The Victorian era was the blast into skyscrapers. The demand for skyscrapers was a process. As business’s developed and grew their demand for communication also grew. Because the telephone had not been invented yet, it was highly important for the business activities are in close proximity to each other. The results were overcrowding in offices and the “business district”. This also led to costly land prices and high rents. Because the cities were limited in growing space there was only one solution: to build up. Masonry and columns had prevented this upward growth until now with the introduction of cast iron. Cast iron was an extraordinary material. Its main advantage was that it could be prefabricated. This prefabrication was also used with glass to fill the exterior of these new skyscrapers. Wooden floors came next and were extremely dangerous because they were very flammable. Because of this fire hazard architects preferred to use masonry on the outer walls to create a fire barrier. The next improvement in skyscrapers was the wooden floors. They were replaced with “systems using arches of brick or terracotta tile supported on iron beams and columns wrapped with heat insulation” (258).
These early skyscrapers do not resemble the skyscrapers of today at all. Today the norm is about 20 to 40 floors but these first ones were souring with only 8 to 12 stories. It was very hard for architects to create these skyscrapers because there was no previous history about them. The most precedent use for skyscrapers was for offices. “The typical office building had rows of small offices arranged along corridors so that every office could be close to windows for light and ventilation” (259). The commonplace workspaces were open and were used for the busy workers. All the normal business equipment came into view during the late Victorian Era. Some other key inventions were gaslight, which was followed by electricity, and the telegraph followed by the telephone. Meeting rooms and business executive’s offices only differed a little by adding a rug and pictures. Skyscrapers were also used for apartments, retail stores, swear shops, factories, and hotels.
So after reading and understanding the importances of skyscrapers think about these questions:
In your opinion was the development of skyscrapers a good move? Meaning did they improve the way of living or did they somehow hurt it?