The End of Tall Buildings

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Deckard
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 11:10 am
Many architects and urban planners have been opposed to skyscrapers for some time now. Their arguments found new resonance after the 9/11 disaster. Below is a quote from Leon Krier:

Quote:
The tragic absurdity of the World Trade Center is that a very poor piece of architecture has become an involuntary martyr, a phantom tombstone of monstrous scale. A fake architectural monument (i.e. private economic activities dressed in a monumental garb, and housed in memorial pillars, totems and the like) has become a true memorial through its disappearance. By its bodily dissolution it has gained the (immortal) soul which had so far eluded it.

There are lots of good reasons to build high symbolic structures, such as the Washington Memorial, the Capitol Building, the Eiffel Tower, St. Paul's Cathedral; there exists no sound reason, however, for building excessively high utilitarian buildings (with the exception of financial gain). Their collateral damage is such that society cannot afford such absurdities as general propositions; the problem today is not so much that they exist, but that some architectural thinkers want to make us believe that they are inevitable and necessary even in the future. These buildings make a very large impact as sex and power symbols, but considering the very real damage they do to their host cities, users, and neighbors, they may not only be considered now to be fragile and dangerous, but also obscene rather than powerful.


Lon Krier: Interview, by Nikos A. Salingaros
and here's another article in the same vein:
"The End of Tall Buildings", by James H. Kunstler and Nikos A. Salingaros.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 11:24 am
@Deckard,
Yet, as I remember, the two(I think that is the number) tallest buildings in the world were built after 9/11 (though not in the West).
 
Deckard
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 11:49 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;124123 wrote:
Yet, as I remember, the two(I think that is the number) tallest buildings in the world were built after 9/11 (though not in the West).


Krier, Kunstler Salingaros et al are not saying that the end has come. They are really proposing the end (in an admittedly prophetic rhetoric) for a number of aesthetic, practical and ethical reasons.

Quote:
"The only megatowers left standing a century hence may be in those third-world countries who so avidly imported the bric-a-brac of the industrialized world without realizing the damage they were inflicting on their cities." - Kunstler
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 11:54 am
@Deckard,
The four tallest buildings in the world were all built since 2001, including the brand new Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai that is nearly twice as tall as the World Trade Center was (and more than 1000 feet taller than even Taipei 101). And this isn't just true in Asia -- the brand new Trump building in Chicago is the second tallest building in the city and the 10th tallest in the world. There is the new skyscraper in Philadelphia that opened in 2007, 975 feet tall which isn't huge by world standards but it is for every east coast city other than NY.

If you look at the list of the world's tallest buildings on Wikipedia, since 2001 there have been more than 25 new buildings that are more than 1000 feet high.

Since 2001, there have been 4 new buildings in New York City that are more than 800 feet tall, and that's not even counting 1 World Trade Center (formerly known as the "Freedom Tower") that has been under construction for 3 years and will be the 2nd tallest building in the world.

So it sort of seems that the era of skyscrapers has not ended, and there's an orgy of them in Asia. Whether they make sense from an urban planning and aesthetic / technical / cost point of view is sort of a different story, but there's a lot of local pride in them, isn't there?
 
Deckard
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 01:20 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;124133 wrote:

Whether they make sense from an urban planning and aesthetic / technical / cost point of view is sort of a different story,
Quote:
I would rather reformulate your quote as "the era of the utilitarian skyscraper is at an end". It's not the metric height but the excessive number of floors which causes systemic problems. Applied science and technology undertake typological experiments in controlled conditions. They don't fly civilian passengers in experimental planes: nevertheless, that is exactly what modernist architects have been doing for three generations; they literally build buildings which are not ready for common use.
- Leon Krier to Kunstler & Salingros
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 01:36 pm
@Deckard,
Interesting subject, but this quote is pretty ridiculous:

Quote:
The tragic absurdity of the World Trade Center is that a very poor piece of architecture has become an involuntary martyr, a phantom tombstone of monstrous scale. A fake architectural monument (i.e. private economic activities dressed in a monumental garb, and housed in memorial pillars, totems and the like) has become a true memorial through its disappearance. By its bodily dissolution it has gained the (immortal) soul which had so far eluded it.

