Race for the Skies: Chicago vs. New York | Summary and Q&A

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August 29, 2018
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The B1M
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Race for the Skies: Chicago vs. New York

TL;DR

The rivalry between Chicago and New York in skyscraper construction shaped the modern urban landscape.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What were the limitations of tall buildings before the 19th century?

Tall buildings were mostly limited to military fortifications, bell towers, and religious structures that served strategic, ornamental, or spiritual purposes. Vertical access was limited to stairs, and building with external load-bearing walls caused buildings to thicken at their bases.

Q: What were some innovations introduced in the construction industry during the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution introduced new innovations into the construction industry, such as fireproof metal frames and hydraulic elevators. These advancements, embraced in Chicago, enabled the construction of tall buildings by reducing weight and improving vertical access.

Q: How did New York City respond to Chicago's skyscraper construction?

New York City approved the use of metal frames and allowed the construction of high-rise structures, although they were more modest in height compared to Chicago. New York saw tall buildings as a solution to the challenges it faced in terms of urban development.

Q: What factors led to New York City's dominance in skyscraper construction?

New York City's dominance began when Chicago introduced regulations limiting the height of new buildings. New York City's planning authorities, instead of limiting height, passed zoning resolutions requiring setbacks and improved air circulation. This allowed for the construction of taller buildings without compromising on street level lighting and air quality.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Skyscrapers were limited to military fortifications, bell towers, and religious structures until the 19th century.

  • The Industrial Revolution and the availability of land in Chicago led to the construction of the world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building.

  • New York City embraced Chicago's vertical progress, leading to the race for the tallest building between the two cities.

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