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César Pelli: A Tribute to Designer of Landmark Buildings


César Pelli



César Pelli


Dr. Mohammed Arif Kamal
Associate Professor, Architecture Section,
Aligarh Muslim University, India

César Pelli was born on October 12, 1926 and died recently on July 19, 2019. He was an Argentine-American architect who designed some of the world’s tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks across the globe. He was one of the greatest contemporary architects, who had designed many iconic buildings. Some of his most notable contributions included the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the World Financial Center in New York City [1]. The American Institute of Architects named him one of the ten most influential living American architects in 1991 and awarded him the AIA Gold Medal in 1995. In 2008, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat presented him with The Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award [2]. Pelli graduated from Tucuman University, Argentina and moved to Connecticut, USA in 1952 He received his Master’s degree from the University of Illinois. After graduating, he worked for Eero Saarinen for ten years on some very impressive projects including the iconic TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. Pelli then went to Los Angeles and worked for a few firms there and taught at UCLA. At this point, his talents were widely respected in the field and he was named the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1977 to 1984. After this, he started his own firm and his first project was expanding and renovating the Museum of Modern Art in New York [3].

By the mid-1990s Pelli was known for the lightweight, almost tent like, appearance of his buildings, which were often surfaced in glass or a thin stone veneer. His projects displayed a fascination with abstract, crystalline glass shapes shot through with lines of coloured stone or metal. Among his best-known works are the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, the expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the World Financial Center and Winter Garden in New York City, the Canary Wharf Tower in London, and the Carnegie Hall Tower in New York City. The Pacific Design Center, notable for its reflective, opaque blue-glass exterior and geometric design, brought Pelli early recognition. His Museum of Modern Art gallery expansion and residential tower was hailed as an innovative reworking of an important cultural landmark. Pelli also designed the two circular, step-tapered Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pelli likened his skyscrapers to the architectural equivalent of Mount Everest: pathways between heaven and earth, and many of them which often shared a similar visual language of gridded glass facades-appear to do just that. Critics described Pelli’s work as “poetic” and “fresh” and noted his diversity, sensitivity to site, and innovative solutions to architectural problems. At the turn of the 21st century, Pelli continued his decades-long career with a commission to design the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford. It was completed in June 2009 [4].

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

César Pelli’s designed the two towers with glass, steel, and reinforced concrete, which are connected by a sky-bridge in 1996. It was an instant success both in terms of showing the world the progressive side of Kuala Lumpur and creating an iconic tourist destination. It was built using a tube-in-tube structural system. The core of the building, which holds the elevators, is a strong structural tube and the exterior of the building is also a strong tube. This allowed for the interior floor plans to have minimal structural elements. The twin tower became, at 452 metres (1,483 feet), the tallest buildings in the world, and in 2004 Pelli received the Aga KhanAward for Architecture for his design. The plan of the building is based on the Rub el Hizb, an eight-pointed star that is found in Arabic calligraphy, The two overlapping squares that make the symbol were abstracted slightly to increase functionality. The 88-floor towers are constructed largely of reinforced concrete, with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion. The buildings contain more than 4 million square feet of office space over 88 above-ground floors. It held the title of tallest building, until Taipei 101 was built in 2004 and then when the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai in 2008 [5].

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 1
Fig. 2: Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Source: www.dezeen.com/2019/07/20/cesar-pelli-dies-92-petronastowers/)








