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History of Architecture (AP313) | Term Paper | 2014

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Development of skyscrapers in architecture

Term Paper for History of Architecture (AP131)

Roll Number: 0406901611
Sushant School of Art and Architecture

Building tall is not new kind of fascination to mankind instead the
aspiration to build tall has been constant through the ages. The great
pyramid of Giza, the great cathedrals of France are all such examples
of mens aspiration to build tall through the ages. Architectural
technology changed over a period of time from traditional small
buildings to towering skyscrapers in modern era. Towers became the
milestone of showing power and wealth to the world. The different
building styles seen throughout the history among which skyscraper
being the best solution as it maximized the usage and saved land.
The paper focusses on the development of the skyscrapers over the
time. The first sections of the paper look at the problems/obstructions
faced by the developers and crisis which led to development of tall
buildings. Further describing the style of architecture at the beginning
and technologies introduced and how the race to build taller and
iconic increasing worldwide and following sustainable approach by
architects and developers.
History of Architecture (AP313) | Term Paper | 2014
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Skyscraper, a tall building which is continuously habitable for all floors is
usually designed for commercial or residential usage, and is supposed
to modern day symbol of pride and power for. The main structural and
functional features of building are roof, arches, walls, doors and
windows. The architect combines the practical knowledge of how to
construct these with the sense of how tall the building can be its shape,
space, and light to suit the function of building itself. Thus the
development of skyscraper increased the accommodation in less
space being used. (1)
The first very tall buildings were those made possible by the invention of
the elevator .The invention of complex object as elevator made the
vertical connection and allowed the person reach highest floor within
minutes without exertion. The development of cast iron and the use of
steel and concrete structures made the construction cheaper and
allowed the load to transfer such a way that the building could attain
heights. The development of safe elevator by American inventor
named Elisha Graves Otis developed a safety device that kept
elevators from falling if a cable breaks. It had direct impact on public
confidence and they started using elevators without any fear of falling
down. Later in the century, the switch to an electric motor made the
elevator a practical solution to the problem of getting up and down
the tall buildings.
George Fuller worked on solving the problems of the load bearing
capacities of tall buildings using iron, steel and concrete structures.
Using steel beams he created steel cages that supported all the weight
and allowed the building to reach heights.
These mega structures allowed economic growth after the civil war in
United States and intensive use of urban land encouraged the growth
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and turned the developing city to the city oh high rise buildings. The
traditional attire of the cities of United States dramatically changed
after the devastating fire in Chicago. The city faced an explosive
growth, this growth soon gave the city an interesting skyline and it
quickly began to strain against natural boundaries. (2)
Skyscrapers became the best solution in meeting demands for the
people. The shortage of land gave then the idea to build up. Hence
they could easily meet up the supplies in ratio with the demands but
the result was a tall mega structure. In certain areas buildings were only
allowed up to three stories and were to be built on 25 X 125 lots.
Multifamily building started to gain popularity and the flat residing
culture came into existence.
Engineers make technology work. They design and mend machinery as
well as build a range of structures or buildings. They use appropriate
technology to develop large projects, so they tend to upgrade and
manage existing technologies. These engineers made technological
improvements enabled the construction of fireproofed iron-framed
structures with deep foundations. The foundations with such modern
technology were laid in late 18
century. Concrete, usually reinforced
or strengthened is prime material for building such massive structures.
Buildings were built using new technologies and were also
commercially viable; Chicagos 138-foot tall Home Insurance Building
was inaugurated in 1884. Their numbers grew rapidly and by 1888 they
were being labelled skyscrapers. And with these new building
techniques, the skyscraper was designed and the race for the tallest
building began.
The skyscrapers served a major historical function. They were a symbol
for Americas rising social, global, and industrial power. In the late
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1800s and early 1900s America was rising as one of the major world
powers in the world socially and economically. They were becoming
world leaders and in the area of technology they were leading the
world with new advancements. These skyscrapers became the
trademark and a symbol of growth and economic development in the
country. America continued to prosper and many people became
wealthy .Hence as the system of supports that skyscrapers became the
prominent reason for development in United States of America. This
mega structure became the main centre that bought glory to the
country. (3)
The style basically reflected at the early stages of building of
skyscrapers was Chicago style architecture that was supposed to
consider commercialism as the central focus for designing a tall
structure. The commercial approach of designing and the new
technology of building a structure gave freedom to the builders or
engineers to go multi story and design a high rise structure. Since the
skyscrapers creates a landscape urban by creating interesting skyline
which gives the ironical identity to the city or state and further helps to
develop the economic growth. (4)
The earliest skyscrapers were typically a rectangular shape with a flat
