Topic for Debate
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello Everybody!!

Skyscrapers: love them or hate them, one thing we cannot do is IGNORE them.

So, what do you think is the impact/impression of the skyscraper on the people or society?

How do you think a skyscraper enhances a city? Why does it instill pride in a city's residents?

What are the attitudes of people toward skyscrapers? Who favours them and who doesn't, and why?

So do comment if you have any views on the same.
Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Generally, I have not been a big fan of skyscrapers, but can appreciate the technology that went into creating them. Having said that, I do very much like some buildings that have gone high, which, I believe, have added to the identity of the city where it was built. These are:

Chrysler building, New York City
Flat Iron building, New York City
Lever House, New York City
Seagrams building, New York City
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
Menara Mesiniaga, Subang Jaya, and other buildings by Ken Yeang
National Commerce Back, Jeddah

Shiraz Allibhai
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

There is an English saying, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

In today's new world of terrorism, skyscrapers must be ideal soft targets to destroy or threaten to destroy. Any criminal or terrorist can demand money or threaten to destroy a skyscraper.

The age of the skyscraper is therefore literally a dead issue.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello Frank,

The things you say are much debatable, as the World Trade Center was just one of the means. They were the lifeline of New York, just like the underground railways in London, which were a bomb target just last year.

Just because one of the skyscrapers has fallen doesn't mean that the issue is dead.

Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Okay, my view of skyscrapers is that they are not architecture but megalomaniacal ego trips, apart from the "landmark" aspect which can be applied to anything big or tall. The only way anyone can "see" the building is from an aircraft, which excludes the majority of the people.

Skycrapers are 99% engineering and 1% architecture (or the part 'the man in the street' can see from ground level).

Architecture is not "a huge block which will squash you flatter than a sheet of paper" if it falls on you.

Architecture is something aesthetic, comfortable and useable (and, in today's world, sustainable). Skyscrapers, by their mammoth need for energy every day to function, cannot be defined as "sustainable," and that being the case, then skyscrapers are monsters which actively deprive people of even the basic food they need to live.

If "deepshaft" coal mines have been abandoned because they are uneconomic- (in other words it costs more to mine and raise the coal to ground level); then how much more uneconomic are skyscrapers, which do not even produce energy- they simply consume energy.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Oops! I forgot the most important issue about skyscrapers. The problem with high skyscrapers such as this "One Kilometre" skyscraper is both swaying and oscillation.

All skyscrapers sway in the wind, but any extremely tall skyscraper will start to sway, then oscillate more and more from the vertical until the skyscraper snaps at the base.

An early suspension bridge built in America was filmed oscillating in the wind and then the bridge collapsed.

A very recent footbridge built in London, designed by a 'world famous' engineering design firm ,oscillated at its opening when people started walking on it. Lots of red faces!!!

Then there is the other aspect; when a one-kilometre-high skyscraper falls, then the "kill zone" will be a strip one kilometre and with an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 dead city people.

A skyscraper that big would not only kill thousands of people, the impact will be like a small nuclear bomb or an earthquake hitting the city. There would not just be a pile of rubble, there will be a massive kilometre long hole in the ground which will destroy power lines, water, waste and gas pipes, railways, roads and buildings.

If the skyscraper is near a shoreline, then "One Kilometre" falling in the sea will cause a Tsunami, drowning thousands and destroying buildings.

All of the emergency services would be overwhelmed and the military would be needed to prevent looting. Anyone involved in the design, authorisation and building of the skyscraper will be lynched by rioters and the government will probably fall, particularly if the party in power authorised the skyscraper. The insurance market will go into free-fall and probably bring down the national economy as well.

As a side-effect, user clients and insurers will abandon all and any mega skyscrapers all over the world and probably trigger a world-wide slump.

To quote a very old saying "Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad." And yes, building a one kilometre skyscaper is sheer madness.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello Frank!!

Now the debate is picking up..

Well, I dont understand- why do you keep on looking at the negative apects of skyscrapers, while there are many postive aspects to it even.

Yes, on one thing I agree with you: how high should one go? This needs to be justified.

Keeping aside the issue of ego, which is very critical about skyscrapers, there is much more in skyscrapers, I think.

And about the fact, which building on earth doesn't have the risk of falling, when an plane passes through it...

Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

After all these posts of talking about egos and skyscrapers, I think that your last post on damaging effects of skyscrapers is interesting.

I think that what you are pointing to are technological problems in skyscrapers, to put it simply. I think that it would be better answered if someone could enlighten us on these issues.

Again, to put it simply, you are talking of a scenario where, instead of a 10 magnitude earthquake, a skyscraper is struck by a 11, 12 or ... 15 magnitude earthquake for which it may not have been designed.

Normally there are a lot of safety measures taken while designing and building tall buildings, but they fail, primarily because, like the twin trade towers, one does not anticipate what could go wrong.

The issue for the designer and the builder to forsee, the worst possible scenario.

By the way, how was it possible that the twin trade towers fell vertically and not over other towers? There are numerous internal sabotage theories floating around. Like: it was a coordinated effort of demolition experts, and the planes could have been hog-wash, etc.

But if all these theories are wrong, it may partially disprove your point of extensive damage done when skyscrapers fall, and may prove that the skyscrapers are designed to last til destruction.

Can someone enlighten us?
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

A skyscraper falling sideways is many times bigger than an aircraft.
For example, the "Lockerbie Disaster" was a large passenger jet plane which did not drop onto, but ploughed into the small town of Lockerbie.

The passenger jet plane which ploughed into Lockerbie crashed due to a small bomb which exploded in the plane.

Chitradeep, the reason the Twin Towers did not fall sideways was because they were struck in the middle, not at the base. If the hit had been by an object of the same size but without aviation fuel, maybe the Twin Towers would have stood. But the burning aviation fuel, burnt the steel and aluminium; steel from the Twin Towers structure and aluminium from the airplane meant that the Twin Towers simply melted.

NOTE: "Thermic Lances" use the combination of steel, aluminium and oxygen to burn through concrete, etc.

If the airplanes had have been aimed vertically down at the bases, then the Twin Towers would have probably fallen sideways (like a falling tree cut at the base) wiping out other buildings and killing more people.

The problems I have with skyscrapers are the long-term effects.

(1) How does one maintain a skyscraper? Hang out of the window and repair the outside?

(2) How do you pay for the constant high energy drain of a skyscraper? Compare these facters against the low maintenance and low energy costs of lower buildings.

(3) How do you bring up your children, if you live beyond speaking range high up in a skyscraper? This phenonema has already seriously damaged the social fabric of many cities in the western world, so that children grow up like street dogs; wild, vicious and uncontrollable. :(((
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I totally agree that skyscrapers consume massive amounts of energy, but that is the inevitable trade off for the amount of valuable land which is saved in cramped cities by going vertical.

Today's cities namely Philadelphia, New York, Shang Hai, are sprouting with high rise condominiums. Skyscrapers aren't just secluded to commercial uses. Skyscapers are becoming an all in one center for living and working. For better or for worse (I hope for the better)I believe we are on the cusp of a new skyscraper age, as populations rise and world cities continue to expand the need for living space will go up. Pardon the pun.

I disagree with you Frank in saying that skyscrapers are 99% engineering and 1% architecture. The only buildings that might be worthy of those figures are those built in the International style, resembling shiny rectangular boxes jutting out of the ground. Vision can be infused into a skyscraper especially today with the "green" architecture and sustainability push. It is forcing architects and engineers alike to think past what they already know to provide new solutions to staff off the vast consumption of energy.

Another reason skyscapers are popular among certain groups i.e. governments, and big corporations, is skyscrapers mean revenue, as long as financers and owners see profits to be made in building a tower they will. Plain as that.

No if we can just find a way to build a skyscraper that would never fall over . . . except for God and nature everything else in the world can be planned for. Thoughts?
Marvin Marcellus
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I do agree with the position that if you can avoid building one, please, by all means do.

