Monday, June 22, 2009

Unbuilt Skyscrapers

"Tall Tales"
By Charles Linn, FAIA; Stories by James Murdock, Architectural Record

"The stories of a few classic skyscrapers that were never built tell us much about what motivates architects, and their clients too.

"Architecture critics nearly always cite a handful of unbuilt skyscrapers as the best of the type, neglecting the vast majority of completed ones entirely. That begs the question, what is it about working in the tall building genre that propels architects to produce such interesting work? It could be any number of things, from the most fantastic wish to be free of gravity’s limitations and to soar, to the more down-to-earth wish to build cities that make a rational use of the land. In the following pages, we've recounted the stories of nine of these iconic but unbuilt structures. Some were theoretical and never meant to be built. Others ran headlong into conflict, everything from community opposition to world war. Still others...."

The illustration is of Frank Lloyd Wright's Mile High Illinois skyscraper (1956). It was part of his theoretical Broadacre City project. The building used, for the most part, construction materials available at the time: including Plexiglas windows. We still don't have his atomic elevators, though.

The other structures pictured and discussed are:
  • Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Competition
    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
    Berlin, 1921
  • Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
    Chicago, 1922
    • Adolf Loos
    • Eliel Saarinen
  • Office Tower at Grand Central
    I.M Pei
    New York, 1956
  • Sino Tower
    Paul Rudolph
    Hong Kong, 1989
  • Hyper Building
    Paolo Soleri
    Mojave Desert, 1996
  • 7 South Dearborn
    Adrian D. Smith and William F. Baker Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
    Chicago, 1998
  • New York Times Tower Competition
    Frank O. Gehry, Frank O. Gehry & Associates and David Childs, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
    New York, 2000
  • EcoTower
    Ken Yeang, TR Hamzah & Yeang
    London, 2000
The EcoTower is an odd bit of architecture. The model (shown to the right) gives the impression of having been left out in the sun too long, but apparently reflects Ken Yeang's vision. Designed with "bio-climatic design principles" that sound plausible, the project hasn't been built yet.

"...The project stalled when the developer, Southwark Land Regeneration, failed to win financial support from the local city government...."

I can't help but speculate that the local city government might have been a bit more willing to brass up, if the design hadn't given the regrettable impression that the architect was a trifle too fond of Guinness.

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