As global populations spread outwards and lift technology rapidly advances, skyscraper design is becoming ever more futuristic. So we asked Giorgio Marfella, lecturer in Construction Management and Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design – what’s the limit when you’re building in the sky?
Marfella says technological advances combined with logics of economic development are the main reasons high-rise habitats are now luxurious and elite, where once it was frowned upon to sleep or work in the upper levels of a building.
In houses and offices in the past, the first floor was the prime real estate because you didn’t need to use the stairs. But since the introduction of lifts in the late 1800s, it’s now possible to enjoy expansive views of the city, with no dust, less noise, and a speedy trip from the ground floor to the top.
Visionary architects once saw a future where the high-rise was a mark of prestige, and lifts have been the key technology to advance the development of record-breaking building heights. Marfella says:
In 1956 Frank Lloyd Wright designed the concept of the ‘Illinois’, a one mile high skyscraper for Chicago on the basis of a futuristic – but never realised - atomic powered lift system.
“The practical implications of a mile high tower were such that the Illinois was ridiculed by some American developers at the time.”