australian and new zealand architecture and design resources
HOME > NEWS > EDITORIAL > 16.09.01





The 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.


The 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 their 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 storey.

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.

Peter Johns




butter paper© 2000-2002 HOME ABOUT REV: 17.08.03 LINK CULL: N/A