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World’s Best Skyscraper Awards Include Stout, Rusty School Building in England

This week, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat announced the best skyscrapers of the year. The awardees: SOM‘s Burj Khalifa (obviously), Cook + Fox‘s ultra-green Bank of America Tower (yes, yes), ARC Studio‘s Pinnacle @ Duxton (fair enough) and…  a squat rusty thing in Leeds. Huh?

Indeed, Broadcasting Place, a decidedly un-skyscrapery skyscraper for Leeds Metropolitan University, took home the high honors alongside some of the splashiest new towers around (see images above and below). Designed by the UK’s Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, it rises just 23 stories, compared with the Burj Khalifa’s 162, and the B of A tower’s 55. Its COR-TEN steel edifice doesn’t have the sleek, glassy posture of its super-tall brethren. And its profile looks like less of a piercing phallus — which, c’mon, is what skyscrapers are about — than a bunch of messily stacked UPS boxes.


We love it. But it doesn’t strike us as the sort of thing this competition would spring for. In past years, the jury has hedged most of its bets on the gee-whiz factor, showering accolades on buildings like the Tornado Tower in Doha; the sailboat-esque Bahrain World Trade Center; and the Shanghai World Financial Tower, which was clearly built to open God’s beer bottles.

So maybe this year’s low-wattage selection is a sign of the depressed times, though we don’t really buy that argument. Construction on Broadcasting Place got underway before the crash. And all that pricey COR-TEN steel doesn’t exactly scream “chastened.” Maybe it’s just a sign that the jury is casting its eye beyond the obvious stuff. The real test, of course, will be in the fall, when an overall winner is selected. Stay tuned.

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