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The End of Tall Buildings

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  • Matt Lyons
    Here s an interesting article that talks about the future of the urban landscape in the wake of 9/11. I ll admit I ve never been particularly fond of
    Message 1 of 10 , Oct 11, 2001
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      Here's an interesting article that talks about the future of the
      urban landscape in the wake of 9/11.

      I'll admit I've never been particularly fond of skyscrapers at the
      human level. They are aesthetically appealing from a distance, yet
      somewhat ineffective on a human scale when it comes to promoting
      cohesive urban communities.

      I'm curious what others here think.

      http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=30
    • James Rombough
      Suburban sprawl doesn t involve any tall buildings. Do you really want more suburban sprawl? Matt, I don t know what country you live in, but I can speak from
      Message 2 of 10 , Oct 11, 2001
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        Suburban sprawl doesn't involve any tall buildings.
        Do you really want more suburban sprawl?

        Matt, I don't know what country you live in, but I can
        speak from personal experience that every single
        reasonably sized city in the USA is far less "human"
        than New York City. Unless it's the middle of the
        night, there are people walking on almost every
        sidewalk of this city. There are pedestrians walking
        alongside major streets 24/7. That is "human" in my
        book.

        So far, I've found just one intersection in NYC that
        allows cars to turn right on red. Believe me, no
        right turn on red does wonders for walkability. Even
        San Francisco, for all its liberalism, is more
        friendly to automobiles than NYC. I could go on and
        on about how NYC is far, far more human than any other
        city in this country. Yes, this is the same city that
        used to have two 110-story towers downtown. It is not
        a coincidence that NYC has tall buildings and is a
        human place to live, as opposed to
        Whites-Only-Fake-Ville, Suburbia USA.

        I didn't bother to read the rest of the article.
        "Existing towers are destined to be dismantled" -- did
        Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have some input, too?
        That article has got to be the stupidest thing I have
        ever read. Toyota SUV ads are more logical than that.

        Dismantling skyscrapers? How about dismantling
        freeways instead? I can understand the argument
        against dismantling freeways (understand, not agree
        with), but I cannot imagine any reason, aside from
        terrorism, for wanting to dismantle a perfectly good
        skyscraper.

        Is this some kind of lame joke? An attempt by
        terrorists to get us to tear down our own towers for
        them? Or should I read the rest of the article? Does
        it get less stupid after the first couple of
        paragraphs?

        James Rombough



        --- Matt Lyons <mattlyons@...> wrote:
        > Here's an interesting article that talks about the
        > future of the
        > urban landscape in the wake of 9/11.
        >
        > I'll admit I've never been particularly fond of
        > skyscrapers at the
        > human level. They are aesthetically appealing from
        > a distance, yet
        > somewhat ineffective on a human scale when it comes
        > to promoting
        > cohesive urban communities.
        >
        > I'm curious what others here think.
        >
        > http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=30
        >
        >



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      • Karen Southerland
        The writers of the article do have a valid point. After living in NYC (Manhattan & Brooklyn) for 5 years it s far from a human or even humane city. There is
        Message 3 of 10 , Oct 11, 2001
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          The writers of the article do have a valid point. After living in NYC
          (Manhattan & Brooklyn) for 5 years it's far from a human or even humane
          city. There is such a thing as too much density (at least while cars
          exist), as people = cars. This is especially true in New York since there
          are roughly 10 million people living in the area. Even if only 50% of the
          people had cars (which is far from true) that means the area would have
          about 5 million cars driving around. New York brings too many people to
          it's city everyday for work and it's incredibly taxing on the infrastructure
          (which wasn't designed for as many people as it is handling).

          Americans need to concentrate on getting work in the community they live in
          (instead of "commuting") - this requires a re-examination of our overly
          capitalistic society. Commuting makes the commuter not part of either the
          working or living community and that's just a shame.

          -----Original Message-----
          From: James Rombough [mailto:jsrombough@...]
          Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2001 6:38 PM
          To: carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [carfree_cities] The End of Tall Buildings


          Suburban sprawl doesn't involve any tall buildings.
          Do you really want more suburban sprawl?

          Matt, I don't know what country you live in, but I can
          speak from personal experience that every single
          reasonably sized city in the USA is far less "human"
          than New York City. Unless it's the middle of the
          night, there are people walking on almost every
          sidewalk of this city. There are pedestrians walking
          alongside major streets 24/7. That is "human" in my
          book.

          So far, I've found just one intersection in NYC that
          allows cars to turn right on red. Believe me, no
          right turn on red does wonders for walkability. Even
          San Francisco, for all its liberalism, is more
          friendly to automobiles than NYC. I could go on and
          on about how NYC is far, far more human than any other
          city in this country. Yes, this is the same city that
          used to have two 110-story towers downtown. It is not
          a coincidence that NYC has tall buildings and is a
          human place to live, as opposed to
          Whites-Only-Fake-Ville, Suburbia USA.

