By Gulgiz Dadashova
"Flame Towers", which turned into the symbol of modern Baku, has received an international award. The facility, which is the most unusual shape in Baku's skyline to date, has won the award in "The best hotel and tourist center" nomination at MIPIM 2013, the largest investment exhibition of innovative projects in the European real estate market.
The Flame Towers -- the three structures, which opened in 2012, each rise 620 ft. (190 m) over Baku. The structure is one of the tallest buildings in the Azerbaijani capital, which already boasts a number of high-rise buildings. The towers' shape was inspired by the city's history of Zoroastrian fire worshipping and its ongoing connection with natural gas.
According to a poll of skyscrapercity.com, an influential urbanistic forum, the Illumination of the Flame Towers, designed by HOK, was acknowledged as the best in the world.
HOK, a global architecture giant, says that the towers posed numerous challenges. They had to be weighted to withstand potential earthquakes, and some parts had to be constructed without the use of cranes due to Baku's harsh winds.
The Flame Towers development has three separate uses embodied by the triplet of buildings. To the south is the main residential block, encompassing 130 luxury apartments on 39 floors. The apartments in the tallest of the three towers look out over the Caspian Sea with scenic views reaching far across Baku.
To the north is the hotel tower with 250 rooms and 61 serviced apartments on 33 floors, paired with the 33,114 sq m office tower to the west. Both buildings share the same stunning views as the residential volume and mirror its shape, their gracefully curved silhouettes inspired by Baku's history of fire worshipping.
The Flame Towers are completely covered with the LED screens that display the movement of a fire visible from the farthest points of the city. This illumination creates the effect of giant torches emphasizing the main idea of the Flame Towers incorporated in their name. At night their LED exteriors light up to depict flames, a waving Azerbaijani flag and other moving images.
Heydar Aliyev Center, another architectural pearl
This is not the first time the success of modern architectural complexes of Baku was internationally recognized. Modern Baku is becoming more famous in the world, confirming its reputation whereby antiquity and classical style are harmoniously combined with the latest architectural achievements.
Baku is the capital city of the 'Land of Fire', routinely blasted by strong winds, seismic activity and located near one of the world's largest and most coveted oil reserves. Over the past five years, Baku's skyline has been transformed from classical domes and ancient minarets to include futuristic skyscrapers, stadiums and sculptural buildings of the most innovative variety.
Another architectural pearl of Baku, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, has already been included in the list of the best architectural projects of 2012. Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's amazing curves are on full display in the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, a fluid form constructed of glass-reinforced concrete that emerges from the folds of the landscape's natural topography.
All functions of the Center, including the entrances, are represented by folds in a single continuous surface. This fluid shape gives an opportunity to connect various cultural spaces while at the same time provide each element of the Center with its own identity and privacy. As it folds inside, the skin fades away to become an element of the interior landscape of the Center.
The Center houses a conference hall, a gallery and a museum. The project is intended to play an integral role in the intellectual life of the city. Located close to the city center, the facility plays a pivotal role in the redevelopment of Baku.
Baku White City
The Baku White City project, developed by the order of the executive authorities of Baku and designed to create a new and modern center in the capital city is another major project.
Baku White City won the award "Best urban development project" at the Cityscape Global exhibition, and is also the winner of MIPIM Asia Awards 2011 in the category "Best Project for the Future of Central and West Asia."
The Baku White City master plan envisages the creation of 10 universal urban districts with each of them to offer its residents the best living, working, recreation and entertainment conditions. In accordance with the order of the Executive Authority of Baku City, it is planned to rearrange and expand the seaside park (boulevard), a pearl of Baku that is situated right in the center of the Baku Bay. The Oilworkers Avenue, one of the most favorite streets of Baku residents, which runs along the boulevard, will be extended as well.
The modern center of Baku will be different, thanks also to the new transportation system in the city. For instance, it is planned to build a new underground station that will give people access right to the central square of Baku White City; the bus route network is also to be expanded, and a tram line along the whole coast is planned.
A brand new water transport line is to run along the boulevard as well.
The creation of a new and modern city center in the capital city will provide additional opportunities to attract local and overseas investments.
Khazar Islands - sea mystery
One more grand project being implemented in Azerbaijan is the construction of a world-class city of artificial islands off the Caspian Sea. The result will be a sprawling, lobster-shaped development called Khazar Islands - an archipelago of 55 artificial islands in the Caspian with thousands of apartments, at least eight hotels, a Formula 1 racetrack, a yacht club, an airport and the tallest building on earth, Azerbaijan Tower, which will rise 3,445 feet above the ground.
According to Avesta, the company responsible for the islands' development, when the project is completed, over one million people will live at Khazar Islands, and there will be hotel rooms for another 200,000, totaling nearly half the population of Baku. It will cost about $100 billion, which is more than the gross domestic product of most countries, including Azerbaijan.
The islands will be dominated by high-rise buildings and resort-like accommodations, with miles of unspoiled beaches and warm, shallow waters. Special considerations were taken in the design of the island`s structures to withstand up to a 9.0 magnitude quake in the region.
The first phase of the Khazar Islands project includes residential and social facilities and restaurants and will be completed in 2016.
The Azerbaijan Tower will be built as part of the second phase. Construction of what will be the world`s tallest building, the Azerbaijan Tower, is expected to cost $2bn.
The Tower will be 200 m higher than the world`s current tallest building - Burj Khalifa, and 50 m higher than the Kingdom Tower to be built in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.