A mile-high tower would not just be a new structure, but a new technology.
- Frank Lloyd Wright originally proposed The Mile-High Illinois in the 1950s.
- Innovations in construction materials and elevators are necessary to reach the one mile height and beyond.
- We may see the first mile-high skyscraper by the middle of the 21st century.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Mile-High Illinois<p>One of the first legitimate plans to build a mile-high tower that wasn't some megalomaniac's fever dream (maybe his was too), was famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's The Illinois. </p><p>On October 16th, 1956 at the Sherman House Hotel in Chicago, Wright at 89 years old presented his design for what he conceived to be the tallest skyscraper in the world, an incredible spire shooting one mile high. The structure proposed to stand 528 floors and 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) tall. Behind him stood an illustration that measured 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall with the skyscraper's dimensions drawn at a scale of 1/16 inch to the foot. The Illinois' dimensions would have been astronomical at the time, with: </p><ul><li>528 floors </li><li>76 elevators </li><li>Gross floor area (GFA): 18,460,106 ft² (1,715,000 m²)</li><li>100,000 occupants </li><li>15,000 parking spaces </li><li>100 helicopter landing pads </li><li>Architectural height of 5,280 ft (1,609.4 m)</li><li>Tip antenna height of 5,706 ft (1739.2 m)</li></ul><p>"This is The Illinois, gentlemen… In it, will be consolidated all government offices now scattered around Chicago," Wright proclaimed.</p>
Frank Lloyd Wright presents The Mile High Illinois at the Sherman House Hotel in Chicago
Credit: Alamy Photos<p>Wright in an exemplary display of showmanship unveiled the first proposal for the mile-high tower. He believed that he'd found a method to construct the tower out of two principles he coined "tenuity" and "continuity." With these methods he'd believed he would be able to construct the tower out of reinforced concrete and steel.</p> <p>The general principles between these two ideas is characterized by Wright's designs in which he used a "taproot" foundation to support the central load of the structure. </p> <p><a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/ct-frank-lloyd-wright-mile-high-met-0528-20170528-column.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Chicago Tribune's Blaire Kamin</a> described it as follows: </p> <p> "The Mile-High didn't simply aim to be tall. It was the ultimate expression of Wright's "taproot" structural system, which sank a central concrete mast deep into the ground and cantilevered floors from the mast. In contrast to a typical skyscraper, in which same-size floors are piled atop one another like so many pancakes, the taproot system lets floors vary in size, opening a high-rise's interior and letting space flow between floors."</p>
Building technology for a 1-mile skyscraper<p>The undefeated champion of the skies right now is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at 2,717 feet (roughly half a mile) and is the tallest building in the world.</p><p>Although take that with a grain of dusty salt—only 1,916 feet of the Burj Dubai is occupiable space, the rest is vanity height, meaning nearly 800 feet is non-occupiable space. That represents 29 percent of the building's height. </p><p>So let's get back to real contenders for a mile high.</p><a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/08/20/2343/get-ready-for-more-and-taller-skyscrapers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Researchers at MIT Technology Review</a> used data from the experts at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and predicted that there is a 9 percent chance that a building exceeding a mile will be built by 2050. They've also predicted that by 2050, nearly 6 billion people will live in cities. Already we're seeing that urban areas in China and the Middle East are continually building up, not out.
