The Architectural Design Of The 20th Century

Essay, Research Paper

The architectural design of the 20th century skyscrapers

has been redefined due to the advancement of our modern technology. Benny Louie

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.? ( 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. (

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.


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 May 15, 1999


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