          I didn't bother to read the rest of the article.
          "Existing towers are destined to be dismantled" -- did
          Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have some input, too?
          That article has got to be the stupidest thing I have
          ever read. Toyota SUV ads are more logical than that.

          Dismantling skyscrapers? How about dismantling
          freeways instead? I can understand the argument
          against dismantling freeways (understand, not agree
          with), but I cannot imagine any reason, aside from
          terrorism, for wanting to dismantle a perfectly good
          skyscraper.

          Is this some kind of lame joke? An attempt by
          terrorists to get us to tear down our own towers for
          them? Or should I read the rest of the article? Does
          it get less stupid after the first couple of
          paragraphs?

          James Rombough
        • Matt Lyons
          ... No of course not.. See below ... If you read the article you would see that they are not condemning density - rather they are condemning monolithic, single
          Message 4 of 10 , Oct 11, 2001
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            > Suburban sprawl doesn't involve any tall buildings.
            > Do you really want more suburban sprawl?

            No of course not.. See below

            > I didn't bother to read the rest of the article.
            > "Existing towers are destined to be dismantled" -- did
            > Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have some input, too?
            > That article has got to be the stupidest thing I have
            > ever read. Toyota SUV ads are more logical than that.

            If you read the article you would see that they are not
            condemning density - rather they are condemning monolithic, single
            purpose structures that tend to suck the life out of the city below.
            Furthermore, they are not suggesting we instead use one and two story
            suburban sprawl type structures, but rather 4 to 10 story structures
            similar to Paris, Rome or London.

            If what you're saying is true - that tall buildings are the
            reason New York is a human place to live - then all the other cities
            that were raped during the 60s and 70s by "urban renewal" should be
            as liveable as New York. Unfortunately that simply isn't the case as
            some of the most unliveable cities in the U.S. - Atlanta, Houston,
            Los Angeles, Dallas, etc - are the one's whose downtown is dominated
            exclusively by monolithic skyscrapers.

            > Matt, I don't know what country you live in, but I can
            > speak from personal experience that every single
            > reasonably sized city in the USA is far less "human"
            > than New York City. Unless it's the middle of the
            > night, there are people walking on almost every
            > sidewalk of this city. There are pedestrians walking
            > alongside major streets 24/7. That is "human" in my
            > book.

            Actually I'm from Atlanta which is why I can relate to this type
            of highrise, as that's all there is downtown. The only time they are
            occupied is during the work week. At evening and on weekends
            downtown is lifeless simply because these single purpose structures
            don't provide the diversity of function that mixed use structures do.

            The lifeblood of cites like New York comes from mixed use,
            medium density zoning. As one poster on Planetizen notes "It's the
            winding low-density streets of the village, the on-street life and
            theatres of broadway, the pedestrian impulse to walk from 83d st. on
            the East side down to Battery park because the day is so beautiful".

            > Dismantling skyscrapers? How about dismantling
            > freeways instead? I can understand the argument
            > against dismantling freeways (understand, not agree
            > with), but I cannot imagine any reason, aside from
            > terrorism, for wanting to dismantle a perfectly good
            > skyscraper.

            Oh I'm all for dismantling freeways. However, I do think this
            article does have a point about the inhuman scale of some of these
            buildings. Too much density can be a bad thing.

            > Is this some kind of lame joke? An attempt by
            > terrorists to get us to tear down our own towers for
            > them? Or should I read the rest of the article? Does
            > it get less stupid after the first couple of
            > paragraphs?

            Yes, you should read the rest of the article before making your final
            judgement.
          • James Rombough
            ... There are 4 to 10 story buildings in the suburbs, with plenty of free parking for the employees. There might be a 1/4 mile jogging trail around it --
            Message 5 of 10 , Oct 12, 2001
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              --- Matt Lyons <mattlyons@...> wrote:
              >
              > > I didn't bother to read the rest of the article.
              > > "Existing towers are destined to be dismantled" --
              > did
              > > Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have some input,
              > too?
              > > That article has got to be the stupidest thing I
              > have
              > > ever read. Toyota SUV ads are more logical than
              > that.
              >
              > If you read the article you would see that they
              > are not
              > condemning density - rather they are condemning
              > monolithic, single
              > purpose structures that tend to suck the life out of
              > the city below.
              > Furthermore, they are not suggesting we instead use
              > one and two story
              > suburban sprawl type structures, but rather 4 to 10
              > story structures
              > similar to Paris, Rome or London.

              There are 4 to 10 story buildings in the suburbs, with
              plenty of free parking for the employees. There might
              be a 1/4 mile jogging trail around it -- whupee.

              So the WTC sucked the life out of Battery Park City?
              Battery Park City was built because of, not in spite
              of, the WTC.

