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The Illinois Mile High Tower

48295 Views 43 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  MWR
I found information on this building called the "Illinois Mile High Tower" on but I have been unable to find any other info on it other than its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently it is the tallest building ever envisioned for Chicago being 5,280 feet tall. How badass would that have been to see built! :eek: Does anyone have anymore info about what happened to this building, why it didn't get built, or what cirumstances brought it about?
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Lol, it was a pipe dream. Can you imagine how hard it would be to get people into that tower? I also think I saw a drawing where you had to climb about 100 ft of stairs to make it to the enterance, now that's pedestrian friendly!
These should answer your questions.

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Even though the original design for this building would obviously not be feasible economically, I can't help but wonder if any building this tall will ever be built. Hopefully in Chicago of course! :)
That reminds me, I was at the Art Institute today, and I finally got to see the exhibit on "Unbuilt Chicago", it was pretty good. They had a scale model of 7 S Dearborn, the tower that was anounced and nixed a few years ago. There are also a few designs for Block 37. If my memory serves me correct, I think the FLW drawing (for the IL Mile High Tower) was there as well.
I remember watching this thing that talked about how they would get people up there. hy had these neat personal helicopter like things. Where you would get in a pod and it would fly you up. Prety cool. I have no idea where I saw it though.
Bah, you fanciful dreamers. no building can exceed 2000 ft in the USA.

And also, I believe the plan was abandoned as anything more htan just a vision because the sheer number of elevators required was overwhelming.

It looks like an art sculpture.

Man, Chicago has the best collection of pipe dreams, so many great unbuilt towers.
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simulcra said:
Bah, you fanciful dreamers. no building can exceed 2000 ft in the USA.
Actually they can, it's just that because the US government owns all the airspace over 2,00ft, you have to get a greenlight from congress. Unless a developer has seriously pissed off a senior congressman, this would be basically a rubber stamp.

As for the Mile High Tower, it was originally concieved as a mile high TV antenna. Frank Lloyd Wright thought there would be no point in constructing something this tall if there wasn't going to be a building built around it. So, he designed a mile tall tower around the antenna. That's pretty much it.

Since this was in the days before skylobbies and express elevators, there would only have been ~6Msqft of leaseable space. That's what killed it. With modern stacking techniques, and modern materials and engineering, this building could indeed be built economically. For a mile tall tower that is.
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Economically, maybe... physically, I doubt it. The wind loads at that height would be simply unheard of. I doubt there's any way, with our current set of construction materials and techniques, that this building could ever stand.
Can you imagine what the swaying would be like on the top floor?
geoff_diamond said:
Economically, maybe... physically, I doubt it. The wind loads at that height would be simply unheard of. I doubt there's any way, with our current set of construction materials and techniques, that this building could ever stand.
Actually it is physically possible. One mile is about the technological limit these days. Wind sway isn't the problem, even the 30-year old Sears Tower is built to withstand a 3 foot sway in each direction without damage. That's six times what the building is subjected to on a regular basis, four times what it's ever experienced.

Structurally, I've seen a cut-away diagram by FLW himself. The core would have been huge, the foundation would have gone down about 750ft, though it wouldn't be a standard foundation. It was supposed to based on tree roots, though I didn't really see the similarity. At the time of its design it was not possible, today it just is.
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I would have serious doubts how economical it would be to build such a tall building. It would cost several billion dollars. My guess would be that several corporations would have to have a serious interest in that much office space for it even to be considered. Seriously, it would take a lot of people to fill a building like that.
matthew_p2004 said:
That thing is so ugly.
you can't please them all...
That thing is so ugly.
Are you kidding!? That building would be glorious in the chicago skyline! Especially being a mile tall.
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matthew - I think the building would be gorgeous.

STR - let me change my wording a bit... it might be possible to build the structure, it just wouldn't be possible to inhabit it. A highrise building must be built to withstand an oscillation (or sway) equal to 1/500th of it's height (hence the 3' sway for the Sears - 1500/500 = 3). Therefore, if you take a building that is 5280' tall, it would need to be able to sway about 10.5' (so, even if it only sways a quarter of its capacity under typical conditions, that's still a motion-sickness-inducing 2.5' sway - well beyond the comfortable limits of occupation).
This appeared in today's NY Times...

NY Times

Frank Lloyd Wright's Mile-High Rise


Published: October 17, 2004

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT had a problem with the skyscraper. "Incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions!" he wrote. "Enormity devouring manhood, confusing personality by frustration of individuality? Is this not Anti-Christ?"

He was talking about other people's work, of course. In his own, the man known for his ground-hugging prairie houses (and his habit of matching ceiling heights to his own diminutive stature) worked through a series of revolutionary ideas for the construction of tall buildings. Only two were built (one in Racine, Wis., and one in Bartlesville, Okla.) and they weren't all that tall. But that never stopped Wright from claiming that, on paper, he had solved all of the nagging structural problems - and not a few of the social ones - associated with skyscrapers.

"Frank Lloyd Wright: The Vertical Dimension," a show at the Skyscraper Museum in Manhattan, is the first to examine this conflicted aspect of the master's work. Wright often claimed that to preserve open land, building tall was a necessary evil. And how better to preserve the land than to pack a city of 100,000 into a single mile-high tower? Wright presented that idea in Chicago in 1956, standing before a 26-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide drawing of a building called the Illinois.

The origins of the tower are in dispute. One historian says it evolved from a request to design a television antenna; another claims that a client asked for a half-mile-high tower and Wright answered, "the hell with that." But on one count everyone agrees: it was the single most grandiose gesture in Wright's grandiose seven-decade career. He claimed that the transmitter at the top of the tower would reach every television set in the nation. And you just know he wanted to be a part of that broadcast.

Following is a key to the picture, above right:

The highest habitable floor was to top out at 5,280 feet. Wright proposed atomic-powered elevators for travel within the structure.

Like many of Wright's towers, the structure is conceived to resemble a tree. All of the floors hang off of a central ''trunk,'' here made of reinforced concrete.

The total rentable area of the tower was to be six million square feet, comprising residences, shops, offices and space for concert halls seating 70,000.

As a reminder of his place in history — and for scale — Wright sketched in the Pyramid of Cheops, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. His tower is much bigger.

Never content to leave well enough alone, Wright developed a novel structure to underpin his towers, which came to be called a tap root foundation. Wright wrote that it would be ''three times stronger in any disturbance.''

Late in his life, Wright began quietly working historical allusions into his designs. Here, Gothic flying buttresses support the spire.

Hanging gardens, much higher than those in ancient Babylon, appear on several levels. Wright did not shy away from pronouncing himself the greatest architect who ever lived, nor from taking on the wonders of the world.

When Daniel Libeskind unveiled his plan for a 1,776- foot-tall tower at ground zero, many observers noted a resemblance to the Illinois. Both designs feature triangular floors, a tapering profile, hanging gardens and a needlelike spire on top.

The tower replaces the old-fashioned city beneath it while preserving Wright's beloved prairie landscape.

A structure at the bottom was to provide parking for 15,000 cars (and pads for 100 helicopters).

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Great article save! But, who, in their right mind, could compare Wright's masterpiece will Libeskind's hulking hunk of garbage (no offense intended to anyone who happens to like the tower)?
I think it's very beautiful. (The Illinois, that is)
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