future of the tall building
September 16, 2001
I'm completely dazed. A friend sent these photos of the view out his brooklyn
window, before and after, and I stared at them for a long time.
future of the tall building is in doubt. Not that people don't want to
build them (many want to rebuild the towers immediately). But not many
will be wishing to rent space. Current tenants of the Empire
State Building, now again the tallest in New York, have gone
back to work. A lot want to get out of there for good, fearing that
the building has become the new target. The Empire State had its own airplane
hit, a B52 in 1945. The building stood. A Boeing 767 might be another
The impetus for most tall buildings has not been practical. They are expensive
structures and tricky to make pay off. The new generation of skyscrapers
uses the structural system employed at the World
Trade Center, the external lattice bracing and holding up the structure.
It helps steady the building and lessens core structure to something manageable.
This system now seems very vulnerable to this new kind of attack.
When the World Trade Center was built, it was meant to be 92 storeys high.
The extra 18 storeys were tacked on to secure the buildings the brief
title of world's tallest tower(s). A year after opening in 1973, this
title was swiped by the Sears
Tower in Chicago.
The problem with tall towers is not so much their tallness, though. It
is that they're so obvious. Those planes could have wreaked equal devastation
had they slightly missed there mark. But the attack would have been less
symbolic. Skyscrapers quickly become the postcard symbols of their cities
and nations. They become targets for any group seeking to dent the self
image of a nation.
The status once associated with having a high address has been replaced
in a matter of minutes by a vulnerability.