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Miniature Skyscrapers

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
MINIATURE SKYSCRAPERS

Miniature skyscrapers have the svelte proportions of a true skyscraper but are not very tall. This is because they have small footprints.

Therefore they are appropriate for any fine-grained context of small buildings. They are out of scale on the brash grid of New York, where they are much too diminutive and would seem paltry. They slip suavely, however, into Lilliputian settings like Forest Hills or the Yale Campus. If they were allowed, they could also be at home in Greenwich Village, Charleston, Celebration or Poundbury.

The very most diminutive skyscraper I know of is the station hotel tower at Forest Hills, Queens, a transit suburb developed in the early years of the Twentieth Century.



Here, from your leafy, half-timbered mini-manor and a villagey downtown you can catch the subway or commuter train to Manhattan’s grown-up sized skyscrapers distantly visible from the elevated train platform. The context is Station Square, where the little woman will drop you off if you’re feeling too lazy to walk to the train:


Station Square, Forest Hills, Queens. They are now building similar transit towns in California; Peter Calthorpe is their czar.


Everyone knows Wright’s Price Tower in suburban Tulsa. It started life as mixed residential and commercial. They are about to turn it into a boutique hotel.



Look how dainty the scale is, and how diminutive the entrance. Too bad it’s not in an urban setting; with a little modification of the lower floors, it could be slipped into just about any street in Greenwich Village for a little visual relief:



Where little old Greenwich Village meets the Hudson, Richard Meier has just placed two fine-boned residential towers for the likes of Nicole Kidman:



Stacked movie stars, one per floor. Also on hand: Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein and the Olsen Twins. If you have just one unit per floor, you get back the efficiency that comes with having no corridors. It also helps if you can get ten million or so per unit.








Problem with miniature skyscrapers is that they are not efficient, and therefore not much loved by developers. They are most at home in settings where stratospheric returns per square foot offset the very high percentage of each floor plate occupied by elevators and the mandatory two fire stairs. Hence they make good boutique hotels and corporate headquarters, as well as apartments for movie stars.

NIMBYs hate them because they conflict with their pet theory, which is that height is the villain that causes buildings to be out of scale. This is usually just a misconception, though a widespread one. It is often enshrined in zoning, either out of ignorance or to placate the NIMBYs. As a pedestrian in touch with your own feelings, you know that it is really building footprint --the size of the increment of development-- that causes buildings to be out of scale, and height limitations actually encourage larger footprints and hence buildings that are out of scale.

A one-story supermarket is grotesque in an urban setting if it takes up a block, and even more so if it comes with a parking lot. This is lost on NIMBYs, who are addicted to theories. It’s hard to shake a theory in which people have invested emotional energy.


Yale has an entire collection of miniature skyscrapers. The Hall of Graduate Studies houses offices and classrooms:




The Biology Tower is by Philip Johnson:




The gymnasium tower looms over a picturesque medieval street brought to you by Eero Saarinen:




And Saarinen himself contributes a tower of student dorm rooms:




In Boston, Beacon Hill has a miniature skyscraper that nobody notices, on Beacon Street just up the hill from Charles Street:





You will also find one on the north side of Commonwealth Avenue, right in the tenderloin of Back Bay; there should be one in Harvard Square, but everyone there confuses scale with height. Finally, there is everybody’s favorite, the Custom House, now a luxury hotel. Who in his right mind would say this building is out of scale, regardless of where you put it?


The Nebraska State Capitol is a corporate headquarters of sorts:




And the midget Granite Trust Company lords it over Quincy’s main street like Napoleon marshalling his troops:




Finally, at the very top end of the size spectrum, here is a giant miniature skyscraper built in Antwerp in 1930 and long the tallest office building in Europe:




In a rational world most any one of these cutie-pies could be placed without further nimbification. It does take a willingness, however, to recognize that out-of-scale buildings are the ones that ooze and sprawl all over the landscape, not necessarily the ones with vertical proportions. Keep the footprint small, NIMBYs, and everything will be OK.


Finally as a postscript, here is a whole city full of miniature skyscrapers. They are built of mud and represent at one and the same time two limits: the limit to how high you can build in unreinforced mud brick (note the one on the right that has collapsed), and the limit of how high you could get someone to climb stairs in pre-technological times:


Shibam, Yemen
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
I always thought that Quincy building was kind of funny. Like they were trying for a Boston-worthy skyscraper but ran out of money.
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
Midget Skyscraper

Quincy is a smallish town. That is a small-town skyscraper.

You're right: the symbolism is what mattered, not the actual size of the building. Plus, I bet they had a height limit, even back then.

Makes the stockholders feel good, though.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
some of those Yemeni buildings have some serious lean going on.

;-) Did the humidity get to high?

It looks a lot like mogadishu
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
I really like the photographs I've seen of traditional Yemeni urbanism.

