An innovative design for an office building - No screwing around
May 21, 2007 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Helix — a 1D skyscraper with a single corridor. The principle is a cylindrical building with a helical shape for the floor. The slope of the floor is 1.5% (it rises by 1.5 cm every meter), thus hardly noticeable. The height of each ’storey’ is 3 meters, so that when you walk 200 meters along the corridor, you have walked a full circle, but you end up one ’storey’ above or below your starting point.
posted by psmealey (50 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fire!
posted by xod at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2007


"Wheelchair Accessible" if you have a few hours to kill.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:37 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


'Wheelchair Accessible' reminds me of the Onion story "Local Building Accessible To Only The Strongest Of The Handicapped"

Anyways, I like this idea. The express elevators are a definite must though.
posted by unixrat at 2:41 PM on May 21, 2007


The disorienting effects of a slightly-sloping floor are subtle but powerful.

I went to a party once at a place in Sausalito that had settled unevenly after a mudslide. You could put a marble at one end of the house and it would roll to the other. People were stumbling around even before the host started making mojitos.
posted by gurple at 2:41 PM on May 21, 2007


An interesting idea. I wonder how much effort it would take to make it into a moebius strip building.
posted by boo_radley at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


If the Onion story is for the World's Strongest Handicapped Man, then this building is the Handicapped Boston Marathon (seriously though, 12 horizontal miles in the event of a evacuation just to get out of the building?).
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:45 PM on May 21, 2007


I want to start at the top with an adult-sized big wheel at battle my way down.
posted by chillmost at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


> here are many other advantages of this topology:
>
> * it is 100% wheelchair friendly, even in the case of an emergency evacuation

Me, I'm impressed by how skateboard-friendly it is. It least in the down direction. Where's your puny half-pipe now?
posted by jfuller at 3:02 PM on May 21, 2007


An innovative idea ...

Yeah, Wright!
posted by rob511 at 3:02 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


I, too, immediately thought of the Guggenheim.
posted by trip and a half at 3:08 PM on May 21, 2007


> Yeah, Wright!

I too have experienced such a building, though a somewhat less striking example than the Guggenheim. For many years one of the main classroom buildiongs at Georgia State University was a converted parking deck, and (true to the spirit of the design linked in the fpp) the rampways were in fact lined with offices, classrooms, labs and what-have-you. And you could indeed have skateboarded from top to bottom, if you didn't care who you ran over. (And if you didn't care what happened to you at the bottom, where you would end up in the student snack bar, a room conspicuously lacking in high speed exits.)
posted by jfuller at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2007


The corridor is on the outside, so that everybody has access to the fabulous views over the city. Offices are all on the inside.

Eh? What's the point of putting the hallway on the outside? I'd put it on the inside so everyone could have external window offices.

Also: I think "1-D" should be in quotes since it is only 1-D in a certain concept of the term. Cylindrical-shaped is 3-D, not 1.
posted by dios at 3:14 PM on May 21, 2007


Drifters would really enjoy it. I bet you could get a car nicely balanced going up and need a new set of tires by the time you get to the top.

Since you have to park cars under it, near it, whatever it anyway, why not make every fifth turn an open-air car park with a continuous spiral ramp to the top?
posted by maxwelton at 3:18 PM on May 21, 2007


I think City Hall in London has something similar (though I can't tell if it's stepped or sloping)
posted by patricio at 3:25 PM on May 21, 2007


You'd still need elevators, plain & simple. They wouldn't be necessary for ingress/egress, but then again, they aren't necessary in a conventional building with stairs either. But the building would not be practical without them.
posted by Doohickie at 3:28 PM on May 21, 2007


This is wrong on just one level.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:30 PM on May 21, 2007 [26 favorites]


The slope of the floor is 1.5% (it rises by 1.5 cm every meter), thus hardly noticeable.

You can bet it would be noticeable to employees playing foosball at the office.
posted by deanc at 3:39 PM on May 21, 2007


See also: Ten Mile Spiral.
posted by xod at 3:40 PM on May 21, 2007


(hydrophonic wins)
posted by Tubes at 3:44 PM on May 21, 2007


Way to screw up every piece of office furniture, ever developed. It's fun until you have to keep your chair tethered to a pole to keep from gradually rolling down every time you shift your weight. I wonder what the actual floor space would be, I have a feeling it would be fairly equivalent to a traditional building design of the same circular shape.
posted by geoff. at 3:51 PM on May 21, 2007


The best kind of office tower/work environment is, of course, one that you'd never have to go to at all. That's what they oughtta be building, by god!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:55 PM on May 21, 2007


Eh, they have a building with a ramp spiraling up the outside as the primary access at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. There were also elevators on one side of the building. As far as I know, all the rooms opened to the outside on the aforementioned ramp (which also acted as an awning, for obvious reasons). It is only 6 to 8 stories, though. I saw it around 15 years ago, so I obviously don't remember it that well. ;) Also, it's square, not round, but otherwise essentially the embodiment of this concept.

