Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper (Book Review)

by Wendy Waters

Kate Ascher, The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper (New York: Penguin Press, 2011)

Skyscrapers are a vital component of modern cites.  They allow tens of thousands of people to work in close proximity, allowing them to share ideas.  Tall residential buildings have also become important to supporting vibrant 24 X 7 downtowns, keeping thousands in close proximity to downtown amenities after the workforce has gone home.
Anyone interested in understanding the modern city would benefit from reading Kate Ascher’s masterful tribute to the skyscraper.
Ascher inter-weaves detailed technical descriptions of building components with a overarching narrative covering the relationship between skyscrapers and broader human history and the history of science.  The beautiful illustrations and photographs assist in the visual appeal of this book that would proudly sit atop any coffee table.  Her descriptions of the technology, materials, mechanical  systems and engineering challenges involved in constructing tall buildings are fascinating and highly readable to a non-technical reader (such as me).  Yet, I suspect those with an engineering or construction background would find the descriptions equally compelling.
This book offers something for almost everyone, whether your interest lies in engineering, construction, real estate or cities.  As someone with a Ph.D. in history (although I work in the real estate investment industry), I was particularly drawn to Ascher’s discussion of the relationship between the economy, history of capitalism, history of technology and skyscraper evolution.

read more

Chicago Skyscrapers: Chicago Board of Trade, photo by jochemberends

Chicago skyscrapers, seen from Millennium Park, photo by Salim Virji

Chicago - skyscrapers from the Magnificent Mile, by roncaglia

Chicago Skyscrapers: Aon Center, by jochemberends

more about architecture:

Leon Krier's lesson in architecture

Interaction of Architecture and Society: City Individuality under changeable informal Effect Conditions

The Multicultural City and the Politics of Religious Architecture: Urban Planning, Mosques and Meaning-making in Birmingham, UK

Print Reading for Architecture & Construction

On Architecture: Collected Reflections On A Century Of Change

Digital Drawing For Landscape Architecture: Contemporary Techniques And Tools For Digital Representation In Site Design

Vernacular Architecture And Regional Design: Cultural Process And Environmental Response

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