Wednesday 4 August 2010

333 West Wacker Drive

Produced by the Chicago Architecture foundation, this card shows 333 West Wacker Drive with its curved green glass front facing the Chicago River.  The person who sent it was on a course studying the history of skyscrapers and how they impacted American history and culture.  I was immediately fascinated.  That wasn't something I had ever thought about before.

The height of buildings was limited first of all by how many stairs anyone could reasonably be expected to climb.  A safe elevator was developed in 1853, at almost the same time as a process for mass-producing steel relatively inexpensively, allowing new construction techniques - steel skeletons rather than load bearing walls.

Then in 1871 a massive fire in Chicago destroyed a large portion of the city.  Rebuilding was accompanied by an explosive growth in demand.  The area of land was limited so the only way was up.  Modern building materials and methods have allowed further increases, the record has steadily increased until now the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest man-made structure ever built at 828 m (2,717 ft).  I don't think there is anything that would persuade me to go up that building.

Two interesting things about the Burj Khalifa:
it was built by a Chicago firm of architects.
The record for the tallest man-made building returned to the Middle East where it was held by the Great Pyramid at Giza for 4000 years.
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  1. I have no desire to live in any kind of high rise apartment building, preferring something closer to the ground. Even in hotels, I don't like to be above about the twelve floor. I know I miss out on spectacular views but I think it's better, should there be a fire, to be able to get out quicker.

  2. How very interesting and fitting that the record should return whence it came.

  3. In Chicago this building is called "the Emerald City" or just "Oz" - because of its color. It's really noticeable.


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