The Twin Towers as Failed Experiments
The Twin Towers as Failed Experiments
With the gift of hindsight, what has been learned about structural vulnerabilities to these systems:
We now know that at any time since 1970 accidental or intentional local detachment of only 2 floor slabs in only one portion of either of the buildings could have led to catastrophic failure of an entire building. This could have happened even without the loss of a single column.
This unique architecture had an equally unique weakness.
Has this fact been recognized within available professional and academic literature on the subject? We can easily verify whether it has or hadn't simply by reviewing the literature published since the collapses.
A short history and description of the WTC towers from the website openbuildings.com is linked here
Some quotes from the link:
"The structural engineering firm Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson worked to implement Yamasaki's design, developing the tube-frame structural system used in the twin towers. The Port Authority's Engineering Department served as foundation engineers, Joseph R. Loring & Associates as electrical engineers, and Jaros, Baum & Bolles as mechanical engineers. Tishman Realty & Construction Company was the general contractor on the World Trade Center project. Guy F. Tozzoli, director of the World Trade Department at the Port Authority, and Rino M. Monti, the Port Authority's Chief Engineer, oversaw the project. As an interstate agency, the Port Authority was not subject to local laws and regulations of the City of New York including building codes. Nonetheless, the structural engineers of the World Trade Center ended up following draft versions of the new 1968 building codes. The tube-frame design, earlier introduced by Fazlur Khan, was a new approach which allowed open floor plans rather than columns distributed throughout the interior to support building loads as had traditionally been done."
This new, innovative approach allowed more total square feet of usable office space than the traditional designs. In a further effort to maximize usable office space an innovative elevator layout was introduced:
Objections and Criticisms to the WTC Design
"A major limiting factor in building height is the issue of elevators; the taller the building, the more elevators are needed to service the building, requiring more space-consuming elevator banks. Yamasaki and the engineers decided to use a new system with sky lobbies; floors where people could switch from a large-capacity express elevator which serves the sky lobbies, to a local elevator that goes to each floor in a section. This allowed the local elevators to be stacked within the same elevator shaft. Located on the 44th and 78th floors of each tower, the sky lobbies enabled the elevators to be used efficiently, increasing the amount of usable space on each floor from 62 to 75 percent by reducing the number of required elevator shafts. Altogether, the World Trade Center had 95 express and local elevators. This system was inspired by the New York City Subway system whose lines include local stations where local trains stop and express stations where all trains stop."
"The buildings were designed with narrow office windows 18 inches (46 cm) wide, which reflected Yamasaki's fear of heights as well as his desire to make building occupants feel secure. Yamasaki's design included building facades sheathed in aluminum-alloy. The World Trade Center was one of the most striking American implementations of the architectural ethic of Le Corbusier and it was the seminal expression of Yamasaki's gothic modernist tendencies."
There were also objections to the design, that the designs were ugly and the building looked like 'big filing cabinets'. There was criticism they were unnecessarily gigantic. That they were 'purposeless giantism' or an example of 'technological exhibitionism':
"The World Trade Center design brought criticism of its aesthetics from the American Institute of Architects and other groups. Lewis Mumford, author of The City in History and other works on urban planning, criticized the project and described it and other new skyscrapers as "just glass-and-metal filing cabinets". The twin towers' narrow office windows, only 18 inches (46 cm) wide, were disliked by many for impairing the view from the buildings.
The trade center's "superblock", replacing a more traditional, dense neighborhood, was regarded by some critics as an inhospitable environment that disrupted the complicated traffic network typical of Manhattan. For example, in his book The Pentagon of Power, Lewis Mumford denounced the center as an "example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city."
Actually, Lewis Mumford referred to them in his 1970 book Pentagon of Power as en excellent modern example of a 'homage to giantism'. This means that there was a decision to make them big just to show that it is possible, like showing off the most modern technology of the day just to show it off.
This is a direct quote from the book:
"The Port Authority, a quasi-governmental corporation, was in origin a happy political invention, first installed in London; but unfortunately its social functions subordinated to pecuniary motivations: and its executives have conceived it their duty to funnel more motor traffic into the city, through new bridges and tunnels, than its streets and parking lots can handle - while contributing to the lapse of a more adequate system of public transportation that included railroad, subway, and ferry. This policy has resulted in mounting traffic congestion, economic waste, and human deterioration - though with a constant rise in land values and speculative profits. These baneful results were anticipated and and graphically depicted by Clarence S. Stein, then Chairman of the New York State Housing and Regional Planning commission, in his article on 'Dinosaur Cities' in the 'Survey Graphic,' May 1925. Stein there described the breakdowns - already quite visible - resulting from housing congestion, water shortage, sewer pollution, street clogging, traffic jams, and municipal bankruptcy. But Dinosaurs were handicapped by insufficient brains, and the World Trade Center is only another Dinosaur."
So, the history of the WTC towers is a complex one even before construction began. The tube design was an effort to maximize usable office space. This design was considered new and innovative.
In short, it was an experiment.
And not everyone agreed with the design or the mere size of this gigantic pair of structures.
With the gift of hindsight and accurate, detailed collapse mappings there is another chapter to be added to the complete history of these innovative and gigantic experimental towers. The decision to maximize usable office space is what ultimately led to unique and distinctive mode by which they collapsed. The buildings were an experiment and the results of that experiment can now be analyzed in an open and critical way.
Or at least they should. Were these buildings actually dinosaurs as Lewis Mumford observed in 1970? Was the large. stacked open office system a failed experiment?
With the gift of hindsight some of us can admit that the unique architecture of WTC1 and 2 led to an equally unique collapse progression mode.
