Archive for August, 2011

Are American Cities Going Mad Architecturally?

From August 6, 1911


ARE AMERICAN CITIES GOING MAD ARCHITECTURALLY? Ernest Flagg, Designer of the Singer Building and Other Skyscrapers, Says Our Taste is Barbaric and Archaic — Loftier Towers Predicted for the Future. (PDF)

When Ernest Flagg’s Singer Buildinger was completed in 1908, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet. That record lasted for one year. Here are some of his thoughts on skyscrapers from the article:

The trouble is that we have not yet applied to high buildings the same truthful, simple, and artistic treatment which ages of experience have taught us to use in monumental buildings of moderate height. But te time will come when all this will be changed, and when it does come, I predict that public buildings in the United States will be carried to such amazing heights that the tallest commercial building will be dwarfed by them.

I can’t think what the tallest government building is in the United States, but the tallest one that comes to mind is the United Nations building, which isn’t really a U.S. building since it’s technically on international territory. But at 509 feet, it’s not even that tall. Can anyone think of a taller government building?

I have no doubt that heights approximating 2,000 feet will be reached within the next twenty-five years, for I see no reason why such heights should not be practical. The enormous weights involved will be carried by columns of cast steel of almost sold sections bolted together, and not built up of the rolled structural shape which we now use.

Well, that was sort of accurate. Thanks to steel, skyscrapers got taller than ever. The Empire State Building was completed 20 years after this prediction, but at 1,454 feet it doesn’t quite approximate 2,000 feet tall. And it was actually even shorter when it opened because the antenna spire wasn’t added until 1952.

The first skyscraper to come close to 2,000 feet wasn’t actually built until very recently. It’s the Burj Khalifa which more than passed the mark, topping out at 2,717 feet. Before that, the tallest building was the Taipei 101, which only reached 1,670 feet.


Written by David

August 1st, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Development