Week 2 Research: Tall Buildings



This week after consulting with Dr. Kourelis I decided to slightly alter the direction of my project. I am now going to consider the ratio and dimensions of the steel beams in relation to the structure of tall office buildings in Lancaster. I plan to use the plans of the Hotel Brunswick in order to get a good sense of these ratios. I will compare these ratios to buildings built in Chicago during the same time period.  Additionally, I will investigate how steel production in Lancaster affected the similarities of steel ratios in buildings. I decided to focus more on the technical aspects of buildings rather than aesthetic features. Additionally, I continued my background research by investigating Chicago 1890.


I walked into Lancaster to observe the architecture of various tall office buildings. I looked at central market, which was a revolutionary building in its time. Although steel technology had not been invented yet, the building employed a structure of large wooden beams to create a large open space with a high ceiling. The high ceiling symbolized power and grandeur. Additionally I looked at other buildings that employed the use of steel beams. I examined specifically the ratio of window space to wall space.

Steel production in Pennsylvania continues to play an important role in architecture today. The steel beams that were used to construct the world trade center were produced in Coatesville Pennsylvania. Steel beams unlike wooden beams are highly specialized and require much more equipment to produce. I will try to prove that the complex steps required to produce steel beams lead to more homogeneity among structure ratios of office buildings. 

Chicago 1890:

The interior requirements of the tall office building codify for the exterior specification of the building. The middle floors of tall office buildings are very homogenous. In order to produce adequate natural lighting a large amount of windows must be present on the facade of the building. The invention of the steel beam makes is possible for the window to wall ratio to be high for these buildings. The increased natural light is crucial to making the building more attractive and increasing worker efficiency. A crucial invention was the service elevator. The service elevator was important for the growth of office buildings because it made travel to high floors feasible. The similar functions of tall office building lead to a very uniform formula for the construction of buildings.

Sullivan emphasized the difference between the architect and the mechanic. He argued that the architect’s skill was superior to that of the mechanic because the architect considered artistic expression. The tall office building is designed as a tower to be seen from three sides. Therefor, skyscrapers must be designed as 3d structures not 2d facades.

Next Week:

I will visit the Lancaster Preservation Trust to examine blue prints of the Brunswick Hotel. Additionally will search for san burn maps of buildings in Chicago to compare to the Brunswick Hotel.


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