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How to Reimagine the Skyscraper (and Why)

An essay identifies imperatives for a new theory of tall, dense construction, and begins to sketch out a theory that will reconcile the skyscraper with contemporary business ideals.
October 8, 2015, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Diana Lind's essay from the book The Future of the Skyscraper is available in full on Medium. Lind joins a distinguished group of writers in that book, with an essay that tests "the idea of building tall against the more sprawling needs of new industries."

Lind launches the essay's argument by citing the emblematic design of Facebook's headquarters, an adaptive reuse of the suburban office park once used by Sun Microsystems. The campus, argues Lind, embodies the tenants of New Urbanism, which is not necessarily a good thing. "This kind of deceptive architecture, devoid of theory but heavy on fantasy, has become not just the norm but a vogue of our times," writes Lind. "While contemporary aesthetics may profess to aspire to authenticity, the real and the sincere are often confused today with a fetishization of the past."

Moreover: "At a time of increasing resource scarcity and environmental stress, we should be shunning office parks like that of Facebook’s, built a ninety-minute car commute from the urban core where most of its employees live. With population growth and rising rents showing no sign of abating, low-density, New Urbanist designs simply cannot accommodate the demand of more than seven billion people on the planet."

The question posed by the essay is how to reconcile the skyscraper, assuming it brings economic, social, and environmental benefits, with the aesthetics of contemporary business. Some of that potential for reconciliation, according to Lind, acknowledges the shortfalls of how skyscrapers have been built in New York and other cities. Lind even agrees with the teachings of New Urbanism on the common skyscraper's negative effect on the human experience of the street.

To start the skyscraper on a path to rebirth, Lind suggests a surprisingly obvious concept: style. According to Lind, "[i]t is imperative that a new theory for skyscrapers be developed, one that will accommodate our culture’s values."

Read through the article for more on what that theory looks like.

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Published on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 in Medium
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