Consider other comparable towers like the Sears and John Hancock buildings in Chicago, on the far left and right in this image:
To what degree are each of these buildings ROOSD vulnerable? If one were to imagine a Verinage type demolition across a single floor near the top of each building, how would each collapse progression mode differ from the mappings within the ROOSD study?
It is now possible to note that WTC1 or 2 could have been completely destroyed any time since 1972 without removing a single column, simply by initiating a ROOSD avalanche on only one part of one floor.
Are these other buildings vulnerable to total collapse without a single column being weakened, simply by initiating a small, regional ROOSD process?
Original article titled:
Towers for the Cult of Ayn Rand
An Architecture of Doom and Dread
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
On November 3, 2014, the first tenants moved into the new Freedom Tower, the 1776-foot tall glass-and-steel structure built on the site of 6 World Trade Center. Those employees of the Condé Nast publishing company probably entered the monstrous building with some trepidation. You can understand their anxiety. The old World Trade Center had been targeted by terrorists at least four times and ultimately obliterated in the 9/11 attacks. The new building, rising from the tip of Manhattan, dominates the skyline which such audacity that it seems to flash a "I dare you to hit me again" sign from its imposing spire. The structure has the ungainly heft and bulk of a skyscraper on steroids, but, in reality, is no more secure than its notorious predecessors, which used to sway tremulously in winter winds.
Designed by Daniel Libeskind, a pop architect who has been described as the "Jeff Koons of building blocks," the shape of the Freedom Tower suggests a brutal monument to the inviolate power of late-capitalism, a mirrored spike thrusting into the empty sky. Strangely, it is the kind arrogant tower that one expects to encounter sprouting assertively from the desert in some oil sheikdom on-the-make like Dubai. There is an irony here that will, perhaps, bite deeper in the decades to come.
If there was even the slightest consolation to be mined from the collapse of the Twin Towers, it was that the Manhattan skyline had been purged of two of the ugliest buildings ever constructed.
Essay written shortly after the 9/11/01 attacks by by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
These are days of lamentation: for the horrifying toll of the innocent dead, for the near certain prospect of thousands more-American and Middle Eastern-slated to die in the impending retaliatory strikes, and even for a weird kind of innocence and naivete that seemed uniquely American, a naivete that persisted in the heart of the nation's most cynical city.
But one loss that mustn't be mourned are the Twin Towers themselves, those blinding prongs that rose up like a tuning fork above the Battery. Under other circumstances, thousands would have gathered to cheer the planned demolition of these oppressive structures as lustily as they have the implosions of the Kingdome in Seattle and other misbegotten monstrosities of the 1970s. You could say the World Trade Center was a singular atrocity-except there were two of them. As architectural historian Francis Morrone wrote his 1998 Architectural Guidebook to New York: "The best thing about the view from the indoor and out observation decks of Two World Trade Centers that they are the only high vantage points in New York city from which the World Trade Center itself is not visible."
But now there's talk, serious talk from people like Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and the building's new owner Larry KillingTrayvons1Silverstein, of rebuilding both skyscrapers. This impulse must be resisted. Those buildings terrorized the skyline of Manhattan for too long. They combined ostentation and austerity with all the chilling precision of an economic package devised by the IMF.
The architect of the World Trade Center complex, Minuro Yamasaki, was morbidly afraid of heights. It shows in his work. Like the tycoon in Akira Kurosawa's wonderful film High and Low, Yamasaki has projected his own nightmares on all of us. His towers are more than blunt symbols of corporate power. They are erections of dominion that inject a feeling of powerlessness in those who must encounter their airy permanence. His architecture does violence to the psyche as surely as those planes did violence to the human body. Yamasaki said he wanted enough space around the base of the towers so onlookers could be "overwhelmed by their greatness."
Yamasaki, who died in 1986, saw himself as a field marshal of space, a kind of Japanese-American version of Philip Johnson, the avatar of the glass curtain skyscraper. Johnson's neo-fascist erections made him the favorite architect of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, with whom he once debated the finer points of Martin Heidegger in the salon of Ayn Rand. Yamasaki is like Johnson only duller. He was more ruthless in his desire to shave all aesthetic pleasure out of his cubes and tubes, to make them monuments to functionality.
The towers were meant to be impervious to the elements, as if they could not only defy space, wind, and the colors of nature, but time as well. That was Yamasaki's biggest lie, a conceit as big as the ever-expanding bull market or the prospect of an
impenetrable missile defense shield. But the lie was shattered in a matter of minutes, as first the load-bearing exo-skeleton quivered and buckled, then the joints melted in the inferno of the burning jet fuel, and finally one floor after another collapsed with all the finality of an Old Testament prophecy fulfilled.
Compare Yamasaki's structure to the great old spire just down the avenue and you can almost read the arc of corporate America. The Woolworth Building, Cass Gilbert's gothic confection, offers the city a kind of airy whimsy. Illusory, yes, but self-consciously fun. It doesn't demand your attention so much as it seduces it.
Yamasaki was a favorite of the new corporate order because, unlike Frank Lloyd Wright or the spendy Johnson, he built on the cheap. The WTC towers cost only $350 million. The early price tag on rebuilding the structures is put at $2.5 billion. Also recall that the towers were for most of their life public buildings, owned by the city of New York. But there was little truly civic about them: they were cold, sterile, forbidding symbols of a government that had turned inward, that had begun to co-inhabit with the very corporations and financial houses it was charged with regulating.
Created on 02/23/2009 07:57 AM by admin
Updated on 06/01/2015 06:09 AM by admin