The odds of this bundle of classrooms and offices coming to symbolise very much or attracting crowds in veneration and awe are small.
And the costs of an icon are real. To make something stand out, it needs an unusual shape.
Seattle’s space needle, New York’s Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House show this. The most iconic structures aren’t usually office or apartment blocks.
To make a structure stand out, it needs to shrug off the constraints of form that go with optimal geometry (normally cubes are the most efficient thing to build if you wish to optimise floorspace.). It should also preferably abandon tradition.
This can mean you’re going to have years of engineering problems getting the damn thing built. Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station’s undulating roof was described as “a remarkable spectacle,” “a considered piece of urban architecture,” and, of course, “iconic.”
It went hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and was delivered over a year late. The roof then leaked.
Iconic buildings are rarely optimised for functionality. Even Sydney’s Opera House famously falls short in its interior.
If your office block is shaped regularly, it can still be iconic on one condition. It must be tall.
Malaysia’s Petronas towers are not much to look at, but they represented a powerful tourist attraction for the years that they were the world’s tallest (1998-2004) and a potent symbol of Malaysia.
They’ve since been overtaken. First by Taipei 101, which held the title for six years. Then again by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Will Dubai’s monument be pipped one day?
Melbourne’s Rialto Building was the city’s tallest for a long time, and a local icon. But a taller tower came along, and it quietly transformed its viewing platform into a restaurant, before blending back into the skyline. Tallness is a frustratingly transient way to obtain iconic status.
Icons are few and the chances of building one deliberately are small. The chances shrink further still when you consider that some icons were never meant to be seen as such.
Many icons start their lives as functional things. Like Holland’s windmills or China’s Great Wall. For a more recent example, think of London’s Eye, designed to take photographs from not photographs of.