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31 October 2014

A Conversation With Roger Soto, Director of Design for HOK’s Gulf Coast Region

Based in Houston, Roger Soto, AIA, is the director of design for HOK’s Gulf Coast region.

In this Q+A, Roger discusses the design and significance of the PIF Tower (formerly CMA Tower), which is scheduled to open in 2018 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Tell me about the PIF Tower.

RS: We were given a challenge to design the most important tower in the King Abdullah Financial District, a large complex in Riyadh. The tower was to have approximately 1.8 million square feet and to be the tallest structure in this complex.

The site we were given was small and in a very planned development with some unique features. We had to design a structure that would be both efficient and, at the same time, iconic.

Capital Market Authority Tower

What was the inspiration behind the design?

The building form was generated by the constraints of the site. It had to adapt to the footprint. The site includes a podium featuring lots of services that needed to be accommodated. And the tower itself had to fit into this unusual site.

The constraints led to the creation of a hexagonal shape for which we created a very simple core that works in a radial pattern around the center. We then shaped the structure using cants – creating a geometric, prismatic pattern.

The tower was inspired by the master plan, which called for a series of ideas around crystalline structures. The building became a kind of diamond, with many diamond-shaped facets.

What are the benefits of this design concept?

The form helps control sunlight. The crystalline shapes allow the sun to be captured in different ways. The design team created a second exterior system of shading devices that cover the entire structure. It connects a series of glass fins set in a diagonal pattern that works well for shading. We essentially have a shroud of solar protection. The result is a glass tower that is highly shadowed while maintaining open views of the city from the interior.

CMA Podium

Are there any other unique features?

An aspect that I find fascinating, and that made the tower possible, is a new system of elevators developed by ThyssenKrupp.

This system of elevators allows us to use dual cabs to express people to sky lobbies where there are series of local elevators that function differently than any other elevator. The system places one elevator on top of a second elevator, but they are detached. In essence, there are two elevators in the same shaft working independently of each other. The system allows us to move people more efficiently.

CMA exterior skin close up

Did you have any other takeaways from this project?

The design of tower is the result of great collaboration between HOK’s Houston and St. Louis offices. Out of this collaboration came many ideas that enabled the team to develop this unique, iconic design.

The building is scheduled to be completed in 2017 and is already a significant element on the skyline of the city and the world.