There are lots of good reasons to build high symbolic structures, such as the Washington Memorial, the Capitol Building, the Eiffel Tower, St. Paul's Cathedral; there exists no sound reason, however, for building excessively high utilitarian buildings (with the exception of financial gain). Their collateral damage is such that society cannot afford such absurdities as general propositions; the problem today is not so much that they exist, but that some architectural thinkers want to make us believe that they are inevitable and necessary even in the future. These buildings make a very large impact as sex and power symbols, but considering the very real damage they do to their host cities, users, and neighbors, they may not only be considered now to be fragile and dangerous, but also obscene rather than powerful.


What a bunch of fluff..."sex symbols"? Why not give the numbers on the collateral damage? Is it just the terrorist threat?
 
Deckard
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 01:48 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;124155 wrote:
Interesting subject, but this quote is pretty ridiculous:



What a bunch of fluff..."sex symbols"? Why not give the numbers on the collateral damage? Is it just the terrorist threat?


Yeah, those artsy types. A bunch of fluffy poofs if you ask me. I mean they see dicks everywhere. There's no such thing as a phallic symbol, no way, I don't believe it. :sarcastic:
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 02:03 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;124161 wrote:
Yeah, those artsy types. A bunch of fluffy poofs if you ask me. I mean they see dicks everywhere. There's no such thing as a phallic symbol, no way, I don't believe it. :sarcastic:


Do you see skyscrapers as sex symbols?

You can see anything as a symbol if you memorize it as such of course. But how many people look at a sky scraper and think "sex" compared to how many see a swastika and think "nazi's, hitler, war, genocide"?

The problem with modern art is that many of it's symbols are only symbolic to modern artists. In this case he seems to be trying for some pseudo-psychological "phallus=masculine=egotistical, aggressive and arrogant" Freudian nonsense.

Symbol of power is closer to the truth for skyscrapers, they are naturally awe inspiring when you look up at them.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 02:38 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;124166 wrote:
Do you see skyscrapers as sex symbols?

You can see anything as a symbol if you memorize it as such of course. But how many people look at a sky scraper and think "sex" compared to how many see a swastika and think "nazi's, hitler, war, genocide"?

The problem with modern art is that many of it's symbols are only symbolic to modern artists. In this case he seems to be trying for some pseudo-psychological "phallus=masculine=egotistical, aggressive and arrogant" Freudian nonsense.

Symbol of power is closer to the truth for skyscrapers, they are naturally awe inspiring when you look up at them.


Yes, you make good points and I agree. Sometimes symbols are imposed upon us. I do sometimes think of skyscrapers as sex symbols but maybe I've been brainwashed to some extent and yes sometimes a skyscraper is just a skyscraper. A symbol of power then? That much cannot be denied and as Kissinger said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

However, if you read some of the rest of the Krier interview you'll see that Krier in no way focuses on the idea of the skyscraper as sex symbol but rather delves in to some of the technical and philosophical aspects of the designing buildings and urban environments.

This quote is perhaps more representative of Krier:

Quote:
Traditional architecture and urbanism is not an ideology, religion, or transcendental system. It cannot save lost souls or give meaning to empty lives. It is part of technology rather than style; it is a body of knowledge and know-how allowing us to build practically, aesthetically, socially, and economically satisfying cities and structures in the most diverse climatic, cultural, and economic situations. Such structures do not ensure happiness but they certainly facilitate the pursuit of happiness for a large majority of people. - Leon Krier
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 03:04 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;124175 wrote:
Yes, you make good points and I agree. Sometimes symbols are imposed upon us. I do sometimes think of skyscrapers as sex symbols but maybe I've been brainwashed to some extent and yes sometimes a skyscraper is just a skyscraper. A symbol of power then? That much cannot be denied and as Kissinger said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

However, if you read some of the rest of the Krier interview you'll see that Krier in no way focuses on the idea of the skyscraper as sex symbol but rather delves in to some of the technical and philosophical aspects of the designing buildings and urban environments.

This quote is perhaps more representative of Krier:


I think skyscrapers are inherently impressive, and that's part of the reason they are built. I wouldn't say that Marriot Hotels has a keen interest in showing off their power though.

I think it's interesting to consider what features of modern life that we take for granted will fall by the wayside. It has the appeal of science fiction in a way.

Reading what Krier says though...

Quote:
Modernism is a totalitarian ideology which, like all dogmatisms, is based on unprovable assumptions. It is unable to tolerate, let alone accept opposition, contradiction, or refusal. If you accept such fantastic assumptions you necessarily abandon your own cognitive capacities and blind yourself to overwhelming evidence, in spite of interior and exterior contradictions.
:listening:

Perhaps very true, I'm not familiar with what he's referring to. But he doesn't spend a lot of time tying the high flying rhetoric down. Perhaps because of the audience the interview was intended for.

