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Moscow DNA: Creating Evolution Tower

Date of publication: 22 March 2021

The unique Evolution Tower has already become a recognisable edifice of the capital. Made of cold-bent glass, it is one of the most involute twisted towers in terms of its turning angle. The skyscraper was designed by GORPROJECT. The company’s chief architect and author of the concept Philipp Nikandrov recounted distinctive features of this extraordinary skyscraper.

The multifunctional complex Evolution Tower is set on Presnenskaya Embankment near the pedestrian bridge Bagration in Moscow International Business Centre (MIBC) Moscow-City.

The design is similar to the double helix shape of DNA, two ribbons of opposite facades are wrapping around each other and joining in a metal structure above the roof as a symbol of the evolutionary spiral. The skyscraper rotates about its axis to 156 degrees (each of its 50 floors is rotated 3 degrees relative to the previous one).

– You created a unique building that mesmerises the spectators with its forms. What are the distinctive features of its architecture?

– Evolution Tower is a twisted tower. At the turn of the 21st century, new design and construction technologies gave an impulse to innovative parametric and bionic architecture with sophisticated shapes, and the so-called twisters form a special category. They have twisted spiral geometry due to a floor-by-floor shifting of the repeated shape of the plan by an equal rotation angle.

One of the project’s achievements is an effective, highly technological and cost-effective solution of the spiral tower’s structural framework.  Yet for all its sophistication, there’s nothing unique about the tower’s structure. The central core and eight columns with 15-meter spans between the axes remain strictly vertical all the way up and only four angular columns follow the spiral geometry pattern. 

The entire structure is made of a cast reinforced concrete. Specially designed and adapted formwork systems PERI, including the innovative Automatic Climbing System (ACS) for the angular spiral-like column, allowed setting the building’s framework at a speed unprecedented for such geometry – six days per floor. 

Turning a unique glazed facade into reality, whose concept implied a new and visually exclusive technological solution, became a special milestone in the birth of Evolution Tower. Instead of common flat double glass panes in the module (which usually create broken, kaleidoscopic and fragmentary reflections), an innovative cold-bent glazing was used for the first time in Russia. It creates a continuous, holistic and fluidlike surface in exactly the same manner as it is shown in visualisations of the architects.

This greatly benefited the facade’s aesthetic quality and its thermal and physical characteristics. This is a result of painstaking effort made by the team of world-level architects, designers, and contractors; due credit should also be given to the project management customer service. 

A continuous stripe of cold-bent glass creates an optical illusion reflecting Moscow panoramas turned upside down at an angle of 90 degrees to the horizon. Clouds float up or down on the tower’s facades, which enlivens and reinforces the dynamic effect of perceiving the spiral shape. There is nothing like that in the world of architecture.

– How does this project fit into the urban environment and transport system?

– The scheme covers the area of 2.55 ha including a two-hectare municipal square with terraces and amenities. A three-level stylobate houses the Evolution shopping gallery. From this gallery you can directly access Vystavochnaya station of Filevskaya metro line and Bagration pedestrian bridge.

The stylobate roof is exploitable, being home for fountains, cafes with outdoor seating and plantation. The 10-meter difference in heights between the top level of the City’s municipal square and the embankment is compensated by moving stairs protected from the precipitation by curvilinear canopies.

– What materials and equipment did you use when building this skyscraper?

– Basically, the same materials were used during construction of the City’s other high-risers, but there are important distinctions making this project one of its kind. The unique cold-bent glazing tower envelope emphasizes the lightness and dynamics of the form, as it appears to defy gravity. The idea of a 200-meter sculpture, crafted of glass and reinforced concrete, traditionally believed to be fragile and inflexible, symbolises the evolutionary spiral
as the pinnacle of progress and the power of human intellect, challenging the laws of physics.

Among the twisted towers built in recent 10-15 years, Evolution Tower is one of the most involute or swirled ones by its turning angle, and the elegance of a graceful pirouette made by the structure is a result of careful balancing of the reinforced concrete framework that enabled the faulting of huge masses: dozens of thousands of tonnes, as a matter of fact.

The top of the tower is crowned with two asymmetric “arches” spanning 41 meters, visually uniting the two opposite facades with a single snow-white “stripe” in the “figure eight” – a mathematical symbol of infinity. The “crown’s” huge metal structures had been fabricated in Piedmont (Italy) and delivered to Russia piecemeal. They were jointly mounted on the roof.

Evolution Tower uses the ThyssenKrupp TWIN innovative vertical transport system: two elevator cabins circulate in one elevator shaft independently, which reduced the number of shafts in the core.

– When did the idea of creating a DNA tower occur to you?

– I suggested a spiral-like shape for the tower back in 2005 as part of the concept for the 250-meter City Palace to be developed on parcels 2-3 of MIBC Moscow City. The spiral shape epitomised a bride and groom dance in the original version of this tower with a Wedding Palace (developed by RMJM Architecture Firm which I spearheaded at the time).

After the Wedding Palace was discarded in 2011 as a result of rebranding, the tower was renamed to Evolution while its geometry and facade details were reworked by the GORPROJECT team in favour of other metaphors (evolution spiral, DNA spiral and Mobius strip).

The project was successfully delivered in 2015 and shortly before its completion Transneft bought the Evolution Tower to establish its headquarters in it. Later on, the project won numerous national and international awards.

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