roof. The base was about two stories high, and the shaft consisted of
multiple floors with a repeating window pattern and a capital was
typically capped with some terra-cotta decoration. The style can be
best described as rectangular and simple with frequent use of glass.
The buildings are plain and free of ornamentation.
In the early stage of development of skyscrapers they were typically
influenced from the European decorative traditional methods such that
the style can be best described and articulated as rectangular and
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simple with frequent use of glass on the facades such that the buildings
were plain and free of ornamentation. The designing of a faade was
such that it was cut in willow patters to overcome the illusion of weight.
The roof was supposed to be flat and rectangular shaped. The main
aim was not only to thrust the building into the sky with multi-story but
also to ensure that it reflects the expression of loftiness that expressed
richness and the state of having wealth and dealership with the money.
The aim of designing building which was more beautiful and more
appealing was a result of general boom in the building. This shows that
the aim of designing the skyscraper for commercial purpose was
reflected through the style in which they were built. (5)
To achieve longer heights now the engineers and architects were
looking to find new ways to improve building design and structure so
that it can be made stronger, taller and long standing. Earlier, the
buildings were made up of load bearing masonry walls. These walls
were thick at the lowers stories of the building. Despite the increased
demand, buildings could not go taller than a dozen stories or so. As the
walls at the lower stories would have to be thicker than they existed
and that would make these floors less usable. Structurally, the
requirements of the supports of such buildings were made possible by
the gravity loads that put the natural cap on the height.
New inventions allowed building to go higher. In 1870s close to the
time of invention of elevators the internal steel skeleton was provided in
these high rise buildings which permitted larger windows and more
usable floor area. The cast iron columns were made run through and
through the building which started supporting masonry walls reducing
the thickness of such walls at lower floors. That allowed even larger
usable space at lower stories. These cast iron frames were cheaper
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than the thick masonry walls. Hence, the skyscrapers became the best
option in low economy.
Initially columns were done with cast iron framing. But framing
technology developed quickly and a new technique came into
existence. Cast iron was replaced with steel in this new technique. This
was during the mid-nineteenth century, the price of steel decreased
dramatically. By the end of the century steel replaced cast iron
completely and became the backbone choice for structural purposes
in building new skyscrapers. With the advent of glass being used as the
curtain wall help the developers to make external skin with aesthetics
and helping them to reduce the expense of building, since use of stone
increased the cost of the building. The glass provides the abundant
lighting into the building and thus helped to design a structure which
provided benefits to users and builders for more rentable area.
Improvements in technologies helped these buildings to attain
structural heights. (3)
The series of inventions in that era gave rise to high rise era. Steam
power allowed the use of more powerful tools in the excavation of
earth and even in the erection of such buildings. Initially architects
emphasized on the performance of metal skeleton that reduced the
building weight in comparison to thick masonry walls. The First building
in which architects relied on just metal support was built in Chicago; this
was home insurance building that was exclusively built on skeleton
support made up of steel and was erected successfully.
At the end of twentieth century, the race to make taller buildings
further expanded all over the world, but it also raised question about
building being green or sustainable building which wont disturb or
effect the earth through global warming, this led to further
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development of making tall structures more energy efficient. Architects
and developers further followed steps of sustainable design and
developed techniques all together. Now the sustainability focused on
to achieve a centre point between low energy consumption and most
suitable working climate. The architects of the building now open up
the building voids and cover them with solar control glazing. Improving
views as well as reducing the electrical load on the building by
providing abundant natural light inside the building. The building is
made to be equipped with the sustainable underground thermal
energy storage system using underground water reserves called
aquifers to temporally store the energy. (6)
The modern skyscraper came out as a new product after the industrial
revolution. Technologies evolved to better for the betterment of
society. People started a search for the solutions over the problems that
prevailed during the time. Successfully they reached the solution and
today the extremely dynamic building Burj Khalifa with 160 stories was
erected in 2010. Numerous such buildings were built in different
countries over a period of time and race to build taller continues to
make more iconic structures.

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1. Perspecta 18. Pell, Cesar. s.l. : MIT Press, 1982.
2. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff. DK Illustrated
Family Encyclopedia. London : Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Incorporated, 2002,
3. Ascher, Kate. The heights, anatomy of a skyscraer. new york : The Penguin Press,
4. Skyscraper style: art deco, New York. Cervin Robinson, Rosemarie Haag Bletter.
NEW YORK : Oxford University Press, 1975, Vol. 1.
5. Wilkinson, Philip. 50 Architecture Ideas. london : Quercus publication , 2010.
6. Greening Modernism: Westraven Tower. Hendricks, Joreon. CTBUH Journal issue
4,2010, 2010, CTBUH Technical Paper, p. 5.

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