World Financial Center (Brookfield Place), New York, USA

The World Financial Center, now known as Brookfield Place, was designed by Cesar Pelli in 1988. The center overlooking the Hudson River is situated in Battery Park City, New York. It consists of four towers, two octagonal buildings, the Winter Garden public atrium, a plaza, and a marina. These buildings are considered post-Modernist because they combine new ideas with traditional forms. The polished granite-and-glass towers are each topped with a specific geometrically-shaped crown, which are said to identify the owners of the buildings. The lobbies are fashioned from shiny black marble and feature tall columns.One World Financial Center stands 577 feet tall (176m) and 40 stories high. It boasts more than 1.5 million square feet of leasable office space. This southernmost tower is connected to the rest of the complex through a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Liberty Street. Two World Financial Center, at 44 stories and 645 feet high (197m), is the second tallest of the buildings in the WFC. Its domed roof is especially attractive. The building has 2.5 million square feet of rentable office space housing companies like Merrill Lynch, Commerzbank, and Deloitte and Touche. Three World Financial Center is the tallest of all the buildings, at 739 feet in height (225m) and 51 stories tall. American Express occupies a sizeable portion of this building and owns it as well. In contrast, Four World Financial Center is the smallest, at 500 feet tall. The entire building is occupied by Merrill Lynch and serves as its world headquarters [6].

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 2
Fig. 3: The World Financial Center, New York
(Source: www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/cesar-pelli-architecture-buildings)








The Wells Fargo Center, Minneapolis, USA

The Wells Fargo Center (formerly known as Norwest Center), is the third-tallest building in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was completed in 1988 and it is 774 feet (235.6 m) tall. Norwest Center was designed with a modernized art deco style by César Pelli, reflecting nearby structures such as the nearby Century Link Building and the Foshay Tower, which is several blocks away. It is brilliantly lit at night from sunset through midnight, with flood lamps pointing up from the setback rooftops to illuminate the sides of the building. Despite this, it is still much more energy efficient than the previous building and in 2000, it was recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as one of the 100 most energy efficient buildings in the USA [7].

The following are the list of some of his major architectural design Projects





Cira Centre South, Philadelphia, USA

Cira Centre South is a complex of two skyscrapers in the University City district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, built in 2005 on a platform over the rail track. The structure consists of two towers, the commercial and residential FMC Tower and the residential Evo Cira Centre South. FMC Tower is a mixed-use “vertical neighborhood” consisting of offices, apartments, hotel rooms, retail and restaurants. Evo is specifically marketed towards graduate students and professionals, and rises a total of 33 floors and 430 feet. The building, a silver glass curtain wall skyscraper with 731,852 square feet (68,000 m2) of floor space, includes retail and restaurant space, a conference room, a nine-story parking garage and a pedestrian bridge that links the Cira Centre’s lobby with 30th Street Station. The building’s lighting, designed by Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, includes a wall of LEDs on most of its facade that can change color to create various patterns and effects.

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 3
Fig. 4: The Wells Fargo Center, Minneapolis, USA
Fig. 5: The Cira Centre South, Philadelphia, USA








Torre de Cristal, Madrid, Spain

Pelli’s Torre de Cristal in Madrid, is a skyscraper in the Cuatro Torres Business Area in Madrid is Spain’s tallest building. It was completed in 2008. The angled, 50-story tower features an energy-saving double-glazed curtain wall, whose blinds respond to lighting levels, and photovoltaic cells on the roof help heat the building’s water. Torre de Cristal is one of four new towers developed as part of the Ciudad Deportiva development in Madrid. The design of the Torre de Cristal is intended to express the optimism and dynamism of the new Madrid. The tower seems to arise from the Earth with great force and aim towards the sky accentuating its verticality. The eye is drawn from the base to the top, which is completed with sloping facets in reverence towards the sky. Due to the differing angles of these facets, some will reflect the light of the sky more strongly than others, giving great life and movement to the total form.

Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, USA

Pelli worked on Los Angeles’s Pacific Design Center for more than 40 years, from the design of the first building, in the 1970s to the completion of the Red Building in 2012. The campus, which also includes the 1988 Green Building, is spread over 14 acres in West Hollywood [8]. It is a 1,600,000-square-foot (150,000 m2) multi-use facility for the design community located in West Hollywood, California. One of the buildings is often described as the Blue Whale because of its large size relative to surrounding buildings and its brilliant blue glass cladding. The Center has 100 showrooms which display and sell 2,200 interior product lines to professional interior designers, architects, facility managers, decorators and dealers. The Pacific Design Center hosts many screenings, exhibitions, lectures, meetings, special events and receptions for the design, entertainment and arts communities.

