Architecture : Looking up, standing tall, the skyscrapers – Madhu nidhi – Medium

The obsession

Humans and their obsession for tall buildings dates back to the time of Pharaohs, we have always yearned to build great, big, iconic structures.

In the wide span of centuries, we have built up towering habitations to rejoice our culture, promote our cities or simply to show off.

What moves someone to build a bigger and grander building? The simple reasons being, the aesthetic concern, pride and vanity.

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Artist and pride

To build a great building is to be an artist, the developer needs to know the lay of the land, the way to finance it, what will work and what people need.

Building big is an aesthetic and the world benefits from it. Pride has always been embedded in us, in all forms. Imagine the pride one feels, after creating a great building, the pride of the creators when they see thousands of people entering their building, everyday, many have offices or homes there, they are either shopping or exercising,conducting business, learning, all under a roof that the creator built.

We take pride in knowing that we made this happen.

But vanity, vanity is pride’s unhappy and demanding sister. “In Praise of Folly”, written by a monk named Erasmus many years ago, he said, “If you’re building to get a lot of attention, you will get it. But will that get you? It’s folly”.

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Money, the big player

The other important reason being money. The Romans claimed that whoever owns the land, “ it is theirs up to heaven and down to hell” . They couldn’t do a great deal to mine money from the air nonetheless, until the invention of steel frames and the construction of buildings.

Money carries so much meaning. Perhaps early poverty or insecurities drive a man to pile up the cash, or maybe we just love competing and money is the measure.

Historically, tall structures were the preserve of great rulers, religions and empires. For instance, the Great Pyramids of Giza — built to house the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, once towered over 145 meters high. But now, our priorities and thoughts have diversified and varied, the needs of various spaces are looked at in innovative ways.

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The first generation of skyscrapers in the 18th century, were a result of the booming insurance business, which exploited the technological advancements to make tall buildings possible.

The early sky scrapers, were “tall office buildings”. They revolutionized office work and enabled administration to be concentrated in individual high rise buildings within a city’s business district.

Changes in urban life has also given way to taller, higher density facilities. While tall buildings can be good for cities, they are by no means a cure for all.

For one, skyscrapers can create a vertical sprawl, smothering the innovations that could arise from street level interaction. The most innovative spaces in the world remain older neighborhoods which boasts an abundance of mid raise, open floor plan, historic buildings that create street level interactions, where people and ideas can combine and recombine to form new innovations.

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The catch

Though bigger spaces are better, skyscrapers and tall buildings can be a good thing in moderation, only when done right.

The catch here, is in making sure that cities are neither too vertical and big nor too horizontal and flat. And our ultimate goal should be to achieve, the kind of density and mix of building heights, that will help fuel urban creativity and innovation.


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