I walked up to the top one day when I was there for Odyssey of the Mind when my team was otherwise doing nothing.

On searching some, I think it may have been Stabler Hall. Perhaps one of the MeFites from Little Rock knows for sure.
posted by wierdo at 3:56 PM on May 21, 2007


It's a cute idea, but are so many business plagued by this "split up team" problem that this warrants an entire new style of building built to spec? In fact, isn't most of this type of stuff overcome now by IT infrastructure? In so far that the movement of physical objects (papers, etc.) has ceased and everyone does everything now by email, etc? No matter how well laid out you office maybe no one can walk from one office to the next faster than an email can travel across the building and back via the network.

Furthermore, when physical meetings are called for can't this spacial separation just be overcome via scheduling?

Lastly: Firepoles!
posted by wfrgms at 3:56 PM on May 21, 2007


(hydrophonic wins)

Seconded.
posted by mrnutty at 3:56 PM on May 21, 2007


I'd hate to accidentally drop my bag of marbles in that building.
posted by porpoise at 4:41 PM on May 21, 2007


Build the world's longest fireman's pole down the center - and I'm sold!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:41 PM on May 21, 2007


geoff: Way to screw up every piece of office furniture, ever developed...

FTA:
The floor of each office is made horizontal, so that your chair does not roll down and hit the separation. But if you take your chair in the corridor, be careful not to let go of it. All things rolling naturally find their way to the lost+found in the lobby.
Also, regarding elevators:
...[F]or long distances, we have to allow some kind of space-warp, in the form of express elevators, in transparent shafts inside the hollow patio of the tower. Note that only express elevators are needed, stopping only every 1,800 degrees (or equivalently every five turns or every kilometer). All smaller distances can be walked with the belt.
Pretty cool!
posted by LordSludge at 5:02 PM on May 21, 2007


This comment is priceless:
Imagine coming into work one morning to find a raft of bowling balls rushing down the second story corridor at you. I honestly don’t know what I would do.
posted by LordSludge at 5:05 PM on May 21, 2007


Screw this.
posted by sourwookie at 5:24 PM on May 21, 2007


I, too, immediately thought of the Guggenheim.

I did, too. With all the diligence the author put into describing this innovation, I thought it pretty strange that the Guggenheim had totally eluded him until he appended his afterword notes. Fair question, though, I have not been there since I was a kid, are all of the floors there pitched, or is it just the walkways in the center. I can't recall.

(hydrophonic wins)

nthed.
posted by psmealey at 5:41 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm sorry, but this whole thing is just way too twisted for my liking…
posted by Rawhide at 5:41 PM on May 21, 2007


The office building for Schlumberger-Doll Research in Ridgefield, CT, is designed in this manner. It only technically had one story, so it's less impressive then the OP, but it's real rather than a concept, so in some ways it was pretty cool.

The building had other bonuses: Fully wooded surroundings, all glass outside walls, an uncultivated/managed courtyard (we'd see wild turkeys in there all the time).

My wife liked to call it the Escher building, as it was disconcerting to walk around the building, go down a flight of stairs, and end up back where you were.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm a big fan of the original Guggenheim (not so much the Guggenheim franchise) and I'd love to work or live in a setup like this. Stairs suck.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2007


The office building for Schlumberger-Doll Research in Ridgefield, CT, is designed in this manner.

That's some serendipity for you. I actually live in Ridgefield, CT (pop. 24,000). My wife, a huge fan of architecture knows this bldg, I do not. I will have to check this out. Thanks for mentioning that, thanotopsis.
posted by psmealey at 6:02 PM on May 21, 2007


it was disconcerting to walk around the building, go down a flight of stairs, and end up back where you were.

