Torre Agbar in Barcelona
The Torre Agbar is a 38-storey tower located between Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Badajoz, near Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, which marks the gateway to the new technological district of Barcelona, Spain. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel in association with the Spanish firm B720 Arquitectos and built by Grupo ACS. The Torre Agbar is located in the Poblenou neighborhood of Barcelona and is named after its owners, the Agbar Group, a holding company whose interests include the Barcelona water company Aigües de Barcelona.
The tower measures a total of 50,693 square metres, of which 30,000 are offices, 3,210 technical facilities, 8,132 services, including an auditorium, and 9,132 square metres for parking.
It opened in June 2005 and was officially opened by the King of Spain on 16 September 2005 and at a cost of 130 million euro.
The building is owned by the multinational group Agbar which has its corporate headquarters in the building and that takes up most of the floors, renting the remainder. The Agbar Tower was acquired in March 2010 for 165 million euro, after reaching an agreement with its former owner, the investment group Azurelau. Azurelau previously had bought the property in mid-2007. The purchase price was not disclosed.
According to Jean Nouvel, the shape of the Torre Agbar was inspired by Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona, and by the shape of a geyser rising into the air. Jean Nouvel, in an interview, described it as having a phallic character. It is also somewhat similar in shape to Sir Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe in London, often called "the Gherkin". It has 30,000 m² (323,000 ft²) of above-ground office space, 3,210 m² (34,500 ft²) of technical service floors with installations and 8,351 m² (90,000 ft²) of services, including an auditorium. The Agbar Tower measures 144.4 m (473.75 ft) in height and consists of 38 stories, including four underground levels.
Its design combines a number of different architectural concepts, resulting in a striking structure built with reinforced concrete, covered with a facade of glass, and over 4,500 window openings cut out of the structural concrete. The building stands out in Barcelona; it is the third tallest building in Barcelona, only after the Arts Hotel and the Mapfre Tower, both 154 m (505.25 ft).
A defining feature of the building is its nocturnal illumination. It has 4,500 LED luminous devices that allow generation of luminous images in the façade. In addition, it has temperature sensors in the outside of the tower that regulate the opening and closing of the window blinds of the façade of the building, reducing the consumption of energy for air conditioning. It houses the head office of the Aigües de Barcelona Group, the water supply company of Barcelona.
The construction, as explained by Nouvel himself was strongly influenced by one of the most representative symbols of Catalan culture. On one side was inspired by the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí reference to the bell towers of the Sagrada Familia and based in turn on the idea of the Hotel Attraction, a course project by teacher Reus in 1908 for some employers hoteliers New York which was redesigned in 1956 by his disciple Joan Matamala which in 1978 were included in the book Delirious New York of Rem Koolhaas, a reference for many architects. In addition, as a tribute to the Sagrada Família, the north side of the tower was designed with the intention of obtaining an optimal view of the temple. In turn, Nouvel was inspired by the distinctive pinnacles of Montserrat mountain range - of great significance for Catalonia, the location of the shrine that houses their patron saint, Our Lady of Montserrat.
In the design of the Agbar Tower, Nouvel said he rejected the prevailing opinion in North America of what a skyscraper should look like, hence the phallic shape. It is the architect's intention give the impression of land that is emerging in a special way out of the ground. The use of the tower by a water utility company, led him to the design from a metaphor of a geyser sprouting from the deep sea.
Starting in mid-1999, when activities were initiated for the preparation of the site, the building of the tower by the company Dragados, dragged on for nearly 6 years. Construction ended in late 2004. Approximately 1170 workers were engaged in its construction.
The main materials used in the construction of the building were concrete which comprises the structure of the tower and aluminum and glass in the form of 59,619 strips of painted sheet metal of different colours, covering the approximately 16,000 m2 of exterior surface. In addition, the glass has different inclinations and opacities which combined with the different shades of aluminum alter the colour balance of the tower as a function of time of day and season of the year concerned.
The construction used 25,000 m3 of concrete and 125 tonnes of steel.