El Guapo: Yemen sounds exactly like your kind of place: Everyone is armed, and nobody dares offend anybody else's "honor." :) :)
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
jresta,

The "lean" in those buildings is really taper, and is intentional. Mud brick can bear loads only in compression. So the closer you get to the ground in a multi-story building, the more load is being carried by the walls; hence they are thicker near the bottom than they are at the top.

These buildings collapse easily in earthquakes. Such construction methods, though undoubtedly picturesque and place-specific, account for the huge earthquake death tolls in places where they and similar compressive construction systems are used, such as Iran.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
.. the Yemen buildings have a real Salvador Dali look to them...
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
Quake Toll Could Reach 10,000 in Iran

16 minutes ago

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran - A severe earthquake devastated the southeastern Iranian city of Bam on Friday, leveling more than half the city's houses and its historic mud-brick fortress. A preliminary estimate said the death toll could reach 10,000.

Hasan Khoshrou, a legislator for Kerman province where the quake occurred, said there was still no precise number of dead from the magnitude 6.7 quake, but officials working in Bam had given him that figure.

"The quake hit the city when most of the people were in bed, raising fears that the death toll may go higher," he said.
Officials surveying the city of 80,000 people from helicopter said about 60 percent of the city's houses were destroyed, Khoshrou said. Water, power and phone lines were cut. The earthquake struck at about 5:30 a.m.

Footage shot from a helicopter and aired on Iranian state television showed widespread devastation in Bam, with rows and rows of collapsed or damaged buildings next to others that appeared to be intact.

Images shot from a moving car, accompanied by somber music, showed some houses had been reduced to nothing more than piles of brick, while men near one builidng embraced each other, shaking and sobbing. Other footage showed dead and injured being brought into hospitals with crowds of people outside.

Reports said the earthquake destroyed Bam's medieval fortress, a massive, 2,000-year-old structure that sits on a cliff near the city and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The fortress includes scores of ancient mud huts.
"The historic quarter of the city has been completely destroyed and caused great human loss," said Mehran Nourbakhsh, chief spokesman for Iran's Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross.

The U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites) reported the quake's magnitude was 6.7, capable of causing severe damage. It reported an aftershock of magnitude 5.4 about two hours later.

"Many people have died," Kerman province Gov. Mohammad Ali Karimi told state media. "Many people are buried under the rubble."

Karimi said worried relatives from surrounding areas were heading to Bam and causing massive traffic jams that were slowing rescue efforts. He urged them to stay home and wait until phone service was restored to try to find relatives.
Authorities have sent numerous rescue workers with helicopters to the area, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"We are doing everything we can to rescue the injured and unearth the dead," television quoted Karimi as saying.
Turkey's NTV television channel said people were streaming out of Bam for the city of Kerman, 120 miles away, and had complained they had not gotten any aid.

About 500 people have been evacuated to hospitals in Kerman, where they are in critical condition, Iranian state television reported, quoting local authorities.

Hardly any buildings in Iran are built to withstand earthquakes, although the country sits on several major faultlines and temblors are frequent. An earthquake of magnitude 7.3 to 7.7 killed 50,000 people on June 21, 1990, and most recently, a magnitude 6 quake in June, 2002 killed 500 people.
Also Friday, a magnitude 4 quake rocked the west Iranian town of Masjid Soleiman at 8:10 a.m., but no casualties were immediately reported, state television said. Masjid Soleiman is about 600 miles northwest of Bam.
___
On the Net:
National Earthquake Information Center: http://neic.usgs.gov
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,889
Points
26
ablarc said:
Quake Toll Could Reach 10,000 in Iran

16 minutes ago

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

Unfortunately, the toll is predicted to be much, much higher.

My brother commented that they didn't seem to have much of a disaster recovery plan installed in Iran. I corrected him on the build methods in the mid-eastern cities.

anyway, there are tons of examples of mini-skyscrapers in the country. It seems to be almost a symbol of the high aspirations a small community, corporation or college has and what they envision for themselves.
 

gkmo62u

Cyburbian
Messages
1,046
Points
24
Iran is accepting assistance from every nation......except Israel.

Get over it already.
 

Citylover

Member
Messages
16
Points
1
Is this considered a mini skyscraper? It was suposed to be much taller but the height was cut back due to the stock market crash

Kind of a bad picture sorry.
 

Trinity Moses

Member
Messages
229
Points
9
Always been interested in these smaller examples.

Great thread!

There are quite a few minature skyscrapers scattered around the Midwest. Here in Ohio there is a set of smaller citys of around 30,000- 70,000 population (plaes like Steubenville, Lima, Middletown, etc) that have minature skyscrapers. Its hard to imagine these really where driven by land economics, maybe more as symbols of civic status when these towns where growing into small citys.

Here's an art deco example from Middletown. Theres a modern and beux-arts mini-skrapers on the opposite three corners of this intersection, too.



I can think of similar examples in Indiana and Illinois.
 
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