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 4
Fig. 6: Torre de Cristal, Madrid, Spain
Fig. 7: Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, USA






One Canada Square, London, UK

One Canada Square is regarded as London’s first skyscraper and was completed in 1991. The building is located at Canary Wharf, which hosts seven other towers by Pelli and serves as the one of the city’s financial centers. The 50-storey structure features inverted corners, which allow additional light to enter the building. One Canada Square was designed by Cesar Pelli, Adamson Associates and Frederick Gibberd Coombes. The design and shape are based on earlier precedents buildings that include Brookfield Place and Elizabeth Tower. The building is clad with durable stainless steel. One of the predominant features of the building is the pyramid roof, which contains a flashing aircraft warning light, a rare feature for buildings in the United Kingdom. The distinctive pyramid pinnacle is 800 feet (240 m) above sea level. One Canada Square is primarily used for offices, though there are some retail units on the lower ground floor. There is no observation floor. The building is recognised as a London landmark, and it has gained much attention through film, television, and other media as one of the tallest buildings in the United Kingdom.

Torre Iberdrola Bilbao, Spain

The Torre Iberdrola in Bilbao, Spain, is an office skyscraper and has the distinction of being the first European tower to receive LEED Platinum certification. It is located near the Nervión River and beside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the curved triangular building, finished in 2011, features reclaimed concrete, a double-wall glass facade, and systems to reduce water usage. The tower has a height of 165 metres and has 40 floors. The tower, built as Iberdrola’s headquarters, is the tallest building in the Basque Country and the city of Bilbao, and the eighth tallest building in Spain.

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 7
Fig. 8: One Canada Square, London
Fig. 9: The Torre Iberdrola Bilbao, Spain








The Sevilla Tower, Seville, Spain

The Sevilla Tower is an office skyscraper in Seville, Spain. Its construction started in March 2008 and was completed in 2015. The tower is 180.5 metres (592 ft) tall and has 40 floors. It is an office building, with the entrance to the tower located off Odiel street. The tower is the tallest building in the city of Seville, and the seventh tallest in Spain. The tower is flanked by two four story podium buildings also designed by César Pelli. The curved edges of the podium buildings define a plaza that opens on the north and south and narrows at the center, creating a pedestrian-scaled commercial street [9].

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, Miami, USA

The Arsht Center is a performing arts center and is located in Miami, Florida. It is one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States. The Center was partly built on the site of a former Sears department store; an Art Deco building constructed in 1929, pre-dating the Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive. It was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1997 as Sears, Roebuck and Company Department Store. However, by 2001, the only surviving part of the original structure was the seven-story tower designed by Sears as its store’s grand entrance. It has been adaptively restored as a bookstore-café called the Café at Books & Books.

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 5
Fig. 10: The Sevilla Tower, Seville, Spain
Fig. 11: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, Miami, USA







777 Tower, California, USA

The 777 Tower (originally known as Citicorp Center) is a 221 m (725 ft), 52-story high-rise office building designed by César Pelli located at 777 South Figueroa Street in the Financial District of Downtown Los Angeles, California. Developed in 1991 by South Figueroa Plaza Associates as Citicorp Plaza, the building contains approximately 1,025,000 sq ft (95,200 m2) and a three-storey Italian marble lobby. The exterior is clad with sculpted white metal and glass. The tower is adjacent to the 7+Fig Shopping Center and was purchased from Maguire Properties by owner, Brookfield Office Properties [10].

César Pelli A Tribute to Designer 10
Fig. 12: 777 Tower, California, USA










1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/César_Pelli.
2. Lynn S., Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Retrieved July 17, 2019
3. https://study.com/academy/lesson/cesar-pelli-works-architecture-style.html
4. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cesar-Pelli
5. https://study.com/academy/lesson/cesar-pelli-works-architecture-style.html
6. https://www.aviewoncities.com/nyc/worldfinancialcenter.htm
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wells_Fargo_Center_(Minneapolis)
8. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/cesar-pelli-architecture-buildings
9. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Sevilla-Tower
10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/777_Tower


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