              >
              > If what you're saying is true - that tall
              > buildings are the
              > reason New York is a human place to live - then all
              > the other cities
              > that were raped during the 60s and 70s by "urban
              > renewal" should be
              > as liveable as New York. Unfortunately that simply
              > isn't the case as
              > some of the most unliveable cities in the U.S. -
              > Atlanta, Houston,
              > Los Angeles, Dallas, etc - are the one's whose
              > downtown is dominated
              > exclusively by monolithic skyscrapers.

              In addition to Battery Park City, additional housing
              has been created from empty office buildings in Lower
              Manhattan. Downtown of other cities could do the same
              thing. Austin, TX has some apartments in downtown.
              It's not perfect, but at least it's a start.

              ...

              > Yes, you should read the rest of the article before
              > making your final
              > judgement.
              >

              Thanks, I will read the rest of it.


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            • James Rombough
              ... If you spread out the 10 million people, the 50% car ownership rate would rise. There would be more than 5 million cars as a result (same conclusion based
              Message 6 of 10 , Oct 12, 2001
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                --- Karen Southerland <ksouth@...> wrote:
                > The writers of the article do have a valid point.
                > After living in NYC
                > (Manhattan & Brooklyn) for 5 years it's far from a
                > human or even humane
                > city. There is such a thing as too much density (at
                > least while cars
                > exist), as people = cars. This is especially true
                > in New York since there
                > are roughly 10 million people living in the area.
                > Even if only 50% of the
                > people had cars (which is far from true) that means
                > the area would have
                > about 5 million cars driving around. New York
                > brings too many people to
                > it's city everyday for work and it's incredibly
                > taxing on the infrastructure
                > (which wasn't designed for as many people as it is
                > handling).

                If you spread out the 10 million people, the 50% car
                ownership rate would rise. There would be more than 5
                million cars as a result (same conclusion based on the
                actual car ownership rate).

                There are a lot of people who live in the New York
                metropolitan area who don't work in Manhattan. They
                usually drive to work. Is that the solution, more
                driving?

                >
                > Americans need to concentrate on getting work in the
                > community they live in
                > (instead of "commuting") - this requires a
                > re-examination of our overly
                > capitalistic society. Commuting makes the commuter
                > not part of either the
                > working or living community and that's just a shame.
                >

                How are offices supposed to work if people are spread
                out all over the place? Telecommuting didn't pan out
                as well as its proponents had imagined. Turns out
                that speaking with someone face to face is more
                effective than speaking by telephone or e-mail.

                You are confusing capitalism with poor land use
                planning. Hawking home-made wicker baskets instead of
                pricing life insurance isn't the solution. The USA
                has always been capitalist, but poor land use planning
                is relatively recent.

                __________________________________________________
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              • Matt Lyons
                ... Building height alone does not make a liveable city. Paris, arguably the most beautiful city in the world, is predominantly 5 story structures that share
                Message 7 of 10 , Oct 12, 2001
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                  --- In carfree_cities@y..., James Rombough <jsrombough@y...> wrote:

                  > There are 4 to 10 story buildings in the suburbs, with
                  > plenty of free parking for the employees. There might
                  > be a 1/4 mile jogging trail around it -- whupee.

                  Building height alone does not make a liveable city. Paris, arguably
                  the most beautiful city in the world, is predominantly 5 story
                  structures that share a common facade and uniform setback. Likewise,
                  San Francisco is defined by its neighborhoods of Victorian row
                  houses, not the conglomeration of skyscrapers downtown off Market
                  street(though the Transamerica building is a visual landmark).

                  > So the WTC sucked the life out of Battery Park City?
                  > Battery Park City was built because of, not in spite
                  > of, the WTC.

                  Again you're missing the point of the article which was largely
                  taking aim at the monolithic, post WWII skyscrapers such as the twin
                  towers of the WTC. With that in mind this now seems to be more of a
                  design issue than a fundamental problem with high rise structures in
                  general.

                  An excellent post written by Dan Zack on Planetizen notes:

                  Skyscrapers of an earlier age were much friendlier to the urban
                  environment. Before WWII they were almost always located on pretty
                  small parcels, allowing urban diversity of land uses to exist. For
                  example, the World Trade Center was located on a 16 acre complex,
                  whereas the Empire State Building is located on a 1.9 acre parcel. It
                  doesn't even take up its whole block! This allows for a walkable
                  street pattern with small blocks and mixed uses, even with huge
                  buildings.

                  Also, older skyscrapers usually had retail storefronts occupying most
                  of their street frontage. This added to streetlife and made many of
                  them "invisible" to pedestrians that didn't look upward. They didn't
                  disrupt the streetlife nearly as much as the gigantic complexes of
                  today, with their blank walls facing the sidewalks and vacuous open
                  spaces all around. Didn't we learn our lesson from Cabrini-Green? The
                  concept doesn't work for offices, either.

