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What'u smokin' Willis?
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A thread for old, but still interesting articles. For those interested and having large amounts of free time.

Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc Jul 7, 1989

CHICAGO -- Inside many a developer who dons a hard hat and looks skyward lurks the urge to blot out the sun. Their universal dream: to build the world's tallest structure.

Even Sears, Roebuck & Co., already owner of the highest skyscraper, is inspired anew.

In May, two Chicago developers, J. Paul Beitler and Lee Miglin, unveiled a design for a competing world's tallest -- a 125-floor office complex that would be built just a stone's throw from the Sears edifice. Not to be outdone, Sears quietly began drawing up contingency plans to add at least 16 floors to its tower -- topping the proposed upstart by at least one floor.

"Having the second-tallest building is like climbing the No. 2 peak in the Himalayas," says Cesar Pelli, architect of Sears's new rival. "Mount Everest is the only one that counts."

Some psychologists call this architectural overreaching the Tower of Babel complex, after Noah's offspring who tried to glorify themselves by building a tower to the heavens. There are already more than half a dozen towers on the drawing board -- from Atlanta to Long Beach, from Newark to Phoenix -- that would top the Sears building. While limited available land sometimes makes tall buildings a necessity, the German historian Oswald Spengler warned in 1926 that this "irresistible tendency toward the infinite" would ultimately enslave builders. Today, plenty of tenants would say he was right.

The Sears Tower, for example, is plagued by periodic spells of high winds that rip windows out of their frames, overcrowded elevators that can cause nausea, and top floors sometimes so stuffy that workers leave in the middle of the day. Tenants recall all-too-well how, last year, windstorms shattered nearly 200 windows. Donald G. Mulack, a lawyer on the 82nd floor, barely escaped the gales that claimed his goldspike paperweight, digital clock and coffee mug. (Sears says that it has reinforced its windows, and that the other problems occur rarely.)

And, hey, how about that view? Well, not always. "On a cloudy day, you could see nothing," says Joan Bianco, who used to have an office on the 100th floor. "It scared the hell out of me."

Looking for cash, Sears put the dark glass-and-steel corporate monument on the block last fall and, though it expected to get $1.2 billion for it, the company is likely to have to settle for less, real-estate sources familiar with current bids say. It dismisses any suggestion it has an edifice complex, insisting its draft plan to add 16 floors is merely meant to placate buyers who fear coming up short on prestige. Sears says the buyer would have to do any new construction. Meanwhile, Sears's property manager, Philip Chinn, calls those who would build a taller building "egomaniacs."

Sometimes it seems that a primal urge drives modern architects to try to dominate the skyline, and look down on the merely huge below. "If one enters the sky, one penetrates a sacred domain," muses Mr. Pelli. In New York, Donald Trump (who dismisses Mr. Pelli's design as a mere "matchstick") has hired Helmut Jahn to devise a structure that would soar 150 floors over the city. In Newark, N.J., developer Harry Grant has proposed a 122-floor building, and emblazons blueprints with his photograph -- in a hard hat. "It shows the uniqueness of Harry Grant the Developer," he says. "We're doing something a normal developer wouldn't do."

"There's something essentially male about wanting to reach the heavens, to surpass all others," concludes Marvin Zuckerman, a University of Delaware psychologist. It's unshackled machoism, others say. Thus, it figures that some developers recall with a touch of wistfulness the image of Hollywood's King Kong beating his chest atop the Empire State Building to impress Fay Wray. She hated it.

Susan Maxman, a director of the American Institute of Architects, claims erecting the world's tallest building "is just something I can't imagine a woman wanting to do. Men make zowie power statements. Women are more environmentally sensitive."

Being the biggest isn't just a matter of ego. For many tenants, there's a certain cachet to being in a well-known building, and they're willing to pay for it. Sears Tower commands up to $38 a square foot in rent a year, compared with the $25 most downtown Chicago office buildings get. The tower is also almost completely leased, unlike some of those nearby.

Still, there are few big cities in the U.S. that aren't facing a glut of office space, and the race to build ever-taller buildings is aggravating the problem. In Chicago, for example, some building owners already offer free rent for two years to lure tenants. Sears is also planning to vacate 44 floors and move 6,000 employees to the suburbs, which will add to the glut.

Never mind, say the new aspirants. "The world's tallest building is our dream, nothing more," Mr. Beitler explains. "It will be the highest medal of honor in our business. Whether we make money or not is something else."

