The first skyscraper was a real estate proposition, not an architectural one.
That is to say, the skyscraper was a conceptualized as a business proposition. In the late 20th century new technology such as steel construction and elevators enabled builders to increase the rent and value of property – almost always in cities – through simply building more floors. This sentiment was embodied by the prolific American architect Cass Gilbert when he called one 23-story office building a “machine that makes the land pay.” From Louis Sullivan to Le Corbusier and a string of architects down the decades, designers of all stripes have attempted to adapt and co-opt this profit-oriented vertical proposition. A recent innovation by global firm NBBJ provides one small tool that could help architects in this endeavor.
It’s a conceptual design for a pair of 50-story towers in London that aim to tackle one of the skyscraper’s defining detractions: it’s massive shadow. This design uses its reflective glass cladding to illuminate some of its urban umbrage. While this technique isn’t without flaws and challenges, it promises to harness previously-unseen potential for the urban skyscraper.
Top Image: Rendering of NBBJ’s Conceptual Design. Image Courtesy NBBJ.