“The most important quality of architecture is how it relates with a place on Earth and how it dignifies it. That’s why the architecture we admire the most, be it the product of an individual or of a civilization, is the one that was built with a sense of belonging and of loyalty to the natural landscape”.
The architectural styles contemporaneously ranged from the functional period in the 1880’s to the post-modern period in the late 20th century. Just as progress in materials and construction, technology can be seen to go hand-in-hand with the various periods of architectural trace history, so can the evolution of the traditional to modern to post-modern and now the futuristic architecture along these two trajectories. These outline the replacement of traditional solid load-bearing walls with iron or steel frameworks which reduced load, permitted higher floors and freed valuable floor space, the facades opened up with large windows to allow more light and external walls could be non-structured lighter infills which lent themselves to decoration.
The factors, which have facilitated their creation and evolution, have been varied religion, politics, economics, technology and even social factors. Religious factors perhaps were the original cause of the creation of tall structures, as is seen in the biblical Tower of Babel or the Egyptian pyramids.
The European refugee architects such as Mies van der Rohe brought aesthetics of the International Styles to America. The end of World War II increased the cost of construction, labour and land. Decorative buildings were no longer possible and so architecture took on the form of its structure as boxes of glass, steel and concrete becoming aesthetic only in the hands of a few architects, such as the Level House and the Seagram building. The fact that these buildings no longer stand out are proof of their rampant replication.
In the mid-nineties, confidence levels had risen and structural engineers were completely at ease with ‘tallness’. Architects no longer designed these buildings in seclusion. Computers helped designers to explore structural systems for tall buildings, and tackle the problem of resisting lateral wind forces and downward gravitational forces. The unadulterated structure, however, was not always scaled to the man walking on the street, or to its surroundings, but to the skyline. Connections to their urban surroundings were done by designing facades and interesting masses. Popular mixed-use strategies with plazas, shopping, social amenities, and subway stations were trade-offs in exchange for concessions from some planning laws and increase in heights. These further enhanced the role of public interaction with the otherwise aloof towers.
As seen throughout history, the factors, which have abetted their creation, though still conscious of regional concerns, have moved now to encircle global concerns of sustainability, and may yet be driven, perhaps to address the newer unseen issues that may emerge.