F L Wright's Mile-High Skyscraper

I just read a book by Wright, which contained the plans and drawings of one of his never-built designs-it was for a skyscraper to be 5,450 ft. high! My question to the architects and civil engineers-is this design feasible? Do we have steel beams strong enough to make this possible? I’d love to have an office on the 500th floor!
Did Wright ever try to sell this concept to a developer?

I’ll bet you wouldn’t love it so much if the elevators broke. :slight_smile:


“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

I’m not an engineer, so I can only attempt to answer your last question.

I think the skyscraper was part of an F.L. Wright project called “Usonia”, a kind of utopian city. I don’t think it was ever seriously considered that the project would ever see reality, but was viewed more as a concept of what could be.


La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

I think that the highest building now is still under 2000 ft, so I would belive that a mile high building would be nearly impossible with today’s technology. Wind would be a big factor with this building, it would have to be very flexible, and be able to withstand the inevitable earthquake. (Hey, if Toledo can get one, then so can Chicago, NY, Detroit…) I think that the futuristic mile high cities (i.e. Judge Dred type) are too massive and too expensive to make to be created for the next 100 years.


“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”-- Calvin and Hobbes
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Is this telepathy? I just started a tall buildings topic, sort of different, though.

If they have x floors above ground, how many floors will they need below ground?

When they recently approved the new skyscraper in Chicago, to be taller than the Sears Tower, it was stated (in the Tribune) that such buildings are quite feasable. They said the real problems are the elevators and the enormous amounts of time it would take to get to the top.

Also opposition by fire fighters is always another issue. Though I really don’t see the difference between a fire at 1200 feet and one at 5000 feet.

They aughta build it in Denver. I guess the air would be a bit thin at the top, though.
Seriously, there was a program on the tube about very tall buildings a few years ago. The idea is that people would work and live in different parts of the building. They wouldn’t routinely leave. Like a small city in one enclosure, sorta. Complete with neighborhoods, transportation, parks, shopping malls, entertainment, etc.
Kinda cool, I guess. But I don’t think I’d want to live there.
Peace, mangeorge


Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

The idea of people living their lives in one building is called Arcology, and was floated by the architect Paolo Soleri. It was incorporated into Simcity 2000, interestingly.

There’s a few large problems to a mile high skyscraper, although the tecnical engineering exists. First off, the higher you go, the more space you need to dedicate per floor to ventilation, plumbing, and other utilities. It takes a lot of pumps and pressure to get water on floor 565, and eventually more floor space is used for utilities than offices.
Second, it takes a long time to get to the higher levels, even by elevator. High offices wouldn’t rent for much because they’d be too hard to get to quickly.

Third, the size of the building base would have to be huge. That requires buying out entire city blocks and rerouting traffic, blocking sunlight, parking, etc etc.

Fourth, telecommunications have made skyscrapers obsolete. You no longer need the entire company in one place and it’s cheaper to have 5 district offices of 10 floors each than one 200 floor tower somewhere.

So while it’s possible to build a mile high tower, it’s not going to happen anytime soon in my opinion.


“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Buildings will continue to be built taller and taller for some time to come.

Reason–most architects are men.

Think about it.

If Frank Lloyd Wright designed it, it would be a work of art.
The roof would leak. The walls would buckle. The furniture would be uncomfortable. And it would run w-a-y over budget.
But it would be a work of art.

Thanks for the posts-as you may guess, I’m a Wright fanatic-my ex-wife probably divorced me because my idea of a fun vacation was a visit to a Wright-designed house or building! Anyway, I understand the great master was quite arrogant-he once replied to the president of Florida Southern College (whose campus Wrigt designed from top to bottom), when told that a roof leaked, Wright told him to just move the furniture! Anyhow, did Wright design any houses for people of modest means (like me?)

Not likely, nor did he design anything for anyone 6’3". We’re both screwed, but i’d rather design my own.

Yes he did, out in Wisconsin, I believe. Wright was approached by a man of middle income (back in the 30’s, I believe), who asked Wright to build him an affordable house. I wish I could remember the exact details, but I know I just heard this story in Ken Burn’s excellent FLW documentary. It’s probably mentioned in Wright’s recent biography too.

The Usonian houses, designed but never built, were part of FLW’s plan to build affordable moderate income housing. I saw one built for a Wright expo in Washington; it was beautiful.

I do…

  • How many flights of stairs will you have to walk up? Firefighters don’t use elevators to get to fire floors. Many flights of stairs are a cast-iron bitch in turnout gear, carrying 150’ of 2.5" hose and forcible entry tools.
  • Water supply. Every foot you have to pump water up is 0.434 psi more you have to pump at. A normal fire service pump is rated at maximum capacity at 150psi, 50% capacity at 250psi, and doesn’t like to go above 300psi. Not including the friction loss in the standpipe (pipes that run up the stairwells that firefighters hook hoses to in the building), and the pressure you have to pump the nozzle at (50psi or 100psi, depending on the nozzle) you’d have to pump at 2170psi just to make up the elevation. Add the friction loss for 5000’ of pipe (8" pipe, flowing 250gpm): 3.5psi; 65 psi at the connection; = 2170 + 3.5 + 65 = 2238 psi at the street to put a fire out at the 5000’ level. You can put pumps halfway up the building, but they tend to shut down at the most inopportune times (One Meridian Plaza in Philly, Interstate Bank in LA, just for two examples). Basically, its downright nasty to get water up there.
  • Hell of a wind at 5000’ when a window breaks out. Wind pushing through windows onto a fire makes for a very difficult extinguishment problem.
  • Rescuing stranded window-washers (who would want to wash windows a mile up?)

Give me a while, I’ll come up with more.

Jeremy…

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine - Kurt Vonnegut

Does Oak Park count?

matt_mcl wrote:

I always thought the Plymouth Arcologies in Sim City 2000 looked an awful lot like the big buildings in Blade Runner.
(I looked at this topic because I’m reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead right now, and I wonder of Frank Lloyd Wright provided any of Rand’s inspiration for Howard Roarke.)

Frank Lloyd Wright was in the inspiration for Howard Roarke. She has stated so in print. If you see the movie, a lot of Rourke’s buildings look like Wright designs.

There’s a really great website devoted to the world’s tallest buildings which has more info on this topic: http://www.worldstallest.com

As far as firefighting goes, I read in Popular Mechanics that someone invented a water cannon that can be mounted on a helicopter. That should solve the problem, unless it’s the kind of fire thta must be fought from inside the building.

As for window washing, I read somewhere that the windows in the World Trade Center are washed by some kind of robot. Whether it’s 1000 feet high or 5000, there’s no way you’re going to keep all those windows clean the old-fashioned way.