Five Decades of Innovation

When it opened in 1969, 875 North Michigan Avenue (then the John Hancock Center) in Chicago represented cutting-edge construction technology, becoming the first high-rise building to employ a braced-tube structural system; photo courtesy of CTBUH.

In recognition of its founding in 1969, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has spent 2019 looking at the past five decades of skyscraper construction and development, as well as imagining what the next five decades might bring — hence, its 50th anniversary theme, “50 Forward | 50 Back.” The celebration will come to a head at the end of this month with the CTBUH 10th World Congress in Chicago. As in previous events, the congress will feature workshops, presentations, panel discussions and a symposium. The special focus, however, will be “The 50 Most Influential Tall Buildings of the Last 50 Years,” a global roster of landmark structures that, each in its own way, “represented a significant change in thinking or technique” from what came before. The list includes 1969’s 875 North Michigan Avenue (the former John Hancock Center) in Chicago; the Lotte World Tower in Seoul (2017) and the Burj Khalifa (2010), Dubai’s awe-inspiring megatall. Whether it was construction technique, environmental friendliness or outside-the-box architectural design, each building on the list had a notable role in advancing the art and science of the skyscraper, one of humankind’s most iconic creations.

CTBUH is expecting more than 1,500 delegates from at least 45 countries to attend the congress, which opens on October 28. An online registration portal will be open until October 18, so there’s still time to sign up. For more information or to register, visit the CTBUH website’s 2019 program page.

Taking the Stairs

Firefighters in their gear run toward the tower in the 2018 Tower Run; photo by Ewa Krzeszowiak.

If you’re a runner or first responder, what better place is there to test your mettle than Western Europe’s tallest test tower? On September 15, some 1,000 participants will be in Rottweil, Germany, to face the challenging 1,390 steps inside thyssenkrupp’s elevator testing facility for the official Tower Run German Championship. While racing up a 232-m-tall structure might seem a little daunting, it has proved to be an attractive challenge: even though organizers expanded the number of runners, all slots were booked in only a few hours and 300 more people are participating than did last year. It’s not hard to see why. The tower sits in Rottweil, a picturesque, quintessentially European burg that’s the oldest town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Runners who make it to the top will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Black Forest and the Swiss Alps.

International participants, both amateurs and professionals and representing a broad range of ages, will flock to Rottweil from 15 nations, including Austria, Mexico, Italy, France, England, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the U.S. This year, police officers will participate in their own classification.

It has to be daunting to know you have nearly 1,400 steps to climb; photo by Ewa Krzeszowiak.

“The Tower Run has quickly established itself as an attraction and crowd-puller — far beyond the region,” said thyssenkrupp CEO Peter Walker. “As a sporting event it is not only taken seriously but also enjoys an excellent reputation. Here, sports enthusiasts impressively demonstrate that urban mobility does not always have to be functional.”

About 50 runners, including technicians from Spain and Italy, will represent thysennkrupp. “For us, this challenge means conquering the highest heights,” said Francisco Blázquez Castaño, a thyssenkrupp maintenance technician from Madrid. “The test tower in Rottweil is an icon that people all over the world know and admire. We feel like winners just by participating. Our colleagues are very supportive, and that encourages us to try harder and give our best at the Tower Run.”

The thyssenkrupp test tower looks down over Rottweil and the Black Forest; photo by Alicia Wüstner.

thyssenkrupp looks at the Rottweil test tower as a symbol of its engineering skills. It’s here that the company is testing its MULTI units, the world’s only ropeless, vertically as well as horizontally moving elevator. The tower is also used to test and certify high-speed elevators and the latest generation of thyssenkrupp’s TWIN elevators, in which two independent cabins operate within a single shaft. The tower, which houses Germany’s highest viewing platform, is a tourist magnet, drawing nearly 400,000 visitors as of August 2019.

The view from the top is its own reward; photo by Jasmin Fischer.

Germs? What Germs?

The Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, wants to find the subject of this nearly 50-year-old photograph taken by Max Oettli; image via nzherald.co.nz.

An exhibition of historical photographs in New Zealand has launched something of a sleuthing effort to identify the subject of one of the show’s many compelling images: a young girl, apparently seeing an escalator for the first time, captured on film licking the moving stairs’ handrail. The 1970 photo was taken by noted photographer Max Oettli, a Swiss-born longtime resident of New Zealand whose iconic images are part of a show called “The New Photography — Life in the ’60s and ’70s” on display through October 13 at Wellington’s Te Papa Museum. Athol McCredie, a curator at the museum, told the NZ Herald that Oettli captured the image inside a department store that had new escalators. “To a child who had never seen an escalator before, this belt (handrail) might have looked like a giant licorice strap,” McCreadie said.

Then again, who knows what goes through the mind of child? If she comes forward, maybe we’ll find out.