Credit: Jonathan Auerbach and Phyllis Wan, International Journal of Forecasting Vol. 36, Issue 3<p>There are three major construction and stability aspects that must be dealt with if we're to reach a vertical mile. Those are:</p><ul><li>Dampening wind sway </li><li>Elevator speed and length </li><li>Construction materials </li></ul><p>The tallest skyscrapers all employ a tapered top design. This serves both a utilitarian and structural purpose. It's simply not possible to take pre-existing buildings and just double their height. </p><p>A mile-high tower would not just be a new structure, but a new technology. </p><p>Putting aside Burj Khalifa's vanity height for a moment, we have to admire its structural ingenuity. Designed by architect Adrian Smith and structural engineer William Baker at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the structure's foundational approach is a buttressed core – which is a hexagonal concrete core that frays out into three triangle buttresses. This was one inventive solution they made to support such a great height. </p><p>But that only solves one issue. </p><p><strong>Diverting winds at high elevations</strong> </p><p>What might be a slight breeze on the ground floor can turn into a windstorm in greater heights. Aside from the fundamentals of stability, occupants also need comfortability. Most building sway is harmless to the structural integrity of the building. But the last thing anyone wants is to feel like they're in the midst of a tornado 500 floors above ground level. </p><p>Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals calculate estimated wind sway from a building's height and incorporate that into the design. Buildings are often made to withstand cataclysmic 500 to 1000 year inclement weather disasters. </p><p>To deal with wind, you either confuse it by spinning it around the building in creative structural ways or you use a mass dampener.</p><p>A mass dampener is a counterweight suspended somewhere in the building to counteract and balance the movement from the outside. For example, the Taipei 101 Tower employs a <a href="https://gizmodo.com/how-a-730-ton-ball-kept-the-second-tallest-building-fro-5019046" target="_blank">730 ton orb </a>pendulum that sways back and forth to balance wind from storms and typhoons. </p><p>Aerodynamic vortexes of wind can exert dangerous amounts of pressure and vibrations on a building. Air currents can be unpredictable, so rather than guess what could happen to the building, AEC professionals need to calculate it directly into the design. If it's not a mass dampener, it'll be a mix of structural fins, curves, and asymmetrical floors. </p><p><strong>Elevator speed and stability</strong> </p><p>The logistical obstacles of moving thousands of people in a mile-high skyscraper is one of the biggest challenges. To reach the floor at the top of a mile-high building with current technology would require people to change elevators multiple times. </p><p>The current figure for elevators runs at 1,600 feet as wire suspension ropes cannot support their own weight and any additional weight after that point. Aside from the technical limitations, needing multiple elevator lobbies would take up too much valuable space. </p><p>A few years ago, Finnish elevator company Kone developed a carbon fiber cable, UltraRope that they believe could double the distance of an elevator rope. This would be enough to get those would-be mile-high penthouse residents to their sky digs. </p><p>Beyond the old school cable elevator, others have floated ideas about a looped system that could pull elevators up, down and sideways. This could increase the building's usable area by 25 percent. </p><p><strong>New structural materials</strong> </p><p>Concrete has served us well for thousands of years. It's time to rethink what materials we can use. Engineers are looking at materials like carbon fiber, an extremely lightweight and strong material. </p><p>Carbon fiber is a polymer composed of thin strands of carbon atoms bound together in a unique crystalline formation. It is far lighter than steel, five times stronger and has double the stiffness. Currently carbon fiber is used in a number of manufacturing processes ranging from aircraft wings to bike frames. Carbon fiber and other related composite materials weigh very little but can take on heavy bearing loads.</p>
The future of the mile-high skyscraper<p>With billions of residents in our cities, it's an inevitability that we'll one day reach the one-mile-high mark, if not beyond that as well. But we need to think about what these skyscrapers will be used for and how they'll interact with and reshape the built environment. </p><p>At the turn of the 20th century, the 1916 Zoning Resolution in New York City was a measure adopted to stop massive skyscrapers from blocking light and air from reaching the streets below. It established limits to what could be built and created a series of setbacks to building lots. </p><p>New measures would need to be created as a building of this magnitude entered into the public domain. New building uses also need to be considered. How many more luxury condos and office space do we really need? </p><p>The advent of a mile-high tower could bring about a new age of the homestead and of our created environment. We have the opportunity to build something that could be a fully functioning self-contained ecosystem, more than just a building, but a city within a city. </p><p>A mixed use building like this could shelter thousands and give them a place where they could work, play, live, and exist on the peripheries of humankind's greatest ingenuity. A place like this could also serve as a consolidated seat for governments and working space for companies of the future. Why not continue to build vertically with farms, factories, and more?<br></p><p>When we one day build to a mile and beyond, the sky will no longer be the limit, it will be our domain.</p><p><em></em><em>Mike Colagrossi is the founder of </em><em><a target="_blank" href="https://alchemistcity.com/?utm_source=bigthink&utm_medium=editorial&utm_campaign=mile-high-skyscraper">Alchemist City,</a></em><em> the most thought-provoking urban development and technology email newsletter. </em><em><a target="_blank" href="https://alchemistcity.com/?utm_source=bigthink&utm_medium=editorial&utm_campaign=mile-high-skyscraper" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up</a></em><em> to stay up to date.</em> <em></em></p>
Virtual reality is more than a trick. It's a solution to big problems.