But let's look at what people see in a skyscraper.

The owners see fortune and pride. It is like owning an expensive car. It is mine! I did it! It is more than pride. It is a "I am better than you" attitude. The "I am better" factor. The status symbol. Silly, but it is.

The people?

Well, the tourists take pictures because the picture is a unquestionable "I was there" token they take home. It is the "wow" factor. And if you can climb to the top, well then, even I do it for the view.

The rest, the inhabitants of the city, apart from the media hoopla, the initial visibility for their city, they could not care less. In fact, they actually dislike them. The aggravation, the traffic jams while it is being built, the shade cast on previously lit streets, and the garage in/out traffic after it is finished.

And the occupants? They hate them too. They hate the ridiculous "earthquake and fire drills" for the occupants, not to talk about the long elevator waits at the begining and end of the work day, and (not or) the small cubicles away from windows, and (not or) the invariably miserable air-conditioning imbalances that happen due to excessive exterior glass walls...

Who did I miss?
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
'Nando, What did you miss? Probably that the people who want skyscrapers do not work, live or play in them.

The original urban high-rise flats in the 1920s were for affluent people who wanted self-contained "town houses" with minimal servants. And of course, every block of flats had security in the form of a caretaker / doorman.

When mass housing for the working classes was introduced, there may have been caretakers, but no recognition of the need for security. Gradually, as these Brave New World (Corb et al) housing blocks for the masses became "sink estates" and in the UK today it is commonplace for people to urinate in the lifts; smash the lifts; smash windows and doors; vandalise everything in these flat block areas; disfigure the walls with graffitti; scream abuse at and physically assault the elderly and in general behave in an as anti-social a way as is possible.

So the original "social engineering" idea, because it was badly thought out became "anti-social engineering".

Today many former "flat blocks for the masses" are being renovated and have good security locks and guards, but these are sold to affluent people.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I would like to shed the light on the point that Marvin suggested.

Think about it, today we are living in an increasingly populous world. The big problem is that the surface area of this little planet we live in is limited. Keeping in mind that we need to conserve land for agriculture and industry to sustain this massively increasing population, what else can we do other than building skyscrapers, since the skies are unlimited.
Ahmad Tabari
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Skyscrapers and Social Problems like Vandalism: It's more to do with unchecked entry inside the apartments. In case the residents are doing it, it's a social problem, not architectural. You cannot lock the apartments' entries in order to cater for emergencies... So you need human security personnel, not automatic robo-cops. A case in point are the numerous skyscrapers in New York. Well, so many case studies point out to muggings, unauthorised entries through fire-escapes, etc. But then, does not a citizen of the USA easily get fire-arms? Unlike India! That is negative social engineering through generations.

We need to look at it more comprehensively and with an open mind. We need to know why skyscrapers failed in European and American societies, annd not just that they failed. Many issues are common and many issues are country or society specific. What is common is kids not being able to go out in the open gardens to play. What is not common are unsecured glass windows! What is common is the lift and the queue. What is not common are load sheddings, urinating and spitting in lifts.

Skyscrapers and Physical Problems (Risks of falling): That will remain until a bigger disaster strikes. How much is a Richter 10 magnitude earthquake w.r.t. rumblings inside the earth's crust. Tomorrow you can have anything 12, 15, etc. if geological conditions are so disturbed. Who'll pay for the grossly structure... more importantly, who will warn that a such disaster might strike in such and such a place.

Population pressure in developing countries urban areas: The real reason is lack of rural development. A temporary solution is skyscrapers; we can't help it.

Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
As I suggested before:-

Urban blocks can be both above and below ground. My own thought is the construction of seven level urban blocks with three above ground, one ground and three below ground. And if there is a central courtyard then pollution can be screened out as well as creating multi-level urban gardens.

Plus, the time needed to evacuate such a building in an emergency will be far less than a seven level high rise. and of course a three up and three down level design means that lifts are not needed as for a seven level high rise.

And maintenance will be easier. :)))
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

The idea of 3 levels underground and 3 levels above may suit most European and North American cities. But what about cities like New York, London, Chicago, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Bejing, and many more.

Other than those cities, think of the general populations in countries like China, India, and Japan (which inhabits more than 150,000,000 people, although it is relatively small). Those countries can't handle 7 floor buildings.
Ahmad Tabari
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I argue that skyscrapers are overdone. They are an exageration of a reasonable solution which is the multi-story building.

There is nothing wrong with multi-story buildings. There is a lot wrong with skyscapers.

And we should not kid ourselves in thinking that the vandalism of high-rise buildings is not a direct result of the allienation that people feel when they are forced (mostly by economic and transportation reasons) to live in a high-rise building.

Ask anyone who has lived in one. Ask them about their quality of life, about their privacy, about their sense of community, about the "view" from the 20th or 30th floor.

You will be surprised at the answers.

Let us not perpetuate skysrapers. They are an exageration of the multi-story concept. They are the aberration...
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

I like to contribute because I have a different opinion on this issue.
Actually first the questions need to be questioned again..and the answers may be found in a thesis, rather than in this sort of a discussion, but I like to point out some other means of measurement which can answer your questions.

It's the responsiveness.
In that perspective, the answers for your questions are:

1. the impact of the skyscrapers on responsiveness of the cities.

2.why they are responsive, and much they are responsive.

First, what is a skyscraper? It is a landmark of the city, a financial and technological manifestation of urbanity, it creates districts in cities, so sometimes they make the city legible.

And by identifying them as edges which have no penetration, it is reducing the permeability of the urban landscape, so it leads to the lack of legibility. And personalization of the spaces are too hard, because it is above the human scale and too dominant in nature.

Furthermore, it can be identified by the perspective of the people who observe it and use it. Those who observe it will get the minimum disturbances, but whose who use it will experience the lack of robustness and technicality of it.

Further, it is prestigious to own them, since they are a dream; once you have them in our context you are not there anymore.

Tharanga Suresh Edirisooriya Arachchige
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Think of a country like Japan. Think of its surface area. If you divide the 20,000,000 families over 50 (which is the approximate number of apartments in a 7 storey building), you would require to have 400,000 7 storey buildings in order to shelter all those families (keep in mind that you also need a lot of apartments for single people).

In a country the size of Japan, I don't think there is enough space for all those buildings (keeping in mind that you need to conserve space for industry and agriculture.)
Ahmad Tabari
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
It is an engineering feat, so I think in a subconscious way, it trills our ego. I would look at it as a tool to address urbanization.

When we consider the world today, especially the developing world, we are constantly confronted by sprawl. Skyscraper or high density development is a way to channel and organize our growth in a more structured way.

More conservative ideologists are just starting to understand the importance and just beginning to appreciate the reality of a more and more urban planet still tend to challenge and revolt against the high density model.

They hold on to the idea of the village way of life, which I think is totally improbable in cities. We have to understand that we are shifting towards a different world order- in both a social and economic sense.

Prathima Manohar
Prathima Manohar
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I think the questions articulated by Suresh are different questions. It all may be valid, but different.

I am not sure I agree with the calculations on Japan. Reality has not proven that to be true.

The rural village is another extreme. And so is the skyscraper. The skyscraper in the new world has not solved the residential problem. In fact, I think it has complicated it.

The skyscraper has been a monument to the powerful. Cities define their place with bridges, statues, etc. Corporations define their status with skyscrapers.
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
As a reply to Nando Cruz, may I ask what is more important: the comfort of the people in a city, or a functional efficiency?

For me, it is the people..otherwise there is no life there.
Tharanga Suresh Edirisooriya Arachchige
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Skyscraper spells EGO in huge letters.

Skyscraper office blocks are not sustainable and other than the surface veneer, not very aesthetic.

