Building Tall: China on the Rise; NYC No Slouch

Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction

Visual Capitalist has a couple interesting (and, appropriately, visual) articles I wanted to share. The most recent, “Upward Momentum: Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction,” includes the graph above as an example of how Southeast Asia (and China, especially) are coming on strong in high-rise building. However, it also notes “A New Era of American Skyscrapers,” in which it says the U.S. is embracing taller buildings again after a 20-odd-year lull. “Last year alone, the U.S. added 14 new skyscrapers into the mix, particularly in New York City (NYC), where construction cranes dot the horizon. In the past decade, NYC has added 25 new skyscrapers to its iconic skyline,” the source reports.

As Visual Capitalist shows and explains in “A Century of New York City’s Evolving Skyline,” this NYC trend is showing no signs of slowing down: “Between now and 2022, 44 skyscraper projects are expected to be completed in the United States, with the vast majority being built in the Big Apple.” This second article delves much further into the NYC skyline, with a bit of history and forecasting.

A Visit to the Elevator Museum in Massachusetts

Text and Photos by Caleb Givens

The International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 4 Union Hall is tucked behind a few industrial facilities in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Housed in this building, in a large, open conference room, is the Elevator Museum. It is the shining physical presence of the Elevator Historical Society’s efforts to preserve the history of the elevator and escalator industry.

Your author visited Steve Comley, who is truly taking the museum from good to great. Comley is a longtime elevator man, getting his taste of the industry at an early age, thanks to his father, James, who purchased Embree and White Elevator in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1972. “I loved the dirty old elevator machine shop,” recalls Comley. “It was fascinating to me as a kid — the noise from the flat-belt pulleys running across the ceiling, the smell of the cutting oils on the machines and the smoke from the welding. They used to cast and completely build elevator machines there.”

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Nuclear Powered, Five-Deck Elevators: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mile-High Tower

Double-deck elevators in Midland Square, Japan. Wright’s proposed skyscraper would have had 76 five-deck elevators; photo by Chris 73.

At a press conference in Chicago in 1956, when he was 87 years old, architect Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled his plan for what would come to be known as The Mile High Illinois, a skyscraper four times the height of the Empire State Building that would dwarf the world’s current tallest building, the 2,717-ft.-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 5,280 ft. The never-realized Mile High would have had more than 500 floors and be powered by 76, nuclear-powered, five-deck elevators. Even at that, a modern-day elevator consultant told The New Yorker this would have fallen far short. James Fortune said up to 225 elevators would have been needed. The architect’s “lost masterpiece” had a lot of other technical issues, which you can read all about in The Daily Beast.