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.