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The Orgins of the High-Rise Building

The origin of the high-rise building goes back to Chicago at the end of the 19th century. A succession of technical developments, particularly steel-frame construction systems and elevators, cleared the way for the construction of taller office blocks. The Home Insurance Building in Chicago was the first high-rise building constructed with a load-bearing steel skeleton frame (William Le Baron Jenney, 1884).

Building regulations dating back to 1893, which restricted building heights in Chicago to a maximum of 40 metres, enabled New York to assume the leading role in the development of high-rise construction. In New York it remained possible to build higher and higher without limitations.

At the end of the 1960´s new constructional techniques initiated another phase in the development of high-rise buildings. In the John Hancock Center in Chicago (SOM, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1969), which was one of the tallest buildings of the day with a height of 344 metres, the engineer Fazlur Khan implemented a tubular construction system whereby the entire depth of the building acted as a resistance element. Compared with standard steel skeleton structures, this technique required much less steel thereby enabling the construction of higher buildings to become more economical. The twin towers of The World Trade Center, with heights of 415 and 417 metres, (Minuro Yamasaki in collaboration with Emery Roth & Sons, 1973) only held the new height record for a short period of time, due to the construction of the Sears Tower in Chicago (SOM, 1974) at a height of 442 metres. Fazlur Khan continued to develop the technique of tubular systems by bundling the tubes together. In the Sears Tower nine square tubes combine to create an even more effective structural system. The Sears Tower held the record for the highest building in the world for over 20 years, until the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (Cesar Pelli & Associates, 1997).

Europe altered its position of high-rise constructions after the end of the Second World War. They symbolised the economic boom of the post-war years and dominated the urban structure of the modern urban landscapes. One of the most significant high-rise buildings in modern Europe is the reinforced concrete construction of the Torre Pirelli building in Milan (Gio Ponti with Pier Luigi Nervi, 1958). In the Thyssenhaus in Düsseldorf (HPP Hentrich-Petschnigg & Partner, 1960), modern high-rise construction and facade techniques were implemented based upon those practised in the USA.

The demands for sustainable construction techniques greatly influence present-day high-rise typology. One of the first examples of the latest generation of high-rise buildings is the head office of RWE in Essen (Ingenhoven Architects, 1996). The current attempts to attain new, extreme heights in high-rise construction are taking place, however, outside Europe. The tallest building in the world is located in Asia; the 508 metre high Taipei 101 (C. Y. Lee & Partners, 2004), while the Burj Dubai (SOM, 2009) will, according to the latest claims of Dubai Megaprojects, reach a height of 818 metres and accommodate 189 storeys.

This article is taken out of the following magazine:
DETAIL 9/2007

Konzept High-Rise Buildings

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