Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: Cities in the Third Millennium

By Council On Tall Buildings And Urban Habitat | Go to book overview

PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE


The Future of High-Rise Buildings

George Schipporeit

For anyone interested in the relationship of urban issues and tall buildings, there is no greater challenge than this 6th World Congress theme of "Cities and the Third Millennium." The last few decades leading up to this threshold of time have demonstrated an unprecedented acceleration of transformation and change. Because there has been no long-term learning curve, the marketplace has become the judge of success and cities have been expected to just absorb the growth.

Yet, the future of high-rise buildings when viewed from their origins, and albeit brief history, do hold lessons to be learned and assessments that can be made. However, it should also be noted that from the famous Home Insurance Building, by William Le Baron Jenny, in 1885, through the beginning of the Great Depression, and from post-World War II through the year 2000, there are generally two 50-year increments, or a mere 100 years of development. Well intentioned perceptions must be expected to compensate for the luxury of an extended period of architectural history. Even with these limitations it is still necessary to look back before projecting forward.

It seems so natural now to understand how Chicago was destined to become the culture that produced the first tall buildings and the powerful verbal image skyscraper. The reconstruction of the city after the Great Fire was well under way, there was a vibrant creative architectural community that had been drawn to this construction cycle and there was a surge of commercial growth that motivated the investment in increased rentable floor area. But even more important was the resource of technology. The skeleton structural frame of the Home Insurance Building benefited from the first steel available from the adjacent mills, electric elevators had replaced the original steam lifts by E. G. Otis and, to compensate for the low-bearing capacity soils, new foundation systems were engineered from steel and concrete.

These three technologies, and the practical considerations of investment, became the drivers of an architecture known as the Chicago School. It was based on the form developing from a functional plan. Each building came down

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