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Re: The End of Tall Buildings

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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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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