The Avianca Tower in Bogotá: The First Skyscraper with a Reinforced Concrete Mega-Frame System

Billy Lam
Vice President, Design Director
Cheng Chung Design (HK) Ltd., Hong Kong

Since the 1950s in Bogotá, architecture and engineering firms have been on a continuous quest to construct the highest buildings possible. However, Bogotá, like most of Colombia, is an area prone to seismic activity, although the first building codes concerning structural resistance did not appear until 1984. Domenico Parma was an Italian structural engineer that emigrated to Colombia in 1949 and worked in the city planning office for a short period of time. He became the most important tall building structural engineer in Colombia.

During the 1950s, developed structural designs for high-rise buildings like the 18-story Tequendama Hotel (1951), which was the highest in the city at the time, and the Antonio Nariño Urban Center (1952). Parma designed both of them by implementing a system within a concrete frame. In the 1960s, he created designs for taller buildings like the 27-story Bavaria Building (1965) and the 37-story Avianca Tower (1969), both made in reinforced concrete. Seismic events occurred in Colombia that generated structural damage across different buildings. Parma began a search for structural responses for tall buildings, relying initially on North American Codes, specifically the Californian Code. The structural response to earthquakes developed for Avianca in 1962 is a mega-frame system in reinforced concrete, which is recognizable today in multiple tall buildings worldwide. Parma therefore defines the structural approach for the tallest building in reinforced concrete made in Latin America to date, without any identifiable buildings that had implemented this system prior.

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