Form and structure
The tower is made up of two concentric concrete oval cylinders which do not come in contact with each other. The outer cylinder, which completely encases the inner cylinder is covered by a dome of glass and steel which gives the tower its characteristic shape of a bullet. This outer cylinder with a thickness of 45 cm. at the base and 25 cm. at the top contains approximately 4,500 windows, while the inner cylinder measuring 50 cm. at the base and 30 cm. at the highest point, is where the lifts, stairs and facilities are located.
The building contains 38 floors of which 34 are above ground and four floors are underground. Two of the underground floors host an auditorium for 316 people in addition to other services areas while the other two are intended for parking. Of the 34 floors located above the ground, 28 are for offices, three are technical plants hosting building facilities, one is dedicated to multipurpose rooms, another houses the cafeteria and the last is intended to be a viewing platform just below the top of the tower.
One of the most characteristic elements of the building is its nocturnal illumination. The tower has more than 4,500 luminous devices that can operate independently using LED technology and enables the generation of images on the outside of the tower. The system is capable of creating 16 million colors, thanks to a sophisticated system of hardware and software. It has the ability to quickly transition between colors which can create a shocking effect.
The unique lighting system of the building, dubbed by its creator Yann Kersalé as diffraction, who defined it as "a vaporous cloud of colour that seeks moiré", is often used in the celebration of various events such as the naming of Barcelona as the capital of the Union for the Mediterranean, the 50th anniversary of Treaty of Rome or the Commemoration of Autism Day among others.
A symbol of Barcelona
Once it was finished, the Agbar Tower quickly became an architectural icon of the city of Barcelona and one of its most famous buildings. However, it was not initially immune to criticism from citizens and experts who said that its characteristics did not fit into the architecture of Barcelona. Over time it has become one of the symbols that universally identify the Catalan capital and is one of its tourist attractions.
In mid-2008, a number of Catalan public institutions made a list that included the major cultural icons in the Autonomous Community that were meant to serve as models for tourist souvenirs which identity Catalonia, and the tower was included in it.
The popularity of the tower to tourists is such that a visit to the tower has become a part of tourist bus routes (and even the helicopter tour) and many tourists take an opportunity to visit the inside.
The impact of the image of the tower is such that many groups have chosen its vicinity as a place to carry out their demands, and in some cases even to enter it by force.
Ringing in the New Year
Since 2006, TV3, the main Catalan regional television service, has used the capabilities the special lighting system at the Agbar Tower offered to show end of year celebrations. This has become the venue chosen by thousands of locals and visitors to the city to welcome the New Year. This choice of the tower as an icon of the city for New Year celebrations have allowed Barcelona to begin to appear on television around the world alongside those of famous landmarks in cities such as Sydney, Madrid, Paris, London or New York. Prior to 2006 this did not occur because the places chosen by TV3 lacked the international recognition that the Jean Nouvel tower provides.
In April 2007 a worker at the tower was determined to have a case of semicircular lipoatrophy, a rare disease possibly related to static electricity buildup and lack of moisture, outbreaks of which were already experienced in other office buildings of the Catalan capital. In mid-2007 there were at least 40 workers in the tower affected who joined the hundreds diagnosed in Catalonia and led to the Generalitat (the government of Catalonia) to recognize this condition as an occupational accident.
- The tower has twice been scaled by Alain Robert. The first, on 3 August 2006, was an action which sought to call for peace in the conflict in Lebanon. The second was in September 2007.
- In 2007, "Torre Agbar" was recorded in the Spanish Patent and Trademark office, by the company Aigües de Barcelona, for use as a brand of alcoholic beverages.
In popular culture
The Torre Agbar is a featured locale in the 2009 video game Wheelman, published by Midway Games. The Torre Agbar featured in a postcard in the music video of Loca People by Sak Noel where it was described in the subtitles as 'Giant Dildo'.
- 30 St Mary Axe, also known as "The Gherkin", and occasionally as The Swiss Re Tower, is an architecturally similar building in London which opened a year and a half earlier, in April 2004.
- Alain Robert, a famous climber who has scaled the building.
- Torre Agbar collection of articles.
- Torre Agbar web page (Macromedia Flash)
- Technical information and photos Spanish
- bcn.travel/torre-agbar with photos and video