Think in terms of the road traffic on the ground. Skyscrapers create an unsustainable urban density which means that during the day vehicular traffic moves at walking pace and in "rush hours" stalls in gridlock.

With the advent of satellite links there is no reason to create huge and dense cities for people to communicate for business reasons. Millions of people work in offices everyday in the inner cities of skyscrapers and have to travel for hours to and from work.

With the advent of satellite links, the capitalist oriented reason for the city is as dead as the DODO.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello everybody,

I will like to add a few words, to the existing:

Nando, you pointed out that skyscrapers are not really accepted in the city by the inhabitants, and even by the occupants. If that were true, then the building of the next skyscraper would have stopped there and then.

I know they are the monuments to power, but look the amount of space they save, the amount of time saved in travelling and in terms of human energy consumption. Even then, you say that skyscrapers complicate residential problems.

But let's see to all this in the way I see it. Suppose you build a normal high building, say 80 floors, and devote 30% for pure residential, 30% for commercial and business, and the remaining for the recreation, vertical transport, services etc.

But the design should be such that each house should have its own playing area and other facilities which a normal house may have, except for the literal physical connection with the ground.

Look it in the way I am trying to put it; it just depends on the skills of the designer, then whatever you mention just becomes very superficial, I think.

I liked the way Chitradeep looks at the skyscrapers which are vital anyways, today or tomorrow. We should be looking for what made the skyscrapers not so successful in developed nations.

Then what can be the real design solution for the developing nations? And lastly- and the most important- RURAL DEVELOPMENT.

Yes, I completely agree that rural development really needs to be focused and discussed.

But as Prathima puts it, skyscrapers are a tool to express urbanization. They are symbols of a different world order socially and economically. And as the sky is unlimited, as put by Ahmed,
what else can be done to solve the problems of ever growing cities?

Build more skyscrapers, but well designed and well sited.

What do you think? Do keep on adding...

Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I would say that it is essential that those who develop, design and build skyscrapers should be forced to live in them for the first five years. Then the attraction or fascination for skyscapers will quickly vanish.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Pranjal, thank you,

There was a case study of New York apartments (read as skyscrapers) where in fire escapes had been used by thugs, muggers, and anti-social elements.

Because the fire-escape was NOT supposed to be used under normal circumstances and yet be kept open for emergencies, normal people did NOT use them, so anti-socials used them...

Solution: double up a normal staircase with mulitple use of fire-escape.

Something that social scientists need to look at is behavioural patterns of a European teenagers w.r.t. Asian teenagers and w.r.t. African teenagers. Each have their distinct behaviours.

Is there a social scientist around?
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I am not a social scientist, but I have some comments.

Skyscrapers, the way they have been designed, whether they are for living, for business or for a combined purpose, impose unnatural living patterns on people.

If they are to provide a natural environment, and if they are to enhance, not the looks of the city, but the quality of life of the inhabitants of the city, they must:

- resolve the stress problems caused by constant extreme proximity of large quantities of people,

- resolve the need for a daily landscape that is more than elevators, raised floors, subterranean garages, windows that cannot be opened, etc.,

- resolve the need for fresh air, sunlight, greenery, and water in motion, for those who live, play, and work in them,

- resolve the severe problem of lost intimacy and privacy,

There must be more problems, but having lived in skyscrapers, and worked in them too, I can tell you that they are NOT what they are advertised to be in terms of quality of working or non-working life.

I do believe in high-rise buildings, multi-story buildings, but I have not found one design of skyscrapers that enhances the lives of those who live or work in or around them.

But, I must say, I do not know all the skyscrapers around the world...
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Yes, I totally agree with you when you say that skyscrapers are not the way they are advertised. But this can be the case with any new architecture which comes in touch with the media.

I want to talk about the extent to which we should believe in a advertisement. They are games of publicity, which raise the expectation of the common man.

And the problems that you mention are true, and need to be dealt in the near future. It is the responsibility of the architect as a designer, and a challenge to solve this puzzle of privacy, fresh air movement, security, internal connections, and all such.

Can anyone throw some more light what can be done to achieve this?

-to make a living in skyscraper more socially sustainable,

- to enable skyscrapers to be the new homes of future people?

Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Pranjal, Skyscrapers have been around now for over 100 years. In that time it has been repeatedly been observed that they consistently fail as places for people to live in; and as places for people to work in causes mammoth urban gridlock (static traffic).

"Skyscrapers" are a Social Engineering Ideal that looked good in theory, but does not work in practice. A similar Social Engineering Ideal (the Communist State) also looked good in theory, but again does not work in practice; and yet generation after generation young people think that the reason why these "ideals" failed was because they were somehow done wrong and so each generation discovers these ideals only to fail because the ideas themselves are systematically flawed; and the reason why these ideals are systematically flawed is that they are based not upon principles or concepts but upon "approximations of reality".

In the late 1060s, a whole quarter of a tower block in London (Ronan Point) was collapsed by a gas explosion. The explosion may have been a freak, but it was found the prefabricated wall units were not put in right and so there was no structural strength or integrity and therefore the flats collapsed like a house of cards.

Building maintenance on tower blocks is very difficult if not impossible when compared to maintenance on lower buildings. Builidings are not things you put up and then forget about because the building slowly degrades unless mantained. Without maintenance buildings degrade to the point where they are not habitable (become slums) and finally become unsafe to use.

Meanwhile the effect on people who are forced to live in these rotting piles of junk, reduces them below the level of animals with unhealthy anti-social habits and anti-social behaviours.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I agree completely with the points stressed against skycrapers. I understand the negative aspects of building, maintaining and living in a skyscraper.

However, the point I am always arguing for is: what could possibly be an alternative for skycrapers in MASSIVELY increasing populations in countries like China, India, Japan, and Indonesia.

What could possibly be an alternative??
Ahmad Tabari
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Well, what could make skyscrapers more socially sustainable... the homes of future generations... in massive population countries.

I wish I had the answer. But a few things come to mind. In fact I like to ask the question "why" five times. It always helps...

Why are skyscrapers scraping the sky, that is, so tall? Because there is a need for many people to live in one location... why? Because they need to be close to where they work... why? Because their places of employment are concentrated... why? Because the owners of business congregate around a single location... why? Because business owners do not like to have to travel too much when they meet each other for business or for lunch or for golf.

As you can see, and I invented some of the answers, just as much as you can make your own, the problem starts shifting. You start wondering why we make skyscrapers in the first place, and it starts to look like the reason has nothing to do with people.

So, what do we do? Force people into the skyscrapers? Sounds like it, because they start looking more and more like the solution to some other problem... the need to build on land that someone speculated on?

Maybe then the question should be - how does one address the housing needs of massive populations? How does one manage other factors that seem to be forcing us into skyscrapers?

If the problem is - how do we push 25,000,000 people into 100 km2... the answer will have to be skyscrapers. But the question needs to be - why do we have to push 25,000,000 people into 100 km2?

This is the question, I think.

But if your project is one of making another skyscraper, then you can still ask "why" to all the problems a skyscraper has... lack of privacy - why? People are too close to each other - why? The flats are too small - why? And so on...
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello Frank,

It has been just 100 years for a built form like skyscrapers to come. Take the example of dams, look at the way the first dam was built, and look now at what is being built now. Hasn't it changed in the course of time?

So it is the same with skyscrapers; give some space for the best skyscraper to come, or rather, evolve. I do believe that the present condition of skyscrapers is very bad, but then, can anybody suggest an solution for the increasing populations like India and China except for skyscrapers?

Nando, the questions of why are really nice, but doesn't work sometimes.

Why do you need 25,000,000 people in 100 km2? It is very interesting, as I keep on asking myself this question over and over...
But I don't get any answers rather than building high in a CBD. We can take a case of, say, a professor, who may be staying say 20 miles from the university which is in the city centre.

