Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture - Vol. 2

By R. Stephen Sennott | Go to book overview

O

OFFICE BUILDING

No other building type serves as a more reliable indicator of the complex and interwoven economic, political, cultural, and regional changes reflected by architecture than structures designed and built to house the functions of commercial, cultural, or government administration. At the turn of the 20th century, strong economic development in the two major industrial growth sectors in the United States, livestock and meat processing and the steel industry, created a new extraordinary demand for office space in metropolitan centers. Chicago and New York exemplified a trend to accommodate administrative functions away from the actual places of production. A new building type was born.

Form, technology, construction methods, and the organizational system of the office work environment significantly changed in the next 100 years. At the beginning of the 20th century, office building architects and clients still needed the stylistic assurance of the classical template for the new building type. The early office building designs by the firms of Holabird and Roche, D.H. Burnham and Company, and later Adler and Sullivan in Chicago; Cass Gilbert, Sloan and Robertson; and McKim, Mead and White in New York resembled mostly Italian Renaissance palaces or the French nobility's city residences in the style of Second Empire buildings. Examples include the Flatiron Building (1902) by Daniel Burnham and the F.W. Woolworth Building (1911) by Cass Gilbert in New York City.

Despite its neoclassical appearance, the building type was technologically the most advanced architectural expression of its time. The new technique to carry the load of a building was no longer by use of massive walls but rather by a system of vertical steel columns and horizontal beams, a wind-braced steel frame and its fireproofing, organized in a rational grid. This was the result of cooperation among client, architect, and the steel industry. Using the technique of the steel frame meant decreasing the obstructing traditional walls, increasing the usable office space per floor. Important technological progress in other areas, such as in mechanical building systems for vertical circulation (such as the 1852 invention of the safety elevator, a mechanism for a lifting platform by Elisha Otis in New York), ventilation, and artificial lighting, freed the new building type from limitations of heights and depth of the floor plan. With the Larkin Building (1904, demolished 1950) in Buffalo, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright opened a dramatic new path by introducing new tectonic and technological elements such as curtain walls, steel furniture, and air conditioning. The discourse among architects and investors between “classical” and “modern” expression of the new building type continued well into the 1920s, finding its climax during the quarrels about the international competition for the new office building of the Chicago Tribune in 1922. The winning design, which celebrated an office building in a Gothic Revival style, succeeded over entries including a design by German architect and then director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius. The jury and the general public were not yet willing to accept his design based on a sensible balance of expression derived from the rationality of the structural grid system. This discussion continued, enriched by events such as the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in the 1920s, which recharged the formal catalog of architects, especially in the United States, with decorative elements. The Chrysler Building (1930) by William Van Alen in New York City is an example of a highly developed Art Deco style. With the immigration of the majority of the leading proponents of the Bauhaus, such as Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to the United States, the avant-garde philosophy of the use of material and production techniques finally altered the course of the formal expression of the building type. The face of the office building changed from historicism to congruence between structure and expression as the International Style emerged.

Advances in material technology, mainly in the areas of glass, stainless steel, and aluminum in the years after World War II, led to the curtain-wall office buildings of the International Style and their domination of city centers around the world. Examples are the Lever House (New York, 1952) by Gordon Bunshaft, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; the Seagram Building (New York, 1958) by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson; and the Citicorp Center (New York, 1978) by Hugh Stubbins. Higher energy costs in Europe drove the expression of a “pure” International Style, with the reduction of the office facade to a glassand-metal-frame skin, to change to highly developed multilayered systems. Outside louvers, blinds, and balconies reduced energy consumption by reducing solar heat gain and also allowing for easy access and maintenance.

-945-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • G 481
  • H 579
  • I 667
  • J 703
  • K 719
  • L 743
  • M 805
  • N 901
  • O 945
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 969

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.