Humanity has become obsessed with breaking its limits, creating new records only to break them again and again. In fact, our cities’ skylines have always been defined by those in power during every period in history. At one point churches left their mark, followed by public institutions and in the last few decades, it's commercial skyscrapers that continue to stretch taller and taller.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has developed its own system for classifying tall buildings, stating that the Burj Khalifa (828 m.) is the world’s tallest building right now. These are the tallest buildings in the world [Latest Update: August 2020]
This article was originally published on May 9, 2016. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
Situated on the peak of Bergisel Mountain above the picturesque alpine city of Innsbruck, Austria, the Bergisel Ski Jump represents the contemporary incarnation of a historic landmark. Designed by Zaha Hadid between 1999 and 2002, the Ski Jump is a study in formal expression: its sweeping lines and minimalist aesthetic create a sense of graceful, high-speed motion, reflecting the dynamic sensation of a ski jump in a monumental structure that stands above the historic center of Innsbruck and the mountain slopes around.
The designs by Snøhetta for the renovation of the building at 550 Madison Avenue have launched the building to the forefront of the debate about the preservation of Postmodern heritage. The plans include replacing the stone facade with undulating glass in order to transform the building's street presence. Should plans progress, the once prominent arched entry will sit behind fritted glass and stone covered columns will be unwrapped to create a hovering datum.
UNStudio, working in collaboration with Werner Sobek, have unveiled their designs for the Wasl Tower, a 300-meter tall skyscraper in Dubai. Centrally located along the main thoroughfare that connects the Emirates north to south, the Wasl Tower sits directly opposite the Burj Khalifa and, once completed, will feature one of the world’s tallest ceramic facades. Inspired by the movement of the city, the 300-meter supertall building takes on a "contrapposto" form, responding to the Sheikh Zayed Road along which it is sited.
SHoP has won Landmarks Preservation Commission approval to build Brooklyn’s tallest tower at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension, reports New York Yimby. Located on the same block of the former Dime Savings Bank, an individual and interior landmark, SHoP’s proposal calls for a 73-story, 1,066 foot-tall mixed-use tower. The proposal required LPC-approval because the architects want to merge the tower’s lobby with the bank and convert the atrium into a new retail component. The site’s relationship to the bank building encouraged the architects to develop a design and material choices that are heavily influenced by the proposed tower’s smaller, but no less grand, neighbor.
For many architects, the chance to make an impression on the landscape of New York City is a sign of distinction, an indication that they have "made the big time." But it's not just architects who have this desire: for decades, the city's big industrial players have also striven to leave their mark. However in this article, originally posted on New York YIMBY as "How New York City is Robbing Itself of the Tech Industry’s Built Legacy," Stephen Smith examines where it's all gone wrong for the city's latest industry players.
Strolling through the streets of Manhattan’s business neighborhoods, you can pick out the strata of the city’s built commercial heritage, deposited over generations by industries long gone. From the Garment District’s heavy pyramidal avenue office towers and side street lofts, dropped by the garment industry in the 1920s, to the modernist towers like Lever House and the Seagram Building, erected on Park and Fifth Avenues during the post-war years by the country’s giant consumer goods companies, each epoch of industry left the city with a layer of commercial architecture, enduring long after the businesses were acquired and the booms turned to bust.
But 50 or 100 years into the future, when our grandchildren and great-grandchildren stroll through the neighborhoods of Midtown South that are today thick with technology and creative firms, they are not likely to find much left over from the likes of Facebook or Google. There will be no equivalent of Grand Central or Penn Station, Terminal City or the Hotel Pennsylvania, left over from the early 20th century railroad tycoons, or SoHo’s cast iron buildings, developed by speculators seeking to feed the growing textile and dry-goods trades of the late 19th century. Perhaps unique among New York’s large industries, the tech and creative tenants that have become the darlings of the current market cycle are leaving very little behind for future generations to admire.
New York City is home to a plethora of Postmodernist designs — from the impressive Sony Tower to the diminuative Central Park Ballplayers' House — but most remain unprotected by traditional heritage registries. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is at the threshold of its 50th anniversary but has yet to recognize the architectural successes of 1970 up to the most recent eligible year for landmarking, 1984. The commission has been unnecessarily slow to recognize Postmodernist structures in New York City, say Paul Makovsky and Michael Gotkin writing for Metropolis Magazine, who argue that the absence of historical recognition for Postmodernism has come at a high cost, citing the recladding of Takashimaya Building on Fifth Avenue as a "wake-up call" for the Commission.
A recent study by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) concluded that by preserving 27.7% of buildings in Manhattan, “the city is landmarking away its economic future.” REBNY is challenging the Landmarks Preservation Commission, arguing it has too much power when it comes to planning decisions, and that by making business so difficult for developers it is stifling the growth of the city.
Yet not three days before releasing this study, president of REBNY Steve Spinola said in an interview with WNYC that “if you ask my members, they will tell you [the twelve years of Mayor Bloomberg's tenure] has been a great period of time for them”. The conclusion of WNYC is that the past decade has actually been a period of increased growth for developers, rather than a period of stagnation.
It would be easy to echo the opinion of Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, who believes the actions of REBNY come down to greed, even comparing its members to Gordon Gekko, the anti-hero of the film Wall Street. But is greed really what’s behind this attack on the Landmarks Preservation Commission? Find out after the break.
Ada Louise Huxtable was a renowned architecture critic who started at The New York Times in 1963. Her probing articles championed the preservation of buildings regarded as examples of historic design still imperative to the life of the city. Her arguments were leveraged by research and an in-depth understanding of architecture as an ever-relevant art form ("the art we cannot afford to ignore"). Alexandra Lange of The Nation points to the connection between Ada Louise Huxtable's writing and its influence on the culture of preservation that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.