We know he will have to travel daily, and also his family will commute daily for X amount of time; what a waste of energy, time and natural resources. Instead, what if he may be staying with his family in the CBD?

So I personally think that the only solution to the ever-increasing size of cities is to build high, and let the suburban areas be preserved for agriculture and forestry and animals.

We can even look at the development of the existing condition of the rural areas, which in due course will help the bigger cities.

But still, what I couldn't find in this whole debate is the way a particular building like a skyscraper can be made socially sustainable.

And why it is necessary for one building type to be socially sustainable?

Does anybody have any ideas about this?

Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

In order to give a justification for building skyscrapers, I am going to look at a country like India. India has a surface area of about 3 million square kilometres.

Its population is 1.1 billion approximately. Because of a lack of skyscrapers in India, millions of Indians are forced to share rooms with other people. This is an indication of the need for skyscrapers in highly populated countries.
Ahmad Tabari
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Please try thinking through this issue. The only free energy we get is from the sun. For humanity to build and maintain massive cities of skyscrapers is not, repeat, not an option unless we have "free" energy.

Plus people who are forced through economic necessity to live in tower blocks, cheer when tower blocks are blown-up because it is not economic to maintain a generation old which has degenerated into a slum in the sky.

Tower blocks and skyscrapers alienate and are so socially destructive that they create anti-social human beings.
This is not a joke, this is reality.

The earth has billions of square miles of land free for people to live on. We do not "need" to cram millions of people into squalid chicken-coops in the sky. In fact, given the choice, most people would prefer to live in squalid houses on the ground rather than being physically isolated from street life high up in a tower block.

As for ever-increasing populations, unless humanity learns self-control and limits population growth. Then sooner or later humanity will wipe itself out. We have a duty of care to the planet to control our own growth.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Dear friends,

Besides all that you already said, skyscrapers have their importance in the city.I like to look at this topic from the practical point of view. Skyscrapers need free space around them, and in that way they go up but have small bases, leaving the space around them to be 'public space', that is more than is needed in the high density part of cities.
Stevan Vranesevic
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Yes, I think the solution for this can be that the government policy or rules to be precise. Just like in India we have side margin restriction; this also can be followed by the skyscraper developers leaving more area around them, for public use. Which may even create more interest on the part of the people in such places?

What else can be achieved by leaving side margins around skyscrapers,
besides its neighbours being considered?
Pranjal Ranka
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I am sorry, but I do not get the arithmetic of square miles versus number of people that leads to the conclusion that skyscrapers are the solution. Even in countries like India. Someone please explain it to me?

The other concept I do not get is the one of skyscrapers with lots of surrounding margins... why not smaller buildings, smaller margins and people closer to the ground? There must be a calculation somewhere, or a piece of logic, that seems to justify this approach, but, there again, I do not get it.
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

The logic of skyscrapers with wide margins around comes directly from Le Corbusier's "Utopian City" of skyscrapers set in fields. The idea being that each large field around a skyscraper is the leisure/play area for people living in the skyscraper. Unfortunately, this idea immediately breaks down in reality because ground space theoretically "owned by many people" is seen as being owned by no one and so no one cares for the space.

When children from tower blocks grow up in these usually disgusting waste areas, they actively "learn" not to care for their environment and "learn" anti-social and destructive behaviour.

Humans need their own personal spaces. When people are deprived of personal or family ground space, part of their humanity is suppressed; and when people are suppressed, they become aggressive and anti-social.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Gandhi had observed that it is not in the interest of the rich to cooperate with the poor; it is in the interest of the poor not to cooperate with the rich.

Skyscrapers are owned by the rich and occupied by the poor, the poor who are conditioned to count their blessings; be content with what you have; and theirs is not to question why, theirs is to do and die. And to do it like a captive animal, which will help the owner to capture other free animals, and even tame the free. That is how the British controlled the then 330 million Indians with the help of a small number of Indian sipoys (sipahi, soldiers).

Cityscapes are the territories of the rich, but are populated by the poor with the help of the architects in the employ of the rich. The word "rich" is "rex" in Latin, "reich" in old German, and "rich" in English. It means "royal," "king."

Can there be kings in democracy, which is for the people, of the people, by the people?

So the question to be asked first is, on which side does the architect belong? Any skill without the sense of relativity, of connectedness, will ultimately be misused.

In want of fame and fortune, will an architect prostitute his/her learnt skills in the same way as any other professional, be it a pharmacist or an accountant?

It is the very nature of the modern education to isolate people from each other via the expertise obtained via competitive modes of conduct. Ego is not the person, but the thought-out identity. The rich person fattens this ego of oneself with the help of the little egoistic professionals working for him in want of their personal uplift: the skilled technocrats, the accountants and architects and the like, and of course, the multitude of the lesser beings who toil for the rich for a meagre living. The sum total of this makes the city and the financial centre of the city.

Outside of the city, there is the open space, even in the so-called overpopulated places like India and China, where people live in huts that are nearly as renewable are nests, and like birds, people build the huts for themselves. Then the rich (king) created education creeps in and offers the young the lure of the city. I just returned from India a week ago. In the minds of the young of all my kin folks and friends, America is the ultimate city where they long to go to, and if they ever did, they will end up living in the dingy, gloomy and stale-smelling high rise of a faceless American city.

And in their dreams, would they wonder, what is this place?
Shailesh Dave
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I paraphrase Shailesh....

"... in the minds of the young of all my kin folks and friends America is the ultimate city where they long to go to, and if they ever did, will end up living in the dingy, gloomy and stale-smelling high rise of a faceless American city."

There lies the infatuation with the skyscraper...
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I think the skyscrapers are our only hope for future expansion apart from retrofitting. People should shed their inhibitions about them and move forward.

Think of them as an idea and not as propagating any egos. Of course there shall be many examples of bad buildings and design glitches, but a situation in flux is always a good sign. And so what if the architect does only 1% of the does that matter anyway...we will still earn our bread in an honorable manner.

I stand by the idea of skyscrapers. Comments?
Abhishek Mathur
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
By the way Shailesh,

What would your relatives think about the Ken Yeang buildings?

I am only trying to open up the discussion a bit offence :)
Abhishek Mathur
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Skyscrapers are juggernauts, what happens when the wheels fall off?
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I am not familiar with the Ken Yeang buildings, but I do know the divide in my family along the exposure line of anglicized education.

Those who were born before the creation of India knew the European culture differently from the little ones born later. Gandhi was educated in England, as was Nehru, and had he not gone to Africa, Gandhi, too, would have tried to anglicize India like Nehru.

There is something in the acculturing process of modern education that isolates the learner from the surroundings. Not only did Gandhi dress in the english suit, but he also tried to change the dress of his wife, except that she did not go for that. That was before his African surroundings transformed Gandhi.

The English(as I see it, the U.S. is only Europe expanded) are people, too, but it was not the European common folks who colonized and enslaved other people.

The common European folks, too, were the subjects of the colonizing royalties. Some of them were trained first, and then were recruited to manage the colonies and run the colonial schools.

The last of the British-trained Indians are now the Indian elites who control the country's politics, industry and education. Their American-educated children wait in the wings to take over the affairs of the natives. It is in the psyche of colonially educated people to emulate and imitate the colonial power.

Consequently, those who were thus educated distanced themselves from everything vernacular. The etymology of the word says it:

" vernacular, 1601, native to a country, from l. vernaculus: domestic, native, from verna: home-born slave, native, a word of etruscan origin; used in Eng. in the sense of l. vernacular, vernabula, in reference to language.)"

The Queen of England herself had to give up her German connection during the 2nd World War to appease the natives, who were being bombarded by the Germans.

So what was vernacular even in England, the common folks and their dwellings, dress and language, which was ignored not only by the royalties (the word: rich is rex in latin , meaning royal), but all those natives who were employed by the rulers.

Look at any books on art and architecture; they contain the specimens of works ordered by the royalties, be they temples, churches, mosques, the Taj Mahal, or palaces.

