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Seismic Swatch: a new retail and office tower in Ginza exploits cutting edge structural design to cope with seismic loading.

In downtown Ginza, a place dedicated to high end retail excess (think a Japanese version of Fifth Avenue crossed with Bond Street), Shigeru Ban was commissioned to design a mixed retail and office tower for watch manufacturer Swatch (AR January 2007). Better known for his unorthodox use of cheap or disregarded materials, this foray into corporate swanking represents a departure for Ban, but the outcome is intriguing, not least in how he resolves the building's seismic engineering, a critical but generally inhibiting design constraint in earthquake-prone Japan.

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Tucked on to a characteristically tight urban site, the 14-storey tower resembles a vertical shopping mall. The first five floors house seven small boutiques for Swatch and its various luxury market subsidiaries. Individual glass lifts whisk customers up to the requisite boutique from small booths displaying wares at ground level. Lifts are customised according to brand, adding to the frisson of being zapped skywards. Upper floors house offices and the topmost a function room, sheltered by a sinuously undulating roof that recalls Ban's Japanese pavilion at Hanover Expo (AR September 2000). Throughout the tower, floors are set back to create a series of three- and four-storey sky gardens, animating and enlivening the corporate milieu.

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Working with structural engineer Ryota Kidokoro of Arup's Japanese office, Ban developed an array of innovative measures to counter the potentially lethal effects of seismic movement. The building employs a self mass damper system (SMD), a seismic control device originally inspired by the pendulum movement in an antique clock. Typically, mass damper control devices are integrated into buildings by adding mass to the top of a structure, but in this case Ban's tower uses the existing mass of its floor plates to counteract seismic movement, thus freeing up the roof space.

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Four of the upper floors are disconnected from the main structure through a combination of slider and high damping rubber bearings placed at the interface between floorplate and structure. Each combination of bearings is tuned to provide maximum damping to the overall structure while maintaining an acceptable level of lateral deformation in all directions. To validate this system from concept to reality, rigorous structural analyses and full scale device testing were conducted to prove that Ban's version of SMD can actually reduce seismic forces by up to 35 per cent under large scale earthquake loading. Ban is used to challenging convention to architectural effect; here his vertically perforated tower with its dramatic sky gardens makes a bold and boundary pushing addition to the Ginza strip C. S.
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Title Annotation:technical
Author:Slessor, Catherine
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Aug 1, 2007
Words:435
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