When he does deal with more concrete things:

Quote:
There is strictly speaking no correlation between demographic pressure and high rise buildings (with the rare exception of the type of conditions found in Hong Kong). In the U.S. or Europe the "scarcity of land" argument is promoted and maintained by people with a variety of contrasting agendas, reaching from those of landowners to those of ecologists. It is an artificially fabricated myth which dissolves into thin air when we look down onto those continents from the air. We will then realize that our towns and landscapes do not suffer from a scarcity of land or generalized road and building congestion, but rather from badly used land, hence from bad planning. For instance, while Paris doubled its population it spread its buildings over a territory 15 times that of central Paris, despite the proliferation of utilitarian high rise buildings.
I don't find his arguments substantial. No one is going to buy a square acre of Manhattan and put a 1 story building on it, just because there is plenty of empty land in upper NY. Our towns may have been poorly planned, but that won't just go away.



I think it's more likely what you said, that the architectural world will begin to consider skyscrapers passe.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 08:45 am
@Deckard,
As time goes by our fears subside, and we will again do what we desire much.

Maybe not in 10 years, maybe in 100 or more. It will come! ..eventually.
 
Camerama
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 01:10 pm
@Deckard,
What is impractical about height? As populace grows outward, structure grows upward. Advances in structural engineering and new material enable man to defy gravity. Or at least, for space to defy gravity. Not many more places to go but up. Why contradict our ability to do so?
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 01:20 pm
@Camerama,
Camerama;144147 wrote:
What is impractical about height? As populace grows outward, structure grows upward. Advances in structural engineering and new material enable man to defy gravity. Or at least, for space to defy gravity. Not many more places to go but up. Why contradict our ability to do so?
Well, it's putting all eggs in 1 basket ..so to speak. Should a great disaster strike, then thousands of people will perish.

..but yes, it's very practical with tall buildings, it's a logically choise for logistically reasons.
 
Camerama
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 01:37 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;144150 wrote:
Well, it's putting all eggs in 1 basket ..so to speak. Should a great disaster strike, then thousands of people will perish.

..but yes, it's very practical with tall buildings, it's a logically choise for logistically reasons.


With so many eggs, stacking, at least to me, seems the most accomadating, efficient, and reasonable option. Better a skyscraper than a warehouse. Skyscrapers satisfy architectural values. They allow form, function, and delight(symbolically and/or rationally).

Architectural and engineering innovation also decrease risk. Besides, we can always lay more eggs. Victims are martyrs to progession. Necessary links in the chain? I'm not a cynical determinist, but growth is necessary.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 01:55 pm
@Camerama,
Camerama;144162 wrote:
Architectural and engineering innovation also decrease risk. Besides, we can always lay more eggs. Victims are martyrs to progession. Necessary links in the chain? I'm not a cynical determinist, but growth is necessary.
You are dodgeing the human factor. The twin towers which perised in 9/11 was heavily critisized for cutting coners when build. It method of building wasn't resistant for flight impact, I remember that critisism back in the 80'ies. The reason why the cut coners, was for lowering the price, such greed is the ever haunting human factor, which we can't deliver ourselves from.

With greater project the danger becomes greater.

Here in Denmark where I live, our roofs collapses on modern buildings with no more than a few years old, because of sloppy architechts who didn't account for heavy snow fall, which is idiotic since they should take account for such simple common occurant factor.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 08:45 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;143012 wrote:
As time goes by our fears subside, and we will again do what we desire much.

Maybe not in 10 years, maybe in 100 or more. It will come! ..eventually.

Oh we still desire to do much. Tall buildings will come back in fashion perhaps and in some circles they still are. There are other frontiers in architectures. Making the best buildings possible aesthetically, environmentally and humanly. Tall buildings just don't seem that amazing anymore and they never were the best buildings. We still desire to do much but our ambitions are maturing.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 08:48 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;144355 wrote:
Tall buildings just don't seem that amazing anymore and they never were the best buildings.
What? Why aren't they the best buildings?
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 09:06 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;144357 wrote:
What? Why aren't they the best buildings?


See original post.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 09:11 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;144360 wrote:
See original post.
I see nothing but superstition in original post.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 09:17 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer;144363 wrote:
I see nothing but superstition in original post.

Good grief. Try harder.
 
 

 
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