- According to projections shared by the UN, Earth's population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. By the year 2100, that number could increase to 11 billion. Virtual reality will be necessary to reduce the waste of such a large population in industries like transport, retail, and manufacturing.
- As an existing technology, there is a lot that virtual reality can do: rich and immersive environments, heightened storytelling, emotionally resonant experiences, and increased productivity in retail. But it's only in its infancy.
- As the world's population continues to grow, the technology will need to evolve to facilitate a larger network of users, and developers will have to think harder about the technological potential and the ethical, neurological, and emotional side effects.
Spending time in green spaces seems to yield many health benefits, most of which researchers are only beginning to understand.
- The longitudinal study examined the development of pairs of twins growing up in various parts of Belgium.
- The results revealed a positive relationship between growing up near greener spaces and having a higher IQ.
- The differences were especially significant on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum, suggesting that policy changes could make a significant difference in intellectual development.
Intelligence is shown in association with green space in a 3,000-m radius around the current residence in twins living in an urban (n = 232), suburban (n = 126), and a rural area (n = 254)
Pixabay<p>To be sure, the study only established a statistically significant correlation—it didn't conclude that a lack of green space causes lowered intelligence in children. Still, the researchers said their findings contribute to the growing body of research on the health risks of city living, and how green spaces factor into the mix.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is more and more evidence that green surroundings are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory skills and attention," Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium, told <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/24/children-raised-greener-areas-higher-iq-study" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">The Guardian</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What this study adds with IQ is a harder, well-established clinical measure. I think city builders or urban planners should prioritise investment in green spaces because it is really of value to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential."</p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
'Operation Invisibility Cloak' was a waste: Hamburg would soon be firebombed to bits
- In 1941, the Nazis camouflaged an entire lake at the centre of Hamburg.
- A painted tarp was made to look like a bunch of city blocks from above, in the hope of misdirecting RAF bombers.
- But the Brits weren't fooled, and Hamburg would later suffer horrific firebombing.
Operation Invisibility Cloak<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2OTI3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODExNTUwOH0.GHMQb3Lae8r2HnqtfxuCPAnnBtW7fu45baB3FdnerBo/img.jpg?width=980" id="c29b1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31f3b8dafa11442479ee067d501796b4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bBefore and after: the Binnenalster and Hamburg's central train station." />
Before and after: the Binnenalster and Hamburg's central train station.
Image: Reddit<p>Now you see it, now you don't: these images, taken by the Royal Air Force in 1941, show how the same part of Hamburg suddenly looked very different from above. </p><ul><li>The most notable difference is the disappearance of the <em>Binnenalster</em>, one of two artificial lakes that mark the center of Hamburg. It has been covered to look like regular city blocks from above. </li><li>Hamburg's <em>Hauptbahnhof</em>, the city's central train station, clearly visible on the top image, has also been camouflaged (although perhaps less effectively). </li><li>A fake bridge, made from wood, wire and thatch, has been slung across the lower part of the <em>Außenalster</em> - the other, larger lake in central Hamburg. By re-creating the actual, hidden <em>Lombardsbrücke</em>, the camouflage operation creates a fake Binnenalster, just north of the real one. </li></ul>This large-scale deception was meant to deceive Allied bombers into dropping their payload on strategically less important parts of the city. The Nazis called it <em>Operation Tarnkappe</em> ('Operation Invisibility Cloak'), but that name was far too optimistic.
Many attempts at deception<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2OTMxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjA2Mjc1MX0.-UClFxXeErMZY3YqtjD47Kd2K2GPfqpgKy6p9_KMsJ8/img.jpg?width=980" id="fe7bb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7970830b010cbe5338add2bd7ce3b0c9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An Avro Lancaster of No. 1 Group, Bomber Command, silhouetted against flares, smoke and explosions during the attack on Hamburg, Germany, by aircraft of Nos. 1, 5 and 8 Groups on the night of 30/31 January 1943. This raid was the first occasion on which H2S centimetric radar was used by the Pathfinder aircraft to navigate the force to the target. The pilot of the photographing aircraft (Lancaster 'ZN-Y' of No. 106 Squadron, based at Syerston) was Flt Lt D J Shannon who, as a member of No. 617 Squadron, took part in Operation CHASTISE (the "Dams Raid") during the following May." />
RAF Lancaster bomber over Hamburg during an attack on the night of 30-31 January, 1943.