As far as cities are concerned, I find Amsterdam to be like that: you're always winding up where you were.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 PM on May 21, 2007


And paintings always look sort of crooked at the Guggenheim.
posted by RMD at 6:56 PM on May 21, 2007


The Downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library is built like this as well. The main bulk of their collection is housed in the Spiral section on "floors" 6-9, which all consist of a gradually sloping 1.5% ramp spiraling around a central set of stairs (for quicker access to higher floors). The slope is pretty subtle, but definitely noticeable, especially in this building, where you can see across to the next floor. It's definitely a neat effect though.
posted by cathodeheart at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2007


Damn. I was just going to mention that this has already been done (to an admittedly lesser extent) at the Seattle Library. It is phenomenal. And, disconcerting at first. Probably the most amazingly designed building that I have been in for numerous architectural reasons.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:49 PM on May 21, 2007


I think the idea could be vastly improved by a 45° stairwell ring inside the outer ring, going the opposite direction.
posted by churl at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2007


Imagine coming into work one morning to find a raft of bowling balls rushing down the second story corridor at you. I honestly don’t know what I would do.
My number one fear, even while out on the sidewalk. Some days it's enough to keep me from going outside.
posted by taursir at 10:27 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


The helix building has been a fetish for Rem Koolhaas for years - most expansively, used as circulation in an amazing competition entry for the 'Tres Grande Bibliotheque' in Paris - but I think Seattle is the first chance he/they (OMA) have been able to realise this idea on such a scale.
posted by Flashman at 3:18 AM on May 22, 2007


Stairs suck. Stairs are cool, man! They're simply pixelated ramps.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:37 AM on May 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


Nice
posted by Flashman at 6:06 AM on May 22, 2007


The number 1 problem with this design is the walking distances: nevermind the top floor tenants and their 12 mile walk: would you be willing to walk even ONE mile from the lobby of your office building to get to your desk? It might solve the obesity crisis in America, I guess...
If the author would give up on his elevator phobia and just add banks of express elevators, this design could work.
posted by Lord Kinbote at 6:43 AM on May 22, 2007


I'd bet most people would notice a 1.5% slope. Low slope or not, one circuit around would still be as tiring as climbing a flight of stairs.

I also bet that a 1m^3 of superballs released at the top would make a great Friday afternoon prank.
posted by bonehead at 6:52 AM on May 22, 2007


Screw this.

Exactly. This is one screwy idea. That guy has a screw loose or something.

Also, why not just have elevators in the middle like a normal building? That gets around the ten-mile-inside-commute problem.
posted by GuyZero at 7:18 AM on May 22, 2007


Guys, RTFA -- express elevators are part of the plan.

Reading down, Variant 2 (double-helix connected at the ends) is pretty awesome; I can see people getting lost for days, which has to count for something:
We can take advantage of the double-helix shape to have a single corridor in which both ends are connected. By having two intertwined helices and connecting their top- and bottom-ends, you can have a closed 1-D topology, just like a circle or an indicar ring. Nobody will work in an office near an ‘end’ of the building. The map of the building can be drawn as a circle, with elevators drawn as spokes, and if you turn the map, everyone’s office will be in the ‘middle’.
The comments below the article are pretty good, addressing problems such as HVAC, fire safety, and the fact that it's been done before to poor effect:
Steve Fishboy May 21st, 2007 1:11 pm
This idea has been used for perhaps 30 years in Chile, though on a smaller scale.

The buildings in question are known as “caracoles” or “snails”. They’re typically 5-7 stories high. They were built to serve as something like malls, before malls made it into the country.

Once malls made it big, these spiral buildings became perhaps the least desirable commercial space outside of slums. Some of the problems:

- Foot traffic decreases the higher up you go. Drastically. And this is in spite of the fact that there are stairwells and sometimes elevators or escalators to speed the trip. Not having these would be suicidal.

- A tremendous amount of space is wasted in the center of the structure. And for some reason, no one has thought of building cross bridges every couple of floors. Perhaps just to save money.

- When there are a fair number of people walking about, walking becomes more like a slow shuffling.

These caracoles now tend to be mixed use, with stores on the first level or two and small offices from there on up — accountants, hair dressers, etc. They’re very low prestige, but more affordable than the alternatives.

The idea seems neat in theory, but in practice it’s a strip mall with crooked walking surfaces. Without the advantages of a strip mall, like parking right outside the store you want to go to. And the advantages to be had from building vertically are essentially the same as those enjoyed by traditional multi-story buildings.
posted by LordSludge at 8:06 AM on May 22, 2007


Stairs are cool, man! They're simply pixelated ramps.

I've got hi-def television, HD radio, but I'm still ascending on 8-bit Super Mario surfaces?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2007


This _would_ be practical if...

- the spiral hallway is in the middle of the cylinder
- there are elevators in center or outside
- floors are level (offices are staggard (sp?) every x ft.)
posted by creeptick at 1:41 PM on May 22, 2007


elevators wouldn't work -- I mean, you're technically always on the first floor. sheesh, you guys.
posted by boo_radley at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2007


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