A modern City is hard to be imagined without skyscrapers. However if you would have walked a city 100 years ago this would have been wastely different. For something that changed the face of our cities so drastically in the last century there is awfully little to find about how Skyscrapers came to be. This Article will try to give a brief inside into the technologies and personalities that allowed the Skyscraper to enter our cities.
The Chicago Home Insurance Building (1885 – 1931) is wildly accepted as the first “skyscraper” even though with only 10 stories and a height of only 42 m you would probably hardly notice it today. This however was very different in the days it was being built. City officials grew so concerned when they saw that building that they halted construction to investigate its safety. What made the “Chicago Home Insurance Building” so revolutionary was its metal-frame-structure.
It is not that it is impossible to reach some height with normal mansory buildings, however it gets uneconomical very soon. As mansory walls are very ineffective at taking latheral loads they have to be rather thick, that however increases the weight of the structure to such an extent that the lower walls have to be even thicker, in order to support the weight of the upper walls. A good example of that principle is the Monadnock Building, the tallest load-bearing brick building. With its height of 46m (150 feet) it is comparable in height to the Chicago Home Insurance Building, however its walls are 1.8 m (6 feet) thick at the bottom and 46 cm (18 inches) thick at the top. If the building would have been any higher the walls would take up so much of the rentable space that the building would have been uneconomic.
The floor plan shows the thick walls of the building. (Source: Keohan, Thomas G. (July 1989). “Historic Interior Spaces No. 2: Preserving Historic Office Building Corridors”. Preservation Tech Notes. (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service). p. 2.)