                  Finally, older skycrapers had architecture that felt a little more
                  human that the modernist glass boxes of the post-war years. Rather
                  than vertical or horizontal bands of glass, they actually had
                  separate, well proportioned windows for each office, which made it
                  feel like there were actually people inside. Something about that
                  offers comfort. Thankfully, many new skyscrapers are returning to
                  this simple concept.

                  http://www.planetizen.com/oped/cmt_item.php?id=321

                  > In addition to Battery Park City, additional housing
                  > has been created from empty office buildings in Lower
                  > Manhattan. Downtown of other cities could do the same
                  > thing. Austin, TX has some apartments in downtown.
                  > It's not perfect, but at least it's a start.

                  Yes it is a start though its a shame that is all we have to choose
                  from in most American cities.
                • Lanyon, Ryan
                  Personally, the skyline of Toronto is what inspired a love of cities in me as a child. Before visiting Paris or London, no image of these cities inspired me
                  Message 8 of 10 , Oct 15, 2001
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                    Personally, the skyline of Toronto is what inspired a love of cities in me
                    as a child. Before visiting Paris or London, no image of these cities
                    inspired me like those in North America.

                    The ultimate deciding factor on the height of new buildings will be
                    economics - after all, it was economics and real estate values that pushed
                    buildings upward in the first place, as soon as technology allowed.

                    I agree with one point - the monoliths of the 60s and 70s and even 80s will
                    not be rebuilt. Many of these were built as expressions of power and
                    influence, and were more costly to create. If I'm not mistaken, the amount
                    of space by the elevator shafts in the WTC made the building less
                    economical. I think maximum economy caps around 80 stories. That figure
                    may change now, if anything above, say, 60 cannot be rented out.

                    The fear of another air attack also diminishes if the surrounding buildings
                    are of similar height. Not only was the WTC out of scale with humans, but
                    it was also out of scale with its surroundings, making it stand out among
                    the crowd.

                    The issue of single-use buildings should not be confused with height - Five
                    20 storey single-use towers are probably worse than one 100-storey tower,
                    since they will consume an additional 4 footprints. I don't think the WTC
                    was single-use, either. I believe a hotel was located inside.

                    -TL


                    > Message: 5
                    > Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 19:08:34 -0000
                    > From: "Matt Lyons" <mattlyons@...>
                    > Subject: The End of Tall Buildings
                    >
                    > Here's an interesting article that talks about the future of the
                    > urban landscape in the wake of 9/11.
                    >
                    > I'll admit I've never been particularly fond of skyscrapers at the
                    > human level. They are aesthetically appealing from a distance, yet
                    > somewhat ineffective on a human scale when it comes to promoting
                    > cohesive urban communities.
                    >
                    > I'm curious what others here think.
                    >
                    > http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=30
                    >
                  • J.H. Crawford
                    ... There was a hotel on the site, but not in the towers themselves. -- ### -- J.H. Crawford
                    Message 9 of 10 , Oct 15, 2001
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                      >The issue of single-use buildings should not be confused with height - Five
                      >20 storey single-use towers are probably worse than one 100-storey tower,
                      >since they will consume an additional 4 footprints. I don't think the WTC
                      >was single-use, either. I believe a hotel was located inside.

                      There was a hotel on the site, but not in the towers themselves.


                      -- ### --

                      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
                      postmaster@... Carfree.com
                    • Chris Bradshaw
                      The WTC is a product as much of the transit links, as it is any technology of building technology (including vertical transit, or elevators). The WTC is at
                      Message 10 of 10 , Oct 16, 2001
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                        The WTC is a product as much of the transit links, as it is any
                        technology of building technology (including "vertical transit," or
                        elevators). The WTC is at the terminus of the New Jersey train tunnel,
                        and several subway lines run through or near it.

                        Of course, the proximity of hotels and residences, also stacked pretty
                        high, also make it possible, including its "economics."

                        But none of this overcomes:

                        a) the large scale of the companies who occupied the complex and high
                        degree of job specialization and monoculture work environment and the
                        lack of potential contact with people in other companies and other types
                        of work.

                        b) the decision to put the "personal services" in an inward facing (and
                        below ground) mall shut out the NYC culture of small, street-oriented,
                        individally owned (non-chain) businesses, although many of these
                        business exist in older building nearby and in the TriBeCa neighbourhood
                        to the north.

                        c) the adjecency of the expressway to the west and the decision to
                        provide a link to the Hudson River and the Battery Park complex with a
                        pedestrian bridge.

                        There will never be a humane city without active street fronts, and
                        green boulevards and a small-road-ringed park every 20 blocks or so.

                        Chris Bradshaw
                        Ottawa (wife was born just a few blocks from "ground zero")
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