British studio creates “blatantly iconic” towers to become the world’s tallest structure


The Pheonix towers is the brainchild of British studio Chetwoods, who unveiled its proposal to create the world’s tallest tower in Wuhan, China in the shape of two Eiffel towers on a sugar-rush.

The towers will feature a host of environmental functions that will attempt to purify the city’s polluted air and lakes.

It is commissioned by China’s Hua Yan Group to become an “iconic attraction” for a 47 hectare masterplan on an island on one of Wuhan’s many lakes.


If completed, the larger of the two towers will become the world’s tallest structure, towering over 150m above the Burj Khalifa.

The project is based on the UK-based studio’s competition-winning bridge in London, later being asked to create a proposal that incorporates large-scale environmental functions and provide a focal point for a three kilo metre long avenue.

“In China if you come up with a slightly mad idea, it’s almost not mad enough,” studio founder Laurie Chetwood told design and architecture blog, Dezeen. “It’s the opposite of the UK.”

The tallest tower from the duo features multiple filtration systems for cleaning water from the lake and air in addition to solar electricity plants.

The second tower contains vast vertical gardens, restaurants, galleries, bars and other leisure activities, featuring a perforated façade with a louvre system for ventilation and light control.

“It was blatantly iconic,” said Chetwood. “They wanted to take the Eiffel Tower experience on a stage further. It doesn’t just stand there and become an iconic symbol of Wuhan; it has to do a job. We’ve applied as many environmental ideas as we possibly could to justify the shape and the size of them.”

Both towers, which have been created in collaboration with engineers WSP, have a steel superstructure and concrete core and base.

“The Chinese are very commercially minded, as you can imagine,” said Chetwood. “This is a big tourist idea right in one of the largest lakes in Wuhan. They’ve turned on to the environmental idea but there’s always obviously the commercial element at the base of it.”

The design of the towers is based on symbolism around the mythological Fenghuan, the Chinese phoenix, which is represented by both a male and a female bird.

“It’s a fairly stereotypical image,” explained Chetwood, adding that the taller tower was the male, containing most of the active environmental functions and feeding clean, cooled air and water and electricity into the more “passive” female tower.

He said the design was also a response to some of the criticism about Western architects creating projects in China that did not bear any relation to local context.

“It’s a force for good really because there’s been quite a lot of criticism of these Western-driven designs, almost irresponsible design,” he said. “This is meant to be embracing the culture with the phoenix/dragons idea but it’s also doing a really top environmental job and taking into account environmental factors around the towers.”

According to Chetwood, the project will start within the next year and will take three years to complete.

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