Skyscraper Development Analysis Paper – Chicago School , Woolworth And Seagram Buildings

The term “Chicago School” refers to the revolutionary skyscraper architecture that was developed between 1879 and 1910 by William Le Baron Jenney, a designer and engineer, and other innovative American architects. As such, skyscrapers started in Chicago. Prior to the development of Jenney’s solution to reduce construction materials, cities could only get as big as their room for expansion. However, in 1884, Jenney created a method of constructing buildings using skeletal construction. He used granite piers and a web internal iron works that supported the structure. The first building to be constructed using this revolutionary design was the Home Insurance Building located at the corner of LaSalle Street and Adams street. The building was 10 stories high. It was supported inside by a mixture of cast and wrought iron. However, it was not the only building that that had internal support. The Ditherington Flax Mill in England also used framing. However, it was only five stories high. Use of Jenney’s innovation led to the construction of several skyscrapers. This practice continued until Skidmore, Owings and Merrill completed the construction of Chicago’s Trump Tower in 2008 using a fire-proof all concrete core (Günel & Ilgin, 2014).

Early Chicago skyscrapers strived to balance the aesthetic concerns and practical commercial designs in the design and construction of buildings. This led to the construction of large, palazzo-style buildings that had shops and restaurants at the ground floors and offices in the upper floors. However, New York’s skyscrapers were generally narrower. They were also more eclectic and generally lacked elegance.

The turn of the 20th century witnessed a significant increase in the construction of skyscrapers to cope with the increase in white-collar employees. Engineering developments made it possible to construct even taller buildings. Chicago continued to construct buildings in the previous styles. However, other regions changed the design of the buildings.

The Woolworths Tower, which was constructed in 1913, is one of the buildings that highlight the differences between the construction styles. The building is a 57-story office building between Park Place and Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City. It was constructed using a neogothic style. It was constructed using steel frame that was supported on massive caissons. The frame penetrated the bedrock giving the building a firm foundation (Fenske, 2008).

Designers of New York’s skyscrapers faced criticism due to the lack of aesthetic appeal of skyscrapers. Therefore, they strived to design aesthetically appealing buildings. The Seagram Building, whose construction was completed in 1958, is one of the early New York skyscrapers that achieved the aesthetic appeal. The building is a 38-story office complex in midtown Manhattan. It is 515 feet tall. It is one of the buildings that highlight corporate modernism. The building was designed to act as the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram’s & Sons, a Canadian distiller. It is one of the first buildings that express its structure externally. The building makes its structural elements visible, which prevents the use of a formal decorative articulation (Kingwell, 2006).

The Seagram Building was made of a steel frame. Non-structural glass frames were attached on the steel frame. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the building’s architect, wanted to make the steel frame visible to all people. However, several regulations prevented him from doing so. Therefore, he used non-structural bronze-toned I-beams to highlight the structure of the building. Use of this design increased the elegance of the building (Kingwell, 2006).

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