What is vernacular about them? They all stick out like a sore thumb among the things vernacular.

There is a Gujarati saying: a new convert says his prayer louder, for he has to show it off, as do the dancing American converts of Hare Krishna. So those natives who are newly converted to the notion of being modern, which is equated with being western, do it in the way of the Thai generals. After the military took over in 1932, the Thai generals declared their country officially westernized. They changed the name: Siam into Thailand, and ordered men to adopt the western dress and so on.

An architect is merely an expression of his patron��s wishes, at least until one becomes famous. But even then, both the architect and the patron, especially the latter, have been raised to avert anything native. So unwittingly, an architect designs a structure that must be different from what a native, an illiterate person would do. What Edwin Lutyens did in New Delhi or Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad depict not the understanding of the form with its eco-centric relation with the function, but the desire to stand out as the doer: The "I did it" kind of approach to work.

And it is royal in nature and purpose. Cities are made for the economic considerations of the concerns of the rich.

As for my younger kin folks --and I include in them all the impressionable young people, they are not to be blamed for being impressionable. It is their elders, who, being conditioned to perform in the ring, do it for their trainers' pleasure. And their trainers depend upon the pleasure in the watching eyes lured in the circus tent by the publicity.

So now the show is for the designer to show off how many houses he can stack on top of each other. It has nothing to do with the comfort of the dweller.

The modern humans know comfort only in terms of negation, the discomfort, the pain and stress of being treated as standardized persons wearing preformed things from head to toe. Ordinary people cannot afford to wear even a custom-made pair of shoes.

One just has to ask oneself: where is one in this great circus tent; what is one doing in there, and why?
Shailesh Dave
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
One just has to ask oneself: where is one in this great circus tent; what is one doing in there, and why?

That is a question worth asking every minute of one's life. Many aspects of one's life are performances in the big tent, or in smaller tents.

There is a "cause effect" cycle one needs to be aware of. Everyone of us, in a professional scenario, performs for the master. If nothing else, to get the food handout and the salary handout that pays the rent (or mortgage, for some more fortunate).

But then, when the circus is done, at the end of the "day working for the master", what are we?

We can continue being a continuum of more of the same. Producing buildings that are shows of technical or artistic prowess. Immitating the masters, feeding the endless cycle. Or we can be humans and produce buildings that are homes, not just houses, not just apartments, but homes. Vernacular to the bottom of the meaning of the word.

There is a tendency to regard vernacular as created by the uneducated. Beware! Most vernacular buildings stand the test of time better than the best engineered modern ones.

That is our choice as professionals. We may not chose to do it, but if we do, we should not produce rationalizations that are nothing more than justifications for our choices in life.

I posture that most architects ignore the living and thriving world outside the big tent. That is unfortunate.
Nando Cruz
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

You have a misguided view of the British royalty. Since the Magna Carta, no King or Queen of Britain ever had absolute power, and were totally unlike Continental European Royalty who fell in the French Revolution, who fell in the Russian Revolution, and who fell after WW1 in Germany and Austria.

Do not make the mistake of lumping the non-dicatatoral British Royalty with the dictatorial Continental European Royalties who saw their own people as serfs and who enslaved other peoples'.

The closest Britain got to a dictator was Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the British Commonwealth. Whereas in Continental Europe the genocidal and tyranical dictators such as Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin (to name the most imfamous) were absolutely normal.

Given that India became independant shortly after WW2. Then the alienating influence of the British educational system would be upon Indian people who are today aged 70 and over. I imagine this influence has long evaporated.

In fact, what you will find is the educated middle classes of whatever country they are from; they will always maintain the status quo of the power structure which artifically keeps them in power and thus in affluence.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
It matters not what name you give a royalty: king, rex, reich or rich, it still smells of exploitation. It is the power of their wealth that I am referring to. So, too, the democracy that does not exist a'nywhere as yet, is the one in which the one person one vote' approach to the affairs of the state is not hampered by socio-economic apartheid.

What is not available to everyone is not afforded to one who is rich. And this would happen out of the awareness that the biological state of being of a queen or a Bill Gates is not different from that of a beggar. Humans are among the latest to form among the various species. So all across the human species, humans have not yet come to understand their ecologically biological needs. Other creatures, and among them the other three primates, have understood something of self-nature. So even the chest-thumping big gorilla picks berries for himself and makes his own bed. No weaker gorilla serves him.

It is in this sense that I mentioned the Queen of England; that she possesses huge palace(s) and a large portion of London real estate which she cannot really use. Yes, it enables her children to roam around and party, while their fellow beings have to toil for others to earn a meager living.

The king of the state where I grew up, the Nawab of Junagadh, spent his riches in performing marriage ceremonies for his dogs, each of which was looked after by servants. And the Viceroy of India had a staff of 3,000 servants. The two houses of Parliament or the Senate in any so-called democratic countries still pass laws that maintain and safeguard this socio-economic apartheid. The U.S. Congress that haggles over raising a few pennies in the minimum wage, effortlessly gives itself raises. The Queen of England does not have to act dictatorial when she has Tony Blair acting like one (assuming that the majority of Britons oppose the English participation in the U.S. war in Iraq).

My impression of the English (Caucasian) people comes from my 30-some years in the U.S. and a few English friends. While my friends are extremely nice people (neither fat nor ugly) in looks and outlooks towards life, the people at large seem to be conceited as are Indians in general who portray themselves to be spiritual, especially to non-Indians. This reflects in the contents and dissemination of the education in these two cultures of the West and the East; one is impressing and the other is impressed.

As for the education system, whether in England, India, the U.S., or elsewhere, with a few ornamental changes of words, it is still based on the one that was fashioned by the English. And as I mentioned earlier, it is in the nature of this education system that sets the educated class apart from the rest of the society and by the way of serving the rich and emulating and imitating them, creates a second class status for itself and despises the poor.

The capitol cities are made of the bureaucrats and their support staff and those who serve their needs. And they all help maintain the rich, without whose managerial skills the financial structure would collapse; the capitalist or imperial form of democracy would not survive. But the world does not come to an end if that happens. Only the changes happen. And one such change would help the human species evolve to rid of its fear of the what if, for which the riches are made, and the wars are fought to grab more or to guard it. It would be a world without the Buckingham Palaces, Eiffel Towers, Taj Mahals, temples, Sistine Chapels, mosques, relics and monuments. It would be like a non-commercialized national park, only more undisturbed. And people living there would be cooperatively interacting, not as master and servant, but on equal footing. Like birds, primates, primitives and intelligently aware individuals.

The craftsmen, architects and others all throughout the world have always sided with the rich for their own fear of not making it otherwise. We do not see any farmhouses of the classical Greek period or of the time of the Pharoahs, or even of the Middle Ages, just as we do not see an abandoned bird nest of last year, because they are built with renewable materials, and they are easy to repair and redo. The notion of permanence is the product of fear that comes from the accumulation of the extra. Have you ever seen a butterfly that was so fat and heavy that flowers were crushed under its weight?
Shailesh Dave
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Firstly, you undermine your own arguments by repeating misconceptions that have no reality. The Queen of the United Kingdom of Britain does NOT own any royal property and her children do not "party," as you put it.

Secondly, the "English/American" educational system is not to blame for world capitalism, that is silly; plus, the American educational system is in some ways radically different from the system in Britain.

Thirdly, as I said, it is the middle classes and in particular those who are bureaucrats (of all countries) who, through laws, have their hands on the practice of political power and thus retain the status quo of inequality.

Your idealised "state of nature" of humanity peacefully cooexisting in a Garden of Eden is wishful thinking. The law of the jungle, where nature is "red in claw and fang" is the reality of the natural world, whether a virus or a tiger.

Humanity civilises itself by having cultures which moderate nature. The problem today is that a reversion to a utopianist garden of Eden way of life would literally mean wiping out about 95% of the human population on Earth.

