“Deformation by Design: A Retrospective Proposal for the Heron Tower” by Christopher Tolmie

Christopher is currently a Part II graduate from the University of Edinburgh.

This is Chris’ final design for his Masters project, called “”Deformation by Design: A Retrospective Proposal for the Heron Tower”

The world changed on September 11 2001, when hijacked planes flew into the North and South towers of the World Trade Centre. So did the science of fire-dynamics simulation.


As part of their forensic analysis of the WTC structural failure, Arup Associates developed new modes of computational fluid dynamics software, intended to study how multi-compartment fires move, and the dynamic effect they have on steel structures.
This project makes an alternative proposal for a building that was in the design phase during WTC attacks, and whose design was affected by them; Kohn Pederson Fox’s Heron Tower. In KPF’s design, Arup applied its new computational skill to justify a series of proposed three-story voids within the new building, simulating how fire would move around them, and increasing structure where necessary. In this alternative proposal, the same techniques are used for expressive effect.


The building’s exoskeleton is deformed to several parameters; voids of varied size within, and a series of contextual cues without. The additional stress caused by these deformities is modelled and then expressed through structural thickening. The resultant design seeks to represent the strain we put onto buildings when we “”design the accident in””, expressing the pre-emptive fortification of fire-safe designs, both structurally and symbolically.”



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