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The Myth of the Skyscraper and the End of an Era

Samuel Staley
February 28, 2010, 8:55am

National Public Radio recently noted the closing of a 52 floor office tower in downtown Dallas, and took this symbolic act to muse on the future of downtowns. More specifically, is the era of the high-rise office building over?

It's an interesting question, and I mused on this a while ago on my blog at Planetizen.com in a post titled "The Myth of the Urban Core." The short answer: Yes, but the hyper dense downtown and associated high-rises were historical artifacts to begin with and unsustainable. High-rise office buildings were products of several forces coming together all at once: revolutionary increases in wealth, very low mobility (no cars), and rapid improvement transportation technologies that move people vertically (elevators). Their continued construction in the post-World War II ere had more to do with ego and urban politics than economic value or efficiency.

It's a debate long overdue, and may well change the way we perceive policies such as Smart Growth.


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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