Controversial skyscraper alters Chile capital skyline

Updated 11 December 2012
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Controversial skyscraper alters Chile capital skyline

The skyline of Chile’s capital has been altered over the past year by a skyscraper — the tallest in South America and one so towering it casts a shadow nearly two kilometers (more than a mile) long.
The 70-story Gran Torre Costanera Center, a giant that dwarfs the city’s other skyscrapers, overwhelms the view of a city founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistadors and that remains proud of its colonial-era buildings.
Workers completed the top floor of the nearly $ 1 billion structure in February, and in March 2013 tenants are expected to start moving in.
The 300-meter tall Gran Torre is not as tall as New York’s iconic Empire State Building (381 meters) and is less than half the size of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (828 meters). But it is significantly taller than the other regional giant, the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City (293 meters).
A six-floor shopping mall has also risen next to the Gran Torre, and three other skyscrapers — two high-end hotels and an office building — are going up nearby.
The Gran Torre was built to withstand earthquakes — Chile, located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is especially prone to powerful quakes. The building came through with flying colors in February 2010, surviving the 8.8 magnitude quake that devastated much of south-central Chile with no structural damage.
Residents and city planners complain that people going to and from the complex will generate massive traffic jams and gridlock in an already tightly-packed city.
Once the edifice is completed, there will be nearly 700,000 square meters of building space available built on 47,000 square meters of land. Planners estimate there will be some 240,000 people going to and from the site each day.
“We’re talking about five percent of the city circulating within a few square kilometers,” complained architect and urban planner Julio Hurtado.
“The long-term consequences of this chaos it will be a topic for experts to study,” he told AFP.
The Gran Torre is located in the heart of Santiago’s financial district, and known locally as ‘Sanhattan.’ It was designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect who also designed the 452-meter tall Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Taller than even some of the Andean hills surrounding Santiago, the Torre is now a universal point of reference in this city of six million people.
Its owner, German-born supermarket magnate Horst Paulmann, once gushed that the site will be for Santiago what the Eiffel Tower is for Paris — a comparison that raised eyebrows, if not snickers.
“The Eiffel Tower is a monument, not a building. There is no comparison,” said Luis Eduardo Bresacini, head of Chile’s Architects’ Association.
The building may lack the graceful curves of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure, but the torpedo-like structure is not without some grace.
“It’s a fairly neutral building,” said Bresacini.
Hurtado was kinder. “From an architectural point of view, it is interesting and unique. A pretty object,” he told AFP.
In many ways the Gran Torre is emblematic of 21st century Chile, a country with strong economic growth but with enormous income disparity, where ten percent of the country’s wealthiest have income 35 times higher than the poorest 10 percent.
The Gran Torre, which will have 41 elevators and 5,500 parking spots when it opens, “is a symbol of the evolution of wealth, which in Chile is shown but not shared,” said Hurtado.
It also symbolizes “a country at the threshold of being developed but still with brutal contradictions,” he said.
The builders praise their structure as “the most imposing commercial and architectural landmark in Santiago” and “emblematic of Chile’s commercial development.”
Work on the giant structure halted for ten months in 2009, during the height of the global financial crisis. The shell at the time seemed to symbolize the country’s shattered dreams of economic grandeur.
But when work re-started, it became a symbol of Chile’s economic recovery.


Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

Luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers. (bulgarihotels.com)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

  • The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island
  • Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic

DUBAI: Bulgari, the venerated Italian design house, has just five hotels around the world. And even in Dubai — a city crammed with luxury hotels — the Bulgari Resort manages to seem exclusive. The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island, offering guests some respite from the city’s often-hectic atmosphere, even though it is literally minutes away from the pulsing heart of Dubai.

Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic. Master architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel — who are responsible for all the Bulgari hotels worldwide — have used a neutral color palette and custom motifs, such as coral-inspired lacquered steel parapets and mashrabiya-patterned accents, to give the hotel a sense of place.

Here, luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers, with fine materials — from Italian marble to sumptuous silks, impeccable attention to detail, and touches including the signature fragrance that wafts around you from the second you enter.

The hotel is responsible for a couple of firsts for the brand, including its ‘Little Gems’ kids club — where children are entertained with bespoke activities such as cooking classes and treasure hunts while their parents enjoy some downtime — and the global debut of the Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club, which has its own pool and recreation facilities, signature seafood restaurant, and 50-berth harbor.

All rooms and suites feature a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, smooth one-touch button controls, and bathrooms with standalone tubs boasting enviable views — making for some excellent Insta-fodder. The signature trunk-style mini-bar is as funky as it is functional, and the trendy basket beach bags are perfect for stashing your souvenirs — including designer knick-knacks from on-site concept store La Galleria.

The one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas offer private pools and butler service, but you don’t want to miss the resort’s circular central pool, where luxury cabanas with oversized daybeds and on-call service invite you to lounge the day away. Just adjacent is the crescent-shaped private beach, with the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf offering perfect swimming conditions, even if the tip of the seahorse-shaped island mars the view slightly.

Whether you opt for a beach-and-pool day or a Dubai-sightseeing trip, your evening should definitely be devoted to the quintessentially Italian aperitivo experience at Il Bar, where an oval-shaped chrome counter provides a social centerpiece, and an outdoor terrace offers marina views. The seriously chic Il Ristorante (by lauded Italian chef Niko Romito) is just next door, and shares the terrace. Its tiramisu is one of the best in town, as is the freshly baked rustic bread.

Offering a more pared-back dining experience are La Spiaggia, a beachside restaurant and bar, and Il Café, the Bulgari take on a casual all-day dining destination which still features jaw-dropping design, and, in line with the whole ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service ethos, serves breakfast all day.

That ethos extends to the spa too, where therapists provide the ultimate in pampering using top-shelf products, including La Mer, in a soothing nature-inspired space. The use of rare precious materials, including grey Vicenza stone and green onyx, infuse the environment with a subtle opulence.

A 25-meter indoor swimming pool with its own cabanas, extensive facilities (including a shower offering a “Caribbean thunderstorm” experience), and private hammam, plus an exclusive Lee Mullins training program at the state-of-the-art gym complete the impressive recreation facilities at the resort.

If you’re looking for a classy, authentic ‘slice-of-Italy’ experience in the Middle East, then the Bulgari Resort Dubai is where you should check in.