncomfortable feeling to the people at the top, Richard Horden made an extensive use of aerodynamics. The tower was shaped in such a way that the air flow is laminar for as long as possible and then with the help of vortex generators it is changed into a turbulent flow. This way, separation bubbles, that could lead to vibrations, are avoided. Aerodynamics as a form generating principle !

In my thesis I made a whole range of illustrations to explain the aerodynamics of the Wing Tower. The illustration below shows the flow around the tower with the vortex generator that turns the laminar boundary layer into a turbulent one and the separation bubbles that only appear behind the tower.

When talking to my friends in architecture they see the Wing Tower as just a building with some aerodynamics applied to it. However when talking to my aviation friends they consider the tower just as a large, very efficient wing, stuck into the ground. It is all in the eye of the beholder !

For anybody interested in these and other projects of Richard Horden I can strongly recommend his book Light Tech.


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