Image: Imperial War Museum – public domain.<p>Firstly, because the British bombers targeting Hamburg didn't orient themselves on the Alster lakes. They were guided in by the Elbe, Hamburg's major river. </p><p>But most of all, because the Brits caught on quickly to the deception. In fact, the London papers reported on the operation soon after its completion. On July 1941, several published these 'before' and 'after' images.</p><p>Operation Tarnkappe was but one of many attempts to deflect the attention of Allied bombers from valuable targets on the ground. Just around Hamburg, the Nazis faked 80 air strips and 32 industrial and traffic installations, while they attempted to cloak real factories, military installations and even Hamburg City Hall. </p><p>When the Alster froze in the cold winter of 1940/41, the Nazis planted hundreds of pine trees on the Alster, hoping to trick Allied pilots into thinking they were flying over a forest, instead of the centre of Hamburg. <br></p><p>None of that really made a difference.</p>
Coming within range<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2OTMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDg3NjI1NH0.vUBep-nMhhd6H3rQi0oj6Vtp0jCC_RAEZLZLyu3t5kg/img.jpg?width=980" id="89fbc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c1e1305882216fa67f92f375a97b88a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAs the range of Allied fighter craft expanded, bombing raids deep into Germany became relatively safer for the air crews." />
As the range of Allied fighter craft expanded, bombing raids deep into Germany became relatively safer for the air crews.
Image: Reddit<p>As a major industrial center, home to shipyards and harbor for U-boats, the port city of Hamburg was an important target for Allied bombing raids throughout the war. </p><p><span></span>As British and American airplane technology advanced, Hamburg came within easier range of the Allied bombing effort.</p><p>After concentrating on the industrial Ruhrgebiet in western Germany, closer to the UK, Allied Bomber Command eventually started paying its deadly visits to Hamburg. </p><p><span></span>In July 1943, the Allies unleashed Operation Gomorrah, history's heaviest aerial bombardment yet. It created a huge firestorm that killed more than 42,000 civilians and completely destroyed 21 km2 (8 sq. mi) of the city. </p>
Payback for Coventry<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2OTM0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTUwODcwN30.MCyfuCXHOqSY5x_jVPi4tkMLvwQYm2wpu8Y8w-h2EBY/img.jpg?width=980" id="d1be2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1798f6faae5d3a4cec903710760638b3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Royal Air Force Bomber Command, 1942-1945. Oblique aerial view of ruined residential and commercial buildings south of the Eilbektal Park (seen at upper right) in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, Germany. These were among the 16,000 multi-storeyed apartment buildings destroyed by the firestorm which developed during the raid by Bomber Command on the night of 27/28 July 1943 (Operation GOMORRAH). The road running diagonally from upper left to lower right is Eilbeker Weg, crossed by R\u00fcckertstra\u00dfe." />
The district of Eilbek, totally wiped out by the firestorm caused by Operation Gomorrah.
Image: Imperial War Museum – public domain.<p>During the worst night of the attacks, asphalted streets burst into flame, the fiery tornados swept people up into the sky, and many more died of asphyxiation in bomb shelters as the fires consumed all the oxygen in the city above. </p><p>A million people fled the city, which saw its production capacity severely handicapped for the rest of the war. After the war, the level of destruction was compared to that of Hiroshima. </p><p>Destroying further German cities by firestorm was subsequently called 'hamburgisation' by the Allies; a reply in kind to Joseph Goebbels' cynical invention of the verb 'coventrisieren' to describe the wholesale destruction of a city by aerial bombardment (in reference to the German air raid on Coventry of 14 November 1940). <br></p>
Hamburg, uncloaked<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2OTM2NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODgwNDE0NX0.8Uy6eYDaj0QuducfJou0xs6-yZym41aqkP0U5Ab7eyo/img.png?width=980" id="aae13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd060a159ad89893221dfd850517ac6f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Central Hamburg today, with the Au\u00dfenalster and Binnenalster - and even the train station - clearly visible." />
Central Hamburg today, with the Außenalster and Binnenalster - and even the train station - clearly visible.
Image: Google Earth