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The architectural design of the 20th century skyscrapers has been redefined due to the advancement of our modern technology.
Humanity 450 Dr. Maureen Schmid 17 May 1999
The architectural design of the 20th century skyscrapers has been redefined due to the advancement of our modern technology. In our modern society, the architectural design of skyscrapers is changing the downtown landscape of metropolitan areas. Due to the change of technologies, it has changed the architectural design of skyscraper dramatically in terms of the its function, design structures, heating and cooling systems and it social status in society. The basic function of the architecture is to provide a roof over peoples’ head. The main purpose of architecture is to act as a shelter for people to protect themselves against Mother Nature. As civilization development advances, we increased our knowledge and became more creative. People start to design buildings for means of displaying wealth and social status. The skyscraper fits the criteria to show the social status of such building with great height and elegance to the society. According to O’Gorman, “architecture is a form language, of communication.” (P.89) This communication is represented in the forms of texture, shape and style that reflects certain period of time. In the early period, architectures were associated with style and culture. “The Greeks built marble temples with Doric, Ionic or Corinthian columns. Egyptian architecture used heavy lotus columns, massive battered walls and pyramidal forms. The Gothic style used point arch, vast areas of stained glasses, pointed rib-vault construction.” (P. 92) Each had its unique characteristic feature to express its message. In the 20th century architectural design, architecture is no longer viewed as simple shelter to provide a roof over peoples’ head. Architectures are designed with a more environmental conscious issue like cost, energy conservation and practicality of the structure. The interior environment is designed according to the space function of the structures. For example, “a dance hall, needs a large open-space with sufficient room for the band and a bar and maybe for tables and chairs around the edge so that people can sit and chat.” (Conway & Rowan) This concept always applies to real life situations. People don’t rent more space than what they needed for. For example, a three person family will not rent a 3 bedroom apartment, unless they are financially well off. In a Victorian house, there are different corridors for different users. The servants don’t use the same passage as the owners’ family. (Conway & Rowan, P.4) This is similar to large hotels, employees have to use the employees entrance to access the building. These passages are not well maintained as the front of the house. “The interior environment should be safe for working, living or housing objects.” (Conway & Rowan, P.17) This means that building should be at a comfortable temperature, with sufficient lighting, ability to control the transmission of noise, provide enough space for pipes, wires and ventilation ducts. Overall the architects has to take in consideration of the climates differences and regional variations of the building in designing a suitable interior environment for today’s standard. The skyscraper is defined as a “building with exceptional height completely support by a frame-work, as of girders, from which the walls are suspended, as opposed to a building supported by load-bearing walls.” (www.infoplease.com) The function of the skyscraper is serve as a commercial purpose. The Sears Tower is fine example of it, not only the being headquarter for Sears and Roebuck company but it also has an observation deck for the public. The skyscraper has always associated with wealth and power. To the general public, big is good; in terms of building, the taller the better. People had been fascinated with skyscraper ever since the birth of the first skyscraper in 1895. It was a 10-stories high steel frame structure designed by William Le Baron Jenney in 1885, named “Home Insurance Building.” (Bennett, P.40) Over the year as steel and concrete production technologies reach a higher level, architects use these new materials to reach greater height in the design of skyscrapers. The improvement of the skyscraper structures starts from 10 floor stories to high as 150 floor stories high. The Reliance Building Chicago, USA, in 1895, 15 stories high used the semi-rigid steel frame. The semi-rigid steel frame was held together with steel beams and connected by rivets. (Bennett, P.42) The 60 stories high First Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee, USA in 1974 employed the steel belt truss with framed shear truss. This structure used the horizontal trusses at the upper and lower stories to enhance the framed shear truss. (Bennett, P.44) The Sears Tower, Chicago, USA, in 1974, 110 stories high used the Bundled tube. The bundled tubes were made up of a cluster of connected frame tubes, reinforced by steel beams at each story to increase the strength of the structure. Various tubes terminated at different level to further strengthen the bundled tubes at the center. (Bennett, P.44) The future structure was the Superframe, which can reaches at least 150 stories high. It used the concept of the Eiffel Tower with framed tubes connected by horizontal trusses. (Bennett, P.45) It was the innovation of the structural design that enables skyscrapers to reach new height. These methods include the use of steel belted truss, cross members to reinforce the structure. Heating and air conditioning played an important role in the structure of skyscrapers. They are the key units that control the inside atmosphere of all skyscrapers. In the early days, the heat sources in the building came from fireplaces and stoves. Later on heat in the building supplied by the hot water boiler. The boiler heats up the water and sends it out to the radiators through a system of pipes. This was later replaced by central heating furnace with ventilation ducts that channel heat to various areas of the building. Air conditioning is defined as a mechanical process for controlling humidity, and temperature of air in room. (www.infoplease.com) Air condition is originated from refrigeration. The process of refrigeration is to draw heat away from substances to lower their temperature. In the operation of an air conditioning unit, air is blow across a cooling pipe and the waste heat is carried away by the flow of cold water in the pipes. The cooled air is carried out through the ventilation ducts to various parts of the building. Today, the skyscrapers use the central heating system with ventilation ducts that can be shared with the heating and air conditioning system. Engineers are working on new ways to make heating and air conditioning more efficient and environmental friendly. This would reduce the cost of energy bill on these skyscrapers. The cost of building a skyscraper is in hundred million dollars in the current market. The skyscraper is well known for its great height and the social status comes with it. In general, large company or firm would host its head office in these skyscrapers. For example Chrysler had its head office in the Chrysler Building, owned by Chrysler which is one of the big three auto makers. (Bennett, P.71) The Sears Tower, the head office for Sears and owned by Sears. It was known for being the worlds’ tallest skyscraper in Chicago. (Bennett, P.24) Tenants expect clients to know where they are located when they tell them the Sears Tower as their location. These skyscrapers are own by the wealthy individuals whom are in the upper level of financial social status. There is a sense of prestige for having offices or shops in these skyscrapers. Modern skyscrapers are being redefined by the use of advance technologies. Due to the advancement in technology, skyscrapers are able to reach new height easily. It changes the way architects design the structure of these buildings. The new function of the skyscraper is to provide great views, house antennas for communications, telebroadcasting and for entertainment purpose. The use of computer climate control system made the building a more comfortable environment for everyone. The great height of the skyscraper like the Sears Tower, it associates itself with the prestige of being the tallest of all. With the rapid advancement of technology and the influence of fame and wealth, sky is limit for the next generation of skyscrapers.
Bennett, David. Skyscrapers Form & Function New York 1995 Conway, Hazel and Rowan, Roenisch. Understanding Architecture: An introduction to Architecture and architectural History. London and New York: Routledge 1994. O’Gorman, James. ABC of Architecture Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998 Online www.infoplease.com May 15, 1999
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