Something else indeed, for the taller the building the more dizzying the costs. For example, footings often have to be placed deeper in the earth. Spending soars for extra steel and concrete to withstand high-altitude winds. Thicker pipes for the plumbing maze are a must. And obviously it takes longer to build a very tall building, increasing the burden of interest-heavy construction loans.

In some respects, "it's an economic disaster," admits Mr. Trump. Though many tall buildings such as the Sears Tower are profitable, Mr. Trump says his proposed tower makes sense only because it would draw attention to other buildings he plans nearby. "It will bring prestige and positive forces," he insists.

Not from Harry Weese, founder of a Chicago architectural firm. "These plans are only for madmen," he contends. Mr. Weese once mocked Frank Lloyd Wright's 30-year-old design for a 528-floor building by drawing a cable car running from the skyscraper's top to distant suburbs.

But later, the bug bit Mr. Weese too. In 1981 a Chicago developer persuaded him to design a 210-floor building. "He got me salivating by saying over and over, 'I have financing.'" The capital didn't materialize and the developer dropped out of sight. Today, says Mr. Weese, "I do penance by restoring old buildings."

The appeal of tallest-buildings is considerable for cities needing an economic and ego boost. Business leaders in Long Beach, Calif., were agog at prospects for their skyline in 1978, when a now-deceased French developer blew in with plans for a 150-floor, rocket-shaped tower of stainless steel. Designed to top a harbor landfill, the futuristic building was to be a tourist attraction to complement the nearby Spruce Goose-Howard Hughes's plywood jumbo seaplane that flew only once.

But those big plans fell through, and so have many others. Consider the 500-floor building proposed for Houston in 1983. "It was a time in Houston's history when anything seemed possible," says Robert Sobel, the architect for the project. His dream collapsed with the oil industry. In a sign of shifting world economic fortunes, Mr. Sobel says a company in South Korea has phoned about designing a building for Seoul that would top the Sears Tower by three floors.

Theoretically, buildings can rise to virtually any height if, among other things, footings can be planted deep enough. Mr. Sobel says his research showed his 500-floor building was "totally feasible. I remember wondering at the start why the World Trade Center {110 floors} isn't 200 floors? If you want to make a statement, make it!"

Bragging rights are at stake in all this, as they have been for centuries. Tall structures have been built by doomed civilizations celebrating their fleeting grandeur, by conquerors proclaiming their dominance, by religions reaching toward the heavens. Then, at the turn of the century, came steel-reinforced concrete, and things really got off the ground -- to previously unthinkable heights.

Now, Toronto tourism officials boast that their 1,815-foot Canadian National Tower is really the king of the hill. The fact that the structure is mostly just a broadcast tower doesn't stop them from occasionally sending Sears travel brochures, declaring who's actually No. 1.

It's just a matter of time, though, before some developer builds a new No. 1. "It gains them notoriety. A developer wants to be the tallest," says Lee Beedle, director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an association of the tall-obsessed. Mr. Beedle adds: "What's more exciting than walking down the street and seeing tall structures that men have built?"

Credit: Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
Here's a bit of interesting fact: The Sears Tower did not need a zoning variance when proposed.


F###ing copyrights.


A funktastic review of the skyline from the bicentenial.


The creators of the Sears Tower and JHC talk of New Urbanism long before the phrase was invented.


Anyone else miss the Cold War?
 

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What'u smokin' Willis?
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2,097 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Standard Oil Building

Considering it's now a forgotten building outside of architecture cricles, it's interesting to that once it was the talk of the town.

 

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What'u smokin' Willis?
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2,097 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Space Needle - Schaumburg WTB Proposal

I know it seems like the setup to a swipe at the village. (In fact, I think I did make a one along this line in the Chicago in 2050 thread), but this is one of those "truth is stranger than fiction stories.

The story in brief: 113 stories and 1,300 feet tall. Proposed in 1968 by developer Lee Romano for his "Schaumburg Planet" mixed use development. Financing was never found and the whole thing fell through.



The only good render. Seems very WTC-eske.








Here's all there is on Merrill Foster and his proposals. I'd put it into the vision category rather than the serious proposal group.





Blow up of the first Schaumberg pic. I'm pretty sure I see a vertical emphasis on the tower, looks very much like a squared tube design, complete with the exterior truss.


*A lone bugle plays Taps*

 
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