The industrial revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the population congregating in urban areas. Commercial space was in high demand. However, the land is a limited resource; building upward seemed the only solution. The earliest multistory buildings rested on thick masonry walls until the “skeleton frame” technique was invented. Also, one of the people who contributed to making skyscrapers possible was Henry Bessemer. Steel has become a common building material thanks to his process of mass-producing steel inexpensively. Soon, Egypt will add its Iconic Tower to the collection of the World’s tallest skyscrapers.
Design Proposal | Iconic Tower
Iconic Tower is a part of “Egypt’s new administrative capital” launched by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. The plan for the New Cairo project was announced in March 2015. It was expected to be a solution to crowding, pollution, and unaffordable housing prices in Cairo, according to government officials. The China Fortune Land Development Company (CFLD) agreed to fund $20 billion for this megaproject, including 20 skyscrapers and 60 residential buildings that offer 1840 fully finished apartments, alongside 98 villas category classified into townhouses, twin houses, and standalone units. The process is divided into 3 phases. The construction of the first phase was set to start in April 2016 and is expected to cost EGP 4 billion.
Dar al-Handasah Shair and Partners (Dar for short), an architectural firm founded in Beirut in 1956, was commissioned by the Administrative Capital for Urban Development to assess and validate the Strategic Master Plan for the whole area (71400 ha) as well as the Master Plan for Phase 1 (16800 ha) and the Detailed Master Plan for the Priority Area of Phase 1 (4140 ha). Iconic Tower is the most prominent among various project components in the New Administrative Capital’s Central Business District, which Dar is also responsible for the design and tender documents. Additionally, New Urban Communities and Authority (NUCA) assigned this tower’s construction to the China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) under the supervision of Dar Group.
The New Administrative Capital is located in the middle of the Egyptian desert, which is 60 km from the Suez Canal and 45 km from Cairo. The site is less than an hour’s drive from central Cairo. Before this massive urban project, there was nothing but a flat, arid plain of red gravel and yellow sand. On October 5th, 2019, a team of Dar Group representatives did a site visit to inspect the progress of the company’s contribution to the project. During this visit, Dar also took in the foundations of the Iconic Tower in the Central Business District.
At the heart of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, the Central Business District with its crowning glory Iconic Tower will be laid. The Iconic Tower’s frame is a composite steel structure based on a reinforced concrete raft set directly on the basalt rock layer one by one. The semi-circular raft has an area of 3710 m2 and a height of 5 m, creating a volume of approximately 18500 m3, while the weight of the steel reinforcement is around 4600 tons, making the ratio between the two around 250kg/m3. It took over two months to set the form and complete the reinforcement works for the raft. Concurrently, a retaining wall was constructed instead of formwork. The tasks of this stage included the fabrication and fixation of over 4600 tons of steel along with 21000 shear studs. The finished Iconic Tower will have a glass exterior with an appearance inspired by the shape of a pharaonic obelisk.
Following the preliminary works, there was a three-step methodology to ensure the applicability of casting the raft as one unit. The first step was to construct a mock-up measuring 5 x 5 x 5 m; the purpose was to measure the heat of hydration. The second step was to prepare a complete casting plan which accounts for everything from raw materials, batch plants, transit mixers, pumps, and backups to traffic, safety, and emergency plans. An 8500 m3 raft was cast for another tower in the final step to test the overall plan and the adopted measures. The concrete using cement type CEM II with the addition of silica fume to the mixture was to address the problem of the rise of the heat of hydration in this region. Also, special mixtures were added to avoid cold joints to create flowable concrete and provide an adequate setting time (11 hours).
Project Updates and Public Reaction | Iconic Tower
The work of the Iconic Tower officially began in May 2018 with the digging of the land, while the construction process started in February 2019. Toward the end of 2019, fourteen floors were constructed. By December 2020, forty-nine floors out of eighty were finished. Keeping up with the schedule, June 2021 marked the completion of the concrete structure of the Iconic Tower. It has officially broken the record to be the tallest African building, with 385 m in height. Besides the excitement for the upcoming skyscraper, there are concerns that the New Capital will face the familiar problems of “ghost towns” as the past city projects. Architect and planner, Kareem Ibrahim of the NGO Tadamun, said in CNN’s article “Egypt is getting a new capital – courtesy of China”: “We have a chronic problem with the urban government of existing cities, and no matter how many cities you build you are not solving this problem.” (Monks, 2016).
- 4 firms to start on 1st phase of Egyptian new admin capital Saturday: Housing minister – politics – egypt (2016) Ahram Online. Available at: https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/198401/Egypt/Politics-/-firms-to-start-on-st-phase-of-Egyptian-new-admin-.aspx (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- El-Banna, A.A., Khalifa, A. and Zaghloul, Y. (2019) Iconic Tower Raft: The fastest mass concrete casting operation in africa and the Middle East, Dar Al-Handasah – News. Available at: https://www.dar.com/news/details/iconic-tower-raft-the-fastest-mass-concrete-casting-operation-in%C2%A0africa%C2%A0and-the-middle-east (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- Global Design News (2021) Dar Al-Handasah shair & partners’ Iconic Tower nears completion as the centerpiece for Egypt’s new $3B mega administrative complex 45 km east of Cairo, Global Design News. Available at: https://globaldesignnews.com/dar-al-handasah-shair-partners-iconic-tower-nears-completion-as-the-centerpiece-for-egypts-new-3b-mega-administrative-complex-45-km-east-of-cairo/ (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- Iconic Tower Tops Out as Africa’s tallest skyscraper (2021) Dar Al-Handasah – News. Available at: https://www.dar.com/news/details/iconic-tower-tops-out-as-africa%E2%80%99s-tallest-skyscraper- (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- Midolo, E. (2019) “Inside Egypt’s New Capital,” Property Week International, 8 March, pp. 54–57.
- Monks, K. (2016) Egypt is getting a new capital — courtesy of China, CNN. Cable News Network. Available at: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/egypt-new-capital/index.html (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- Morsy, A. (2019) 14 floors of new administrative capital’s iconic tower completed so far – politics – egypt, Ahram Online. Available at: https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/357580/Egypt/Politics-/-floors-of-New-Administrative-Capitals-Iconic-Towe.aspx (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- New Administrative Capital (no date) Dar Al-Handasah – Work. Available at: https://www.dar.com/work/project/new-administrative-capital (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
- Site visits at Egypt’s new administrative capital (2019) Dar Al-Handasah – News. Available at: https://www.dar.com/news/details/site-visits-at-egypt%E2%80%99s-new-administrative-capital (Accessed: March 10, 2023).