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Meeting 008 – Mega-Projects: from the Sacred to the Profane

Meeting 008 was in the Project+Project format and featured two very different yet equally fascinating presentations about very large projects:

I. Abraj Al-Bait Towers  Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Larry Philbrick and Jeffrey Zapfe of Acentech presented the technical, cultural, and professional challenges of designing and installing the world's loudest audio system for the world's largest clock tower, atop the world's largest building in terms of floor area: the Abraj Al-Bait Towers, also known as the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel. At 2.5 million watts, the system is the most powerful single-source sound system in the world.

The presentation and discussion ranged across the following:

  • the underlying physics associated with broadcasting audio over distances as high as 6.5km
  • design, construction, and installation highlights
  • the inevitable religious dimension of practicing in this context
  • the perhaps equally inevitable intrusion of commercialism within the very sacred inner sphere of the Muslim tradition
  • complicated project team structures and compensation challenges


II. Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Casino, and Resort  Singapore

Greg Reaves and Jeff Huggins from Safdie Architects, and Patrick McCafferty from Arup presented this well-known marvel of architectural finesse and structural engineering bravado, with a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Singapore skyline. At 65 meters, the Skypark boasts the world's longest occupied cantilever.

Aside from the design and technical challenges, the presentation highlighted the following practice issues:

  • highly accelerated schedule: the project lasted only 4 years from the initial competition to completion. For Arup, there was only three years from the start of their structural consultancy to the topping off.
  • geographically diverse team (San Francisco, Boston / New York, London, Singapore / Hong Kong, Sydney / Brisbane) and associated time zone management challenges
  • Singapore's planning organization (the URA) is well-organized and focused, which help facilitate the accelerated schedule.
  • need for understanding the level of documentation used for tendering / bidding overseas – for some countries such as China, Safdie Architects will insist on taking drawings through (US) Design Development in order to maintain control over the design.

BSA Global will be taking a break for the summer. Please join us in September for Meeting 009 – Pecha Kucha!