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A Skyscraper on Its Side that Could Be Greener?

Roadtown book cover
Roadtown book cover

The past few years has seen a game of musical chairs as to who claimed the title as the world’s tallest building.  Unfortunately, like the Tower of Babel, their time may soon be over.

As one builds a taller building, the wind shear, not to mention earthquake susceptibility, increases exponentially. As a result, more concrete and steel is needed to erect these monstrosities.  Add to that the ridiculously high power requirements for elevators, water pumping, air conditioning and lighting, you have a recipe for unsustainability.  And did we mention that tall buildings make for high profile targets for terrorism (no pun intended)?  When you think about it, building a tall building makes for a terrible waste just so that the building owner can have a glorified radio tower pedestal.

So here’s a thought, why not build a skyscraper on its side?  Well, the idea isn’t as new as it seems.  In a book written by Edgar Chambless just over a century ago, the author says:

The idea occurred to me to lay the modern skyscraper on its side and run the elevators and the pipes and wires horizontally instead of vertically. Such a house would not be limited by the stresses and strains of steel; it could be built not only a hundred stories, but a thousand stories or a thousand miles….I would take the apartment house and all its conveniences and comforts out among the farms by the aid of wires, pipes and of rapid and noiseless transportation.

The idea was picked up half a century later by two young architecture graduates, Michael Graves and Peter Eisenman. They labeled their concept the Jersey Corridor Project, a twenty-mile (32 kilometer) city that would eventually extend from Miami to Maine.

It’s basically a twin tower lain down, with one structured devoted to industry and the other a mall consisting of shops, services and homes.  In the basement will run a highway.  And the whole thing will ribbon through “pristine natural landscape.”  There will be no need for large grocery buildings as goods can be distributed through “automated channels running the city’s length.”

A video of the linear city concept was prepared by the Grounds for Sculpture public sculpture garden and museum in Hamilton, NJ in connection with a Michael Graves exhibit.

With all the concerns for the environment, plus the fact that 9-11 is still fresh in the public’s mind, maybe it’s time that we considered building horizontally.

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  1. Simply saying “turn them on their sides” ignores the reason they exist in the first place: lack of space.

    By the way, “sideways skyscrapers” already exist, they are called row houses.


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