Posts Tagged ‘Frank Lloyd Wright


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower

three views Price Tower

In The Atlantic, Wayne Curtis explores an Oklahoma landmark, the Price Tower. Way back in 1952, a pipeline entrepreneur named Harold Price asked for a three-story, three-quarter-million dollar building and ended up with a 19-story building that came in at over two million. Finished in 1956, it was, says Curtis,

…easily one of the more bizarre towers ever built. Wright, who is best known for his low Prairie-style buildings, had a complicated relationship with tall buildings, calling one an “incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions.” Yet late in life he created drawings for a 528-story skyscraper featuring atomic-powered elevators with five cabs strung vertically in each shaft. (It was never built.)

Despite his aversion to height, it was Wright who talked the businessman into the 19 floors, although it doesn’t seem to have been a difficult selling job. Price’s son later joked that the Price Tower was basically 18 floors that existed to hold up his father’s office on the penthouse level. It stands today as the tallest example of Wright’s architectural accomplishments. Apparently there had been plans for a number of New York City high-rises on Wright’s drawing board, back in the 1920s, but none were ever built.

After passing through other hands, the Price Tower eventually became the property of an arts center, which remodeled part of it into a hotel in order to support the more culturally relevant sections. More recently, the owners had a new arts center designed by world-class architect Zaha Hadid, but funding problems have kept the actual construction of it on hold.

Upon personal inspection, the author found the tower to be interesting from the outside, not quite looking like the same building when seen from different viewpoints. The interior is replete with many triangular features, and being inside it definitely gives the observer a different feel than any experienced in more conventional, rectangle-based structures. The author calls it a space “almost perfectly scaled for human occupation,” thought it did start out with a couple of problems, like leaky windows, which had to be dealt with. Curtis quotes Wright on the virtues of the triangle, then remarks, “This statement, like much of the architect’s writing, recedes further from comprehension the longer one considers it.”

This building is characterized by a lavish use of copper inside and out.
In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, the chapter on metals discusses copper, along with its alloys bronze and brass, as having such properties as conductivity, resistance to corrosion, and malleability, so it’s available pre-formed into all kinds of shapes. The advantages are offset by a not very good strength-to-weight ratio.

The inspiration for the basic structure of the Price Tower was arboreal. Wright was neither the first nor the last architect to take the tree as an exemplar. He designed the “trunk” as the sturdy service core and cantilevered the reinforced concrete floors off it. Without the need for weight-bearing columns around the periphery, the architect was free to treat the shell as an almost purely decorative element. Like a tree’s leaves, the copper fins protect the interior from direct sunlight, and the myriad textures that result from the various external ornaments make a very eye-pleasing arrangement.

While visiting the building in order to write about it, Curtis waited out a rainstorm inside and fancied that it felt like being in a safe, snug treehouse. Unlikely as it might seem, Bartlesville, near Tulsa, is also the home of structures designed by other noted architectural firms, such as John Duncan Forsyth, Bruce Goff, Welton Becket, Edward Buehler Delk, Clifford May, and HOK. So, whether it’s regarded as radically innovative or simply bizarre, the Price Tower is in good company.

SOURCE: ” Little Skyscraper on the Prarie ” July 2008
photo courtesy of ercwttmn , used under this Creative Commons license


Very Tall Buildings, Imaginary and Real

Taipei 101, currently world\'s tallest

For Wired magazine, Rob Beschizza put together an interesting collection of pictures titled “Mile High Skyscrapers and Floating Cities That Never Were.” In contrast, we’ll also look at some of the proceedings of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. But first, the visionary products of several imaginations, considered by Beschizza, whose introduction goes like this:

With the space age entering its crassly commercial phase and science fiction dominated by gritty dystopian visions, you could be forgiven for giving up on the future. But not everyone has. With Dubai’s 800-meter-tall Burj Dubai skyscraper almost complete, starry-eyed visions of tomorrow’s cities are more popular than they’ve been in 50 years.

Here’s a collection of promised skylines we never got to see — and a few that may yet come to be — as seen from the imagined eyes of those who live there.

The collection includes the Illinois, which Frank Lloyd Wright never was able to build; a Moscow skyscraper whose construction only got as far as its enormous base before World War II intervened; various arcologies; proposed mile-high towers in Kuwait City and Jeddah; and the three-mile avenue with gigantic buildings along both sides which Albert Speer proposed for the Berlin city center.

The tallest building ever to boast a complete set of blueprints, Beschizza points out, was a proposed building called the X-Seed, which the Taisei Corporation designed back in the mid-Nineties. It would have exceeded Mount Fuji in height. He also looks at an abandoned North Korean project, the Ryugyong Hotel, which apparently had to be given up because the construction materials just didn’t hold together. Then there was the Ultima Tower, designed by Eugene Tsui, whose footprint would have covered two square miles.

Regardless of the difficulties, other very tall structures have emerged from the imagination into reality. On their website, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat gives an overview of the recent 8th World Congress, whose theme was “Tall and Green: Typology for a Sustainable Urban Future.”

It was a record event for the Council, with 954 delegates including more than 50 members of the press in attendance…Amongst the attendees were a number of the most prominent faces in the architecture, engineering and construction industry…. In addition to panel sessions and workshops, attendees were invited to participate in technical tours to local tall buildings and mega projects including the Burj Dubai, now the world’s tallest building under construction…

Held in Dubai, the event drew experts in all aspects of tall building development, from 43 countries. For those who missed it, the website includes a complete list of all the papers and videos available for downloading. These range from “A Vision for the World’s Tallest” to “Engineering the World’s Tallest.” Topics considered by the Congress included all the same matters as would be taken into account with any building, yet with extreme altitude there are unavoidable differences, since certain problems do not grow arithmetically with height, they grow geometrically, exponentially.

The Congress explored everything from aesthetics to economics, looking at all aspects of sustainability, of which there are many, in relation to very tall buildings. How to save material in a tall building structure; how to be both tall and green at the same time. Is elevator technology keeping up with the need for it? What about ventilation? What kinds of energy can be harnessed, and how? What will wind and fire do? What are the options for evacuation in the event of disaster? What’s the psychological effect on the people who live and/or work in incomprehensibly elevated spaces? What kind of noise will the building require them to put up with? Papers were presented on “Nonlinear Dynamic Earthquake Analysis” and on hydraulic dampers to absorb seismic shock. One presenter issued a call for tall buildings to become less iconic and more specific. Another explored the concept of “the Vertical Farm: the sky-scraper as vehicle for a sustainable urban agriculture.”

There seems to be spirited debate in some quarters, over how high a building can or should be. Any additional thoughts are welcome here.

SOURCE: “Mile High Skyscrapers and Floating Cities That Never Were” 04/17/08
photo courtesy of leonghimwoh , used under this Creative Commons license