18 July 2011

The Tallest Building In The World Is A Pile Of Boring

Okay, time for a rant.  An architectural rant, perhaps the first one on the Gumbo, evah, which is surprising considering that I play an architect in real life.  Have for 22 years now.  Yikes.

What got all up in my grill, gave me a snootful of pepper spray, was this notion of building the tallest building in  the world, and how ridiculous it all seems.  Its been years since the Sears Tower in Chicago was the champ, and right now I couldn't tell you where the tallest building is or who built it.  Probably financed by oil money in a part of the world where it doesn't make sense to build really tall buildings anyway, but that's what happens when you've got more money and ego than common sense.

I couldn't tell you where or what the tallest building is anymore, because I stopped caring long ago.  I don't care how tall the building is, its not a matter of national pride for me, it does not have a truly beneficial effect on my life or the people I know. i don't ever plan on working on it or in it.  I don't want to work 75 stories or more off the ground.  Hell, I don't even want to go higher than say 10, at most.  Because. I. Don't. Care.

The competition to build the tallest building in the world is no longer about architecture.  In some ways, it isn't even about engineering anymore.  It's about ego and arrogance.  Sure, the designers will tell you they are "maximizing density" and "minimizing footprints" but really what happens is they are trying to maximize dollars per square foot and show the world who has the biggest penis.  Some will even claim they are designing eco-sensitive buildings, they are "being green", but that mainly applies to the surface.  To build a monstrously tall building is to take horizontal sprawl and make it vertical, thereby making it more difficult in may ways to manage, and consuming just as much resources, if not more, than a much more sensibly planned low to mid rise development.  Don't believe me?  Just take a look at how much power it takes to heat, cool and move people in a building that is 150 stories (or whatever the current record is) tall and is full of businesses.

I know, I can hear some of you sigh and say "Yo, Gumbo, we appreciate your vibe, but you seem to be a little lazy in your research.  How about some examples?".  Fair enough...

Here's my research for you:  google it.

Because. I. Don't. Care.  I absorbed most of what I really needed to write this post from the regular parade of articles I had been seeing in the trade rags I read as part of my information intake.  I reached a point where I just got tired of reading yet again about the new record for tallest building and how one even taller was being planned, and really, it has nothing in common with the kind of architecture I'd like to practice, the kind that gets me really excited about why I wanted to be an architect in the first place.

So to all those who think it is so god-awful important to build monuments to the man-junk you probably don't have, but that your egos have convinced you that you need...stop it.  Just stop it.  I have to believe that the majority of the folks in the world don't care how tall a building if they don't have a decent built environment of their own.

Besides, skyscrapers are fascist.  Worse...they are boring.  Please stop boring me to tears.

Here endeth the rant.


  1. I personally prefer the kind of architect who, over his lifetime, would like to design and build just one or two churches...not even cathedrals...just churches. Now there is a man who isn't boring.

  2. For some reason I totally read "The tallest building in the world is a pile of bacteria....." That statement intrigued me so I clicked on the link and was baffled to see not "bacteria" but "boring"... where did i get bacteria?

  3. Isn't the tallest building that one where the floors rotate in Dubai?



  4. Amen, my brotha...

    I'm liking your vibe.

  5. I read somewhere (perhaps it was on that newfangled internet thingy) that it's actually uneconomical to go above 50 stories. The extra footprint it requires for the services and elevator banks undoes the economic benefits of density.

    Besides, why do we need density when we have that newfangled internet thingy? People can be dispersed and work where they like.

  6. Architecture should be interesting. Beautiful. With a purpose. I'm a Van der Rohe and Wright fan myself. Those are the spaces I like. Something with character, a distinctive flair, originality. About the only skyscraper I like is in Taipei. It looks like a stick of bamboo. The name escapes me (even though I've been in the dang thing). It actually manages to make tall good looking.

    Bring back creativity. It's what the world needs.

  7. Once upon a time, Philadelphia's City Hall, with the statue of William Penn at the top, was the tallest building in the world (from 1901 to 1908 when it was passed by the Singer Building in NYC).

    It was forbidden, by gentleman's agreement, that no building in Philadelphia could be taller than the Statue of Billy Penn, until a man named Willard Rouse build One Liberty Place in 1984. It caused a LOT of controversy, but money won, and now there are several buildings taller than Billy Penn's hat.

    This led to The Curse of Billy Penn, which is explained here in Wikipedia:

    The Curse of Billy Penn was an alleged curse used to explain the failure of major professional sports teams based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to win championships since the March 1987 construction of the One Liberty Place skyscraper, which exceeded the height of William Penn's statue atop Philadelphia City Hall.[1]
    The curse apparently ended on October 29, 2008, when the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series, a year and four months after a statuette of the William Penn figure atop City Hall was affixed to the final beam during the June 2007 topping-off of the Comcast Center, currently the tallest building in the city.[2]


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Don't suffer your crimes
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