Finally your "craftsmen, architects ands others have always sided with the rich" is an incomplete thought. Yes, they tend to work for with those with economic power or political power. But, there is a difference between creative workers, productive workers and non-productive bureaucrats.

If you want a real target, look at the growing billions wasted every year all over the world by state bureaucrats.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
This is to clarify a few points in miscommunication on my part, as well that of Frank.

The human species evolves through understanding the nature of things. Consequently, we have the pure sciences that have simplified our interactions with things, beings and nature, many of which were based on beliefs. For instance, now God does not speak through the preacher that he, God, wants him to sacrifice (his own)the preacher's son, as the scriptures say that God had said to Abraham. [Ed.: the reference is to the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, when God demanded that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac, to him on the mountain]. The human sacrifice in the name of religion is banned.

But collectively, as a species, we have not evolved enough to require dying in the name of the state. Similarly, we have not learnt to let go of the fear of the "what-if," which is still motivating much of human activity, especially in politics and commerce. Put these two together, and it becomes capitalism.

The Indian empire was formed from the East India trading company. I did not say that western education has created capitalism. What I am saying is that a society shapes its schools, and schools perpetuate the society. So modern education, in its role, uses and abuses science only in forms that help maintain the status quo, the prevalent way of life, the norm, the outlook, belief system or what you will. And the prevalent way of life, even in the so-called Communist countries, is capitalist. But this does not mean that the nature of nature supports it; the law of jungle is red in the claws, but not capitalist. No tiger herds up all deer in a corral and sells the deer meat to other tigers. Profit making is not the law of the jungle.

Nor do animals live with the fear of the "what-if," which is the future in terms of worries, as humans do, and in turn hoard and thus keep others from using it in the now.

Now this brings up the label "utopia." Much of scientific discovery, evolutionary or otherwise, were once pure fantasies, Aladdin and his magic lamp and flying carpet, for instance, or medical breakthroughs that replaced superstitious practices.

So what Frank sees as utopian thinking, I have actually put into practice. In the early 1970s, with the cooperation of students and friends, we operated a nonprofit eco-eatery in San Francisco, and as it had become very popular, even the Bill Clinton-run Arkansas state government gave us a grant to conduct a similar project in
Little Rock.

But in the eco-centric nature of existence, nothing is a one-man show. So our experiment in truth of a given matter goes only as far as my fellow beings learn by observation to shed the fear of the "what-if." An individual is an indivisible aspect of the human society. Or the society is a collective of individuals. So whenever an individual changes, it affects everyone around. One is not what one thinks one is, but what one does. So one may observe what one does. Is it a real need or a product of fear? In nature, give and take are equal, as energy never dissipates, it only transforms. So one never loses or gains anything in interaction; things are only transformed. This eliminates the hoarding for the future, from which profits are made. And to make profit, the unfair tradeoffs are made, which is capitalism. Individually, one cannot control how other people behave, but one can certainly withdraw from such practice by not profiteering.

So, as an architect/builder, one may go and work with a person who really needs a house built. And during that time all one's real, and not image-induced, needs are the shared responsibility of the person who needs the house built. This does not put any money in the bank for the architect, but that is precisely the point. If one or a few architects live like that, it would be called a utopia, but when it attracts more people, then it becomes a way of life. I have been called a utopian and impractical person, a dreamer and one who does every thing wrong (in the eco-eatery we had an open bamboo basket in which people put money unwatched, and we have an eco-bank project, in which people may put their excess income for those who need it, much like water dripping down the trees and slopes and filling up a pool, from which creatures, including the humans, drink. And one drinks water only enough to quench the thirst. No circus act there). But even those who worried for me never wished me to fall back in the fold.

So what if everyone who reads this looks in the mirror (the relationship is the mirror of the human mind) and sees what what oneself is made of? Then, seeing oneself in the glass mirror prompts one to see oneself without makeup, one may also see those relationships that are made-up and not real. Then one may design and build without being called an architect, and one may live in harmony with nature in an awareness that it is not nature that is not un-evolutionary, it is fearful thinking that stops one from stepping out from the known, be it capitalism or the prevalent mode of education or the notion of permanency that has kept the architect busy designing the monuments for the dead and for equally dead notions and political identities.
Shailesh Dave
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Thank you for your reply. The eco-eatery you had was and is an example of the way the productivity of the capitalist system is sufficiently affluent to allow alternate lifestyles, particularly in urban concentrations.

As the sole life-system (aka culture) it would be economic enough to support 5% of the current population on Earth.

It is too late to put the genie back in the bottle and hope that all the people can cooperate and coexist in harmony. The reality of today's world means yes, we can try to moderate competition between people, but the massive human concentrations in unsustainable cities means harmony can only be relative.

The key problem with the efficicent operation of any life-system, society or culture is TRUST. Cooperatives work because they are small (everyone knows everyone else). When the cooperative principle is applied to countries it fails because trust is replaced by bits of bureaucratic paper. Paper money has meaning because it is uses special ways to guarantee itself (such as inks, paper, watermarks, etc). Whereas state bureaucrats in the UK routinely issue meaningless so-called computer-generated "documents" without signatures or any other legal guarantee.
And this routine use of meaningless bits of bureaucratic paper instead of trust means that the life-systems of the West are running on empty tanks.

It is a "socio-economic" fact of life that the less productive a life-system is, the less room there is to maneouvre in terms of both lifestyle and change.

The western countries are where they are today because previous industrial age generations created the necessary technological infrastructure. The developing countries need their own technological infrastructure, not to compete, but to supply their own needs because imported high tech goods are wasteful and unsustainable without maintenance by a locally-based technological infrastructure.

In conclusion, here are two strands of the Western postmodern system: (a) technology and (b) bureaucracy. Bureaucracy before modern technology of office computers and photocopiers was manageable because all the bits of paper had to be hand-written, hand-typed or press-printed. Today, bureaucracy and bureaucrats are beyond control and humanity drowns in oceans of meaningless bits of paper.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Architecture is design in context; as skyscrapers are uncontextual both in size and because they are minimalist reinforced-concrete, then skyscapers are not an architectural issue.

Those who class the uncontextural as architecture, move the goal posts and thus distort the original meaning.

Architecture is created in and thus is compatible with the multiple contexts of culture, environment and climate.

Similarly those who class "socially- engineered" designs as architecture; again move the goal posts and thus distort the original meaning.

Socially-engineered designs are also uncontextural because they bypass (and therefore degrade) the natural human context of culture.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Dear Frank,

I see you have completely shut the doors on the skyscrapers. By calling them 'uncontextual', we are negating their place in the realm of architecture.

You are erasing quite some history of 'architecture'. I agree that skyscrapers may tend to be uncontextual but I am also equally, nay, more sure that there are ways and means to design a perfectly contextual skyscraper. If not yet, then we must urge ourselves to come up with one.

I see this a more interesting situation than wishing them away.
Abhishek Mathur
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
I was wondering what would happen to the people of New York and Hong Kong, if skyscrapers are pulled down.

There is no use of evading this issue, atleast in SE Asia. It is - if you wish to call it - a necessary evil until our population pressures reduce.
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Slate has an article entitled "Building Brands How Architects Market Themselves", by Witold Rybczynski. It has some relevence to this topic.
Shiraz Allibhai
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Chitradeep, The high-rise urban profiles of both Hong Kong and New York are because they were both built upon a finite landspace where the only option was to build upwards and island Singapore tends to rise similarly.

Hong Kong, New York and Singapore were developed because they were seaports and so acted as clearing houses for the import and export of goods.

The fierce competition for space in such cities and in the centres of capital cities is not culturally or socially motivated. The motive is having a prime location in the market place to sell goods or services to the maximum number of people. (ie money).

More tomorrow... Today I am attending the third and last day of a "beaux arts" festival at the school of architecture in Safranbolu. :)))
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

You are finally coming to the point (hopefully)
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Hmm, okay, a skyscraper is a temple to Mammon.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
What was that?

I think you finally found reasons as to why skyscrapers are being built.

If you were to spread out the people in Mexico City along low-rise (closer to nature kind) of dwellings, you would never have any roads or green areas (whatever little is left of it). It will just be houses and houses.

You will exit one house to enter another. How's that for a scenario of FORCED to stay with nature kinds?

You lose crucial ground cover and nature with that. If you replace these houses by a few skyscrapers and have roads and greens below and link skyscrapers at various levels, you'll have a better environment. And as far as kids not being able to go down to play.... they can always play at a "sky garden" and avoid the pollution below.

By the way, how healthy is your friendly cell-phone by the way? How healthy are the wired and non-wired offices with so much static and non-static? How healthy is it to work in a coal mine?

Well.... sometimes, one needs to make a choice.
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Sadly, "gardens in the sky" tend to get blown away in high winds and "interconnecting high rise blocks at various levels" are lethal; as seen a decade ago at the Broadwater Farm (housing) Estate in the UK, when rioters set fire to buildings, cut off the head of a policeman and viciously attacked the firefighters as well. The idea of a lovely utopian life in the fresh air and sky, but it does not work in practice and actively creates amoral, anti-social urban behaviour.

Mexico City is as you say not the best example of low-rise urban sprawl, because the city lies within a bowl surrounded by mountains and so traffic fumes from are trapped. The case against Mexico City, is not that it is low-rise, but that the location is unhealthy for amodern city.


"a temple to Mammon" comes from a Bible text and refers to those who make money their god. Skyscrapers are designed to make money for their owners, but no responsibility is taken for the pollution and traffic problems created by raising the density of people per square metre / yard to such totally unsustainable levels.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

How does a skyscraper enhance a city? I think this was the question at the beginning of the discussion.

The replies have not been about the question. If the skyscraper can enhance a city, and if the skyscraper is a icon, are a few examples of the questions people have been trying to answer.

It is true that there are skyscrapers that are icons and there are bad examples of skyscrapers. But on the other hand, there are also skyscrapers that are not icons, and there are good examples of skyscrapers.

By generalising the skyscraper there is no possibility of answering the start question.

I think we should stick to the facts. More and more people want to live in a city, and in a lot of cases we can not extend the city much more. It is not the question of why so many people want to live in the city, but what are possible solutions to solve this.

One of the possible answers is to build more skyscrapers. Then what should a general skyscraper look like? I am not talking about icon skyscrapers, because that are different kind of buildings, but a normal skyscraper in downtown Tokyo, Hongkong, Seoul or New York.

First, I think every region should develop an architecture which is their own. So a skyscraper in the United States looks different from a skyscraper in Japan. Not because you can recognise the designer, but because you can recognise the region which you are visiting.

Secondly, the skyscraper should much more be seen as a vertical neighbourhood and should be treated like one. Till now, most skyscrapers are built as very high regular buildings. This is one of the reasons why a lot of skyscrapers give a lot of social and health problems. If the skyscraper is designed with different "building blocks," parks, (it is definitely possible to design parks in a skyscraper without being blown off the tower; look for example at the new WTC, or think of a different solution (louvres, etc), and if the building will be seen as a vertical neighbourhood, a lot of problems can be solved.

Thirdly, it is possible to make a skyscraper much more energy efficient. The wind, pressure difference and sun around the building could be used for electricity and connecting canals (like sucking out garbage from lower floors). The building could support its own energy and garbage solutions, could recycle water, etc. If the building could support in all this, than it means that the electricity, garbage, etc doesn't have to be transported to and from the building. This saves energy as well. Norman Foster is working on a tower which has a lot of these features in it.


Kenzo Oijevaar
Kenzo Oijevaar
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Skyscraper, how do I love thee,
Let me count the ways.
I love the way you block the sky,
the way you aggravate traffic and parking problems.
Oh, and did I say fire hazards?
But most of all I love you because of your dreary ugliness and oppressive presence.
How can I miss you if you don't go away?
Daniel Owen
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Agreed that Mexico city is not exactly an apt example.

Dear All,

The point I am trying to make is that given a choice of housing a few million people, would you lose ALL the ground cover and build low rises, or would you have a HEALTHY mix (not unhealthy) of highrise and low rises, so that people can get decently housed and one still sees a lot of ground cover.

I am not for having skyscrapers all around the place like NY. That's too artificial! But one needs skyscrapers to house people living, house offices and workplaces. it is not necessary that everyone has to live on the upper floors of skyscrapers, they can be put to multiple use also.

However, having skyscrapers for decent housing is better than living on streets or in slums /squatter settlements where hygene is sacrificed, structural conditions are unstable, etc.


It is easy to burn down a few low rise houses densely packed to each other. It does not take much effort. Skyscrapers today have much more safety measures. You'll need a professional to do the job.
Policeman getting killed due to unruly mob isn't exactly the reason to blame the skyscraper that was burnt down (or was it a small highrise?)

Living with nature is good. Actually living without all those electric appliances may be a good idea. But will you buy the argument? No! You need those appliances.

Similarly when you do not have land and you need to house millions of people, the only solution is going up. How much up is pure mathematics. I doubt if people would like to live underground with no exposure to sun, wind, etc. That's the easier way to make them unhealthy than making them live in 50-100 storeyed skyscrapers.

There is always a solution to a problem.

You either ask the people to leave the cities, by giving them better job opportunities, or make housing (high rises) for them.

By the way, what's wrong with skyscraper offices? That is if they are not choc-a-block?
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
Hello Pranjal,

The response of humankind to skyscrapers is of creator to creation. Cities are the most perfect example of a purely manmade landscape. They are even defined for design using imported landscape materials with quasi-natural descriptions such as 'concrete canyons' whose air currents and light are unnaturally altered.

Yet cities and skyscrapers are neither natural or environmental, but they illicit a response from people that is comparable to the awe upon seeing a grand vista or a mountain range. Why?

I believe man is facinated by his own ability yet cannot connect to it any better than the beauty of the natural world. Hence the lack of ownership and pride in accomplishment of the whole of humanity leaves skyscrapers and cities vulnerable to the individuals.

Terre Ashmore
Terre Ashmore
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

There are billions of square miles of infertile and thus unusable land upon which humans can build and live in low-rise homes. Traditionally, both here in Turkey and in Japan, homes, villages, towns, etc. were and are built upon sloping land and use flat land for agriculture.

"Uncontrolled/anonymous/amorphous urban sprawl" is a relatively new phenomena (about 200 years) in human history. The factors against overlarge and unsustainable cities were (a) non-fossil-fuelled transport systems and (b) warfare, disease, famine. etc.

The idea that humans "have to have" cities with ever larger populations is nonsense because the compulsion is simply mindless inertia and lazyness. In this new century we humans should work upon solving the equation for sustainable urban development.

"Build up!" You cry and wave the flag.
But no. First, we need to limit the size of cities to create sustainable urban areas; and this in turn would decrease the imaginary demand for skyscrapers as the ideal solution.

We humans can build up, we can build down and we can build on, in and under the seas as well. You say "Build up!" In fact, the traditional use of building up and down sloping ground is a natural form of "building up".

In terms of building in the sky, the one fatal flaw is vertical access, because the vertical is an immediate bottleneck for the movement of people.

How to solve this bottleneck? Well, you would need huge sloping ramps from level to level to allow free access. So why not simply create manmade hills in the sense of building multiple levels with huge slopes, because with buildings on slopes more people access long-distance views of the sky. So it is not necessary to build "vertical access bottleneck" skyscrapers.

But the "fly in the ointment" with multiple level interconnected high-rise "socially-engineered" blocks is they tend to become breeding warrens for criminal and antisocial people.

The fact humans can build skyscrapers does not mean we have to build and use skyscrapers; similarly, because humans can make megablaster soundboxes does not mean we have to turn the volume to "Beyond the pain threshold" max.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
It just becomes a landmark.
Azmathulla Shariff
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

There are 2 different aspects:-


1. By providing or helping provide better employment opportunities in country side / rural areas.

2. Make the unusable land usable by having uses like residential, offices, etc. - agreed on that point

This needs political will. Which unfortunately is not very much around. 70% of India stays in rural areas. Corporates selling daily needs utility like soaps, etc. have been able to tap this market. Employment or agriculture industry hasn't. Hence there is a huge inflow of people to cities.

We are all aware of this long term solution.

I too have mentioned similar opints in some of my previous posts.

I think we are talking about the option b:-


This is the point that I think you have not been able to understand. There are short term solutins and there are long term solutions.

The crux of this problem also includes a sudden population explosion in developing countries and the job market not moving so fast. Whereas an entirely different scenario is there in some of the extreme north European (Scandinavian) countries, where the population is on a reverse swing.. it's decreasing, which is why those local governments are encouraging people to have more kids.

This is the basic issue.

Building skyscrapers is at this point of time not a ego issue but a need to house millions of working people in the cities.

75% of GDP comes from the cities in India. Cities have approximately 30% of the entire country's population packed in a few square kilometers. The rest of India houses approximately 70% of the population which generate only 25% of GDP.

I hope that you will get the bigger picture.
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Urban sprawl today is uncontrollable and unsustainable. When a person digs himself or herelf into a big hole with no way out, the answer is not to keep digging ever deeper.

You say that 75% of the GDP is created by the cities. In fact this figure is not true because if people in the rural areas did not grow food to feed the cities there would be no GDP.

Cities are parasitic on rural space. The original prehistoric agreement of the equality of manhours means rural manhours are equal to urban manhours.

Most cities today are based upon the unequal balance created by paying too little for food and therefore keeping the rural areas forever in bondage.

The so-called higher productivity of urban areas does not come from people, but from the extensive use of fossil-fuels and machinery. Therefore if the rural areas had similar 'labour-saving' equipment and sources of energy then rural "productivity" would be equally high.
Frank John Snelling
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
They really are only ego-trips and profit margins, utterly dehumanising and alienating in their effects. Nobody's going to make a wee vertical utopia because it'd gnaw away their obscenely large profits, thereby rendering the purpose of making the phallic idol (that it is) obsolete...

Who wants to live three hundred feet in the air in a place where you can possibly see your children frolicking in the local playground? But tragically, as you see them being brutally mugged or dragged into the dark and forbidding shrubbery by a gang, you are completely impotent to do anything as you have to travel for almost half an hour to actually get there.

There's a nice model for urban living that can be seen in most old European cities, as far back as the old Romans; only build the flats a few stories high, residential above and industro-commercial below. None of these vast rivers of traffic hacking areas in two, making safe passage from one area to the other mortally dangerous by either dodging traffic or wandering alone and afraid in a subway or on a bridge, neither of which has any means of escape if you're in an area where people like to hang out in groups and pillage one another.

I don't want to sound like a city planning groupie, because there are a lot of problems in the little city in which I dwell, but there's currently a massive project being undertaken in Barcelona (BCN). The Ajuntament (council)are slapping all the major roads in the built up areas underground, and icing the cake with parks on top... bloody marvellous in my opinion.

Unfortunately there's still vast amounts of souless high blockage going up, especially in one area that surrouds the Olympic village area (which in itself is a depressing network of high rise walls)... In these areas of the town there's rarely another person to be seen ambling through the streets, there's nothing there to bring them.

All the shopping and recreational facilities are hoarded into a selection of large internal spaces which leaves the residential streets and gardens as just that - residential. They may be populated for a short period after the working day or at the weekends, but at night and midweek they're as desolate as a playground next to Chernobyl.

Whereas (small cough and smug smile of glee) I'm lucky enough to live in the old town... It is the centre of the city so there are going to be a larger number of people generally, but even so, because of the structuring of the area there are always people around, shopping in the daytimes and happily stumbling from bar to club in the evenings and at night. The buildings (usually four to six floors) result in a relatively high population density, but the buildings aren't so large that you don't know your neighbours.

You recognise one another, you notice a strange face in the stairwell (that's another point.. the stairs aren't so tall that you have to use a lift. Anyone but the truly ancient can walk up and down carrying a few bags of shopping). The only fault I can find is a general lack of intergrated greenery in the area and of personal exterior space (a subject very close to my heart).

These areas, which as I said, can be found in abundance in many old European cities,lack certain aspects of design which are deemed more and more necessary by the more thoughtful of the architectural profession: solar energy systems, grey water recycling, precipitation collection facilities, (even becoming necessary in temperate climes) and inbuilt O2 thingies... namely, plants....

I dunno.... I just think that you have to be greedy or an idiot to condone vast swathes of contemporary architectural practice, be it the lego-like reproduction of mock-Tudor hells in the suburbs or the dodgy-seventies-sci-fi-esque blind idealism (or profiteering) of the towerblock.

Moderation is my word of the day. And locally available materials- my phrase.
Jonathan Lloyd
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

Those solutions will take at least 20-25 years to even start materialising. And, as I said, the problems are somewhere else.

Population and lack of rural economy.

The solutions that you are talking about is for countries with low density of population. It feels nice to have a country home to live in. Very healthy and environmentally friendly. But what if there are a million people, wishing to stay in the country home(s) in a small village area? How will you accommodate them?

You still haven't inderstood the real problem and its solutions.

Skyscrapers, well spaced out from each othe r(using your own formula), can give you a healthier surrounding with large green open spaces, rather than low rises.

As fat as muggings are concerned, I suggest that you check statistics. It depends a lot on the social setup of the local area.

True, skyscrapers lead to isolation, but then society is a major role player.

NYC could be as dangerous as some villages in Iraq. Boston could be as safe as Hongkong.

Have you verified the social indicators and statistics comparing Hongkong, Singapore, Shanghai (the new kid in the skyscraper town) Chicago and New York, even London for that matter?

I suggest you check it out. I am not making a case for skyscrapers, however, I think, one needs to understand, different society's adaptation to skyscrapers.

I am still waiting for a social scientist :)
Chitradeep Sengupta
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?
What became of the intellectual stimulus in this plethora of vein-popping commentary?
Terre Ashmore
How does a skyscraper enhance a city?

The social scientists who created this utopian myth of "garden cities in the sky" are now nowhere in sight because they got it mega wrong.

You need to understand that living in a high-rise/skyscraper is bad news, because it disintegrates the cultural fabric through severe alienation. Jonathan's two postings show how three generations of slowly developing anti-social behaviour in the UK result in not just a minor local problem, but a major disintegration of UK culture.

As I have said earlier in a posting to a South African architectural student, the key failure of the high-rise is that the ground around a high-rise is viewed as not being owned by anyone in the high-rise and so becomes a waste ground and later a battleground.

And even if the ground around was not "a communal space" and was fenced off into small gardens, then who in their right mind wants to live on the "nth floor" of a high-rise and have a garden on the ground which you can only see through binoculars?

As I have said before, there is no such thing as "society". Society is an an abstract without meaning in reality.
A social structure is made by culture, social structures do not make culture.

The isolation created by the vertical access bottlenecks in high-rise blocks causes pyschological alienation which then causes cultural disintegration. The idea that these bad phenomena are special only to Western countries and could not possibly happen elsewhere is similar to the blind idealism which allowed the worldwide spread of the Internationale Style and communism.

All of these ideals do not work in practice; all of these ideals have been tried repeatedly, simply because people "know" they will not repeat the same mistakes and then they repeat the exact same mistakes because idealistic systems never ever work in practice.
Frank John Snelling


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