June 8, 2012
1 World Trade Center and the History of Skyscrapers
I visited New York City a few weeks ago and stayed in a hotel at 42nd and 10th. My room looked south, so although the weather was hazy for most of my visit, I could observe the construction of 1 World Trade Center and (I think) 4 World Trade Center.
Although I was more than three miles north of the World Trade Center site, the 1 World Trade Center building is obviously significantly taller than any structure south of Times Square. (I know, duh. When it is completed in 2013, with its nearly 400 foot spire, 1 WTC will be the tallest building in the Western Hempishere and the third tallest building in the world.) Following up on Steve's post regarding cranes on the top of skyscrapers, this photo more clearly shows the cranes on top of 4 World Trade Center. Unfortunately, the top of 1 World Trade Center is obscured by clouds.
All of this is background to introducing a really interesting article in today's New York Times regarding the history of skyscrapers. I love the Streetscapes column in the Times -- they do a wonderful job of blending the history of New York City real estate with present issues. This article is no exception. My favorite tidbit:
In 1897 The Record and Guide, alarmed by a proposal for a building 2,000 feet high, protested that New York was open “to attack from the audacious real estate owner” who cared nothing about robbing light from the neighbors, adding, “All that is needed is a barbarian with sufficient money and lunacy.”
The article discusses the historical animosity towards skyscrapers in New York, and the political battles regarding the land use restrictions that were put in place after the turn of the last century. The article begins and ends with a description of the construction of 1 World Trade Center, concluding:
No one talks seriously about banning skyscrapers anymore; indeed congestion has been in recent decades praised, not derided. And so we have before us the prospect of a tower one-third of a mile high, that will be considered a monument of civic pride, a literal triumph out of tragedy. What people would have said in the 1880s and 1890s is barely a footnote.
But as a law professor, of course, I love footnotes.
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