Are skyscrapers needed?

The industrial revolution has made it possible to build skyscrapers thanks to technology; IT revolution - that they are almost useless.

Our ancestors built high constructions in ancient times, using the strength of stone and brick for compressive forces. However, their buildings had a relatively small usable space. The Great Pyramid of Cheops height of 146 m is a symbol of the power of the ruler, but inside it is actually a solid wall. The ratio of the internal surface to the building surface is amazing. With a square base on the side of 230 m, the pyramid only has a royal chamber inside, where the distance from the wall to the wall is only 5 m. At the great mosque in Samara, the 52-meter spiral brick minaret has no interior at all. In 107-meter high towers, Chartres Cathedral , although constructively sophisticated, there is nothing but slender inside props, emptiness and uncomfortable stairs Only in the era of the industrial revolution was the possibility of a fuller opening of the interiors of tower buildings and creating space for more people in them. Thanks to the use of steel and reinforced concrete frame construction and thin (non-bearing) external walls of the curtain type, the nineteenth-century architects managed to enlarge the usable space inside the buildings in relation to the reduced area occupied by the vertical bearing elements of the building. They also used the invention of mechanical lifts (elevators) for fast vertical communication. In expanding internal volumes, more and more slender buildings could already apply, constantly improved, integrated heating, ventilation and cooling systems. In the seventies and eighties of the nineteenth century, endowed with visionary talent, architects from New York and Chicago used all these technical innovations to create a modern high rise building - "skyscraper." 2 The earliest examples of such "mature" buildings include: Equitable Building (1868 -1870), Western Union Building (1872-1875) and Tribune Building (1873-1875) in New York, and the great Montauk Block (1882) in Chicago, Burnham and Root. These architectural curiosities immediately captured the market because they met the growing need for industrial capitalism to bring together an army of office workers in one place. This facilitated cooperation, access to files and other office equipment, as well as supervision of officials by superiors. In addition, the high buildings perfectly matched the then emerging master plan of the so-called commuter city with a dense, high-rise buildings in a centrally located business district and a low, dispersed - suburban-bedroom circle radially connected to the downtown transport system for everyday journeys between home and place of work. This focus of the city plan tightened the prices of the areas and buildings in the center and created a strong economic motivation to obtain the largest possible usable area of ​​all lands suitable for this purpose. And so at the beginning of the 20th century, cities such as New York and Chicago were growing according to the principle: the downtowns are getting higher, the suburbs are becoming more and more extensive. However, there are some natural limits to the height of skyscrapers, just as the size of living organisms is limited. Factors such as payloads, wind pressure on the structure, the need to provide water and supplies, and finally transporting people themselves from bottom to top and back, cause that the higher we build, the more space the construction, cranes, installation wires take. At some point, the addition of floors ceases to pay off, because the decreasing growth in usable space ceases to justify the increase in construction costs. Urban and architectural reasons also enforce some height limit. Tall buildings have an adverse effect on the surroundings below: they cast long shadows, obscure the sky, and sometimes cause dangerous and unpleasant gusts of wind. They are also conducive to the intensification of pedestrian and car traffic, which reduces the capacity of nearby streets. To limit these effects, urban authorities usually determine the limits of building height and the proportions of usable space to the built-up area, they can even determine the acceptable ratio of the height and volume of the building's body to the width of the street - which sometimes requires the design of "stair" or tapering upwards, so characteristic for the silhouette of Manhattan in New York. As a consequence of these different constraints, especially high-rise buildings - which were indeed achievements in this area - have always been expensive, unique and extraordinary. Thanks to this, investors, building the world's slimmest skyscraper in a city, country or in the world, can attract attention and manifest power or emphasize prestige. It is often profitable even when the venture does not bring immediate practical benefits. And so it takes a continuous, centuries-old pursuit of altitude. In New York at the end of the twenties of our century, the highest were Chrysler Building (319 m) and Empire State Building (381 m). In order to gain a few meters, radio antennas and even a mast for mooring balloons were added at the tops. The competition intensified again in the sixties and seventies with the construction of the twin towers World Trade Center (417 m) on the headland of Lower Manhattan in New York, Chicago high-rise buildings John Hancock (344 m) and finally the giant Sears Tower (443 m). Not long ago, in Malaysia, the "twins" connected by an overhead bridge were erected: Petronas Twin Towers (452 m) designed by Cesar Pelli. This is - at least for now - the tallest building in the world. Fantastic designs were also created. In 1900, DÄsirÄ Despradelle from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed a 457-meter "Beacon of Progress", which was to be erected on the premises of the World Exhibition in Chicago and, like the Malaysian Petronas Twin Towers, built almost a century later, rich symbolism to express the pride of a young nation. Despradelle's giant watercolor has been hanging in the MIT design studio for years as an inspiration for students. In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright (who was about 160 cm tall in boots and a hat) defeated Despradelle with his truly megalomaniac project of a 528-story building on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Simultaneously with this race in the design of ever higher buildings, the rapidly growing information revolution has reduced the need to place officials in one place in expensive downtown administration centers and their direct contact. Efficient telecommunications have reduced the importance of the central location of offices, and as a result, the attractiveness of cheaper suburban areas has increased, which are also more convenient for employees due to easy access. The digital record of information and computer networks made it possible to access the database even from considerable distances - gathering paper files in one place became virtually unnecessary. The business world discovers that the needs of marketing and public relations are better served by the World Wide Web on the Internet and the Superbowl advertising spots than investments in monumental architecture in costly downtown locations. It turns out that more and more often powerful corporations locate their headquarters in rather modest, low suburban office campuses, not in pretentious downtown high-rise buildings. Ford and Chrysler in Detroit dispersed their buildings among the suburban greenery, while General Motors against the trend moved to the shores of the lake to the Renaissance Center. The Nike Campus in Beaverton (Oregon) is difficult to find, but is no longer there. Microsoft and Netscape moved from their respective seats to Redmond (Washington State) and Mountain View (California), and although their logos, websites, and the look and feel of interfaces are known around the world, few of the millions of customers care what they look like offices of both companies. Of particular importance, however, is the relocation of Sears' offices from the skyscraper-based tower located in the center - the famous Chicago Loop - to the Hoffman Estates campus located in a distant suburb.

Does this mean that skyscrapers are already dinosaurs? Have the times of their splendor passed? Probably not exactly, or perhaps even a visit to an unusual bar located high on top of the prestigious Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. In the toilets adjacent to the bar, urinals are located opposite transparent windows, which allows the masters of this world to look from high on the city during the mundane, but relieving activities ... Of course, it would not give any satisfaction if the bathrooms were on the ground floor. In the 21st century, as in the time of Cheops, higher and higher buildings will be built - with great commitment of resources and often without economic justification. The rich and the rulers want to demonstrate their power from time to time in a traditional way.

Footnotes explain:
1 A spiral spiral external ramp leads to the top.
2 Skyscrapers (sky scrapers) - this is the name moved from the English name of the highest mast of the sailing ship.

Wykładał: William J. Mitchell - dziekan Wydziału Architektóry i Urbanistyki w Massachusetts Institute of Technology Tłumaczył: Lech Kłosiewicz Źródło:
30/07/2005     Wojciech Andruszkiewicz
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