Category Archives: Architecture

DataViz as Architecture: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Reopens at Disneyland

Thunder Mountain Railroad - The LA Times

Only at Disneyland would they tear down an old and dilapidated gold mining town in order to build a new and identical gold mining town and make it look old and dilapidated again.

“The goal was to bring it back to exactly the way it was,” said David Smith of Disneyland’s facilities and maintenance department, which oversaw the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster rehabilitation project.

The “wildest ride in the wilderness” is expected to reopen to the general public on March 17 after a 14-month rehabilitation, the most extensive overhaul since the ride opened in 1979.

Except for one key scene, the ride won’t look any different to the casual observer — and that’s the point.

So much of the Disneyland experience is about passing along generational experiences — parents and grandparents reliving their childhood memories with their offspring. To that end, Disneyland set out to make the refreshed ride look and feel exactly like it did for every one of the 225 million passengers who rode it over the past 35 years.

While the coaster follows the same route about three-quarters of the track has been replaced, with only the three lift hills and the maintenance spur unmodified. The new train bodies look virtually identical to the originals with an updated chassis underneath.

Throughout the attraction, the Bryce Canyon-inspired buttes have been repainted, the audio system has been refined and the animatronic animals have been reengineered. Even the Rainbow Ridge gold mining town at the end of the ride has been rebuilt from the ground up.

Brady MacDonald, a writer for The Los Angeles Times, rode the refreshed Big Thunder coaster this past weekend during employee previews and found the experience to be just as he remembered it with all the off-your-seat whoop-de-dos and come-over-dear seat-sliding turns still delivering the family-friendly thrills he loved for decades.

The track is still a bit tight and will take a while to break in, making the ride seem slightly faster than it used to be (although Mr. MacDonald was told it remains the same 28 mph). It’s definitely a smoother and quieter ride, making it easier to hear the enhanced audio effects you might have missed before (assuming you’re not riding with a train full of hooting and hollering cast members).

The first lift hill has an updated animatronic flying bat scene that recalls the dancing ghosts in the Haunted Mansion dining room. The stalactites and stalagmites that follow feature new paint and lighting that make the cavern glow with a rainbow of colors.

Along the way you’ll find all your favorite animatronic creatures right where you remember them — from the howling coyotes and dangling possums to the tail-rattling snakes and neck-swaying turtles. Everybody’s favorite dynamite-gnawing goat now sets up the payoff in the new explosive finale.

The new and improved third lift hill, which once quivered with quaking rocks, now features a series of “Danger – Keep Out – Blast Area” warnings that portend a combustible climax. As the train climbs the lift hill, a trail of fuses race up the walls toward a cluster of dynamite as steam blasts from cracks in the cavern. At the top of the lift a mix of sound, lighting and fog effects create the illusion of a tremendous explosion that envelops riders. Mr. MacDonald recommends sitting toward the rear of the train to get the best view of the special effects.

The Big Thunder refurbishment and the addition of the Captain America meet-and-greet at Innoventions mark this summer’s only major additions at Disneyland. Save for the possibility of a new parade and some spiffing up of old favorites, expect next summer to be equally light on new attractions with the park’s 60th anniversary on the calendar.

That leaves fans wondering and waiting for the next major expansion at Disneyland, which could be another update to Tomorrowland with a Star Wars or Marvel overlay and a much-needed refresh for the 1977 Space Mountain indoor roller coaster.

Until then, we welcome back the beloved Big Thunder Mountain in all its old and faded glory.

YouTube Video

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

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Sources:

1] Brady MacDonald, Review: What’s old is old again for Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain, The Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/themeparks/la-trb-disneyland-big-thunder-mountain-review-20140310,0,1376848.story#axzz2vleWVtOI.

[2] Anthony Hays, Disney News Round Up: Big Thunder Walls are down and more!, Micechat.com, March 12, 2014, http://micechat.com/60623-disney-news-round-big-thunder-walls/.

Architecture: Detroit’s Redford Theatre

Redford Theatre - Front

Readers:

Well, today is day two of my quick trip to Detroit, my hometown.

As a young boy, my brother, friends and I would ride our bikes over to the Redford Theatre to see movies. For 50 cents, we would watch the old Batman serials on Saturday, the latest Billy Jack movie, or the latest Planet of the Apes movie.

I remember once going with my parents to an evening showing of the original “Willard” movie. The place was packed and for its day, “Willard” was pretty darn scary.

The Motor City Theatre Organ Society now owns the theatre and have done a great job of restoring the place. Here is a brief history of the Redford Theatre. To learn more about it or to help financially keep this magnificent theatre running, please visit their web site at http://redfordtheatre.com/index.htm.

Best Regards,

Michael

History of The Redford Theatre

The Redford Theatre opened on January 27, 1928 as a neighborhood movie house. It was billed as “America’s Most Unique Suburban Playhouse.” The theatre, with its three-story grand foyer and full-size stage, has been in continuous operation ever since. This was fortunate, since it enabled the Redford and its theatre organ to escape the ravages of neglect that resulted in the destruction of many movie palaces.

Silent films were still being produced when the plans were made for the theatre,  so a Barton Theatre organ was installed as the theatre was being built.

The theatre was designed with a Japanese motif.  That design included appropriate decorations on the organ console.

During World War II, much of the Japanese-style decoration was removed, painted over or covered up.

Japanese Motif

Redford Theatre's original vertical marqueeAs the theatre continued in operation, the pipe organ was used less and less frequently. Eventually heavy draperies were hung over the organ grille work.

The Motor City Theatre Organ Society (MCTOS) became interested in the Redford Theatre because, while many pipe organs had been removed from theatres, the Redford’s instrument remained intact. The Redford Theatre and the Fox Theatre are now the only two theatres with their original theatre organs in the metro Detroit area.

MCTOS entered into an agreement with the owners of the theatre to voluntarily refurbish the organ and use it to present shows.

The organ shows were very successful. However, the audiences for the movies being presented by the owners of the theatre dwindled. This was part of a national trend that saw many large theatres either divided into smaller auditoriums or demolished. A theatre the size of the Redford (currently 1,661 seats) became a liability, instead of an asset.

In spite of attempts, by the owners, to bolster attendance, the theatre became commercially unprofitable.

The owners of the Redford Theatre offered to sell the organ, building and grounds to MCTOS. MCTOS took a giant step and purchased the theatre on a seven-year land contract.

At the end of the land contract, MCTOS was able to make the balloon payment and became the full owner of the theatre.

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Work on the building, since that time has been continuous. In addition to maintaining the 1928 infrastructure of the building, MCTOS has replaced the furnaces, repaired the roof, brought the electrical system up to current code, replaced the carpeting and resurfaced the parking lot. In addition, countless hours of volunteer labor have been expended on restoring the original Japanese motif. The projection and stage facilities have also been upgraded.  The projection booth has 2 Norelco projectors capