Saturday, June 03, 2006

"A Soaring Achievement"
Such is the title of a fascinating column in today's Wall Street Journal by John Tauranac, author of The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark.

The achievement that is the Empire State Building belongs first and foremost to architects Richmond H. Shreve, William F. Lamb, and Arthur Loomis Harmon, names as Tauranac points out that should be as famous as Rembrandt. Announced in September 1929, it was built in 20 (!) months. Tauranac writes:
Shreve, Lamb & Harmon considered themselves modernists. But their notion of modernism was a building that was both erected and operated efficiently. If it looked good, so much the better, and this building did.
From an initial design of 65 stories, the building grew to be 80 stories along with a separate 5 story penthouse as a result of competition with the Chrysler building which was 1,048 feet tall. With its distinctive 200 foot dirigible mooring mast the Empire State Building became the tallest structure in the world at 1,250 feet until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1972.

Tauranac comments on the efficiency of the construction:
The construction operation was an assembly line, only the product was stationary--the workers were on the move. The ironworkers threw steel higher and faster than anybody had ever dreamed, and the other crafts kept abreast of the pace--a record-breaking 4 1/2 floors a week. The American Society of Civil Engineers has declared the building not only "one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in American history," but "one of the top engineering monuments of the Millenium."
I first visited New York in 1979 and I went with my parents to the Empire State Building. I still remember vividly looking up from ground and being simply amazed at the sheer size of it. I still think it is truly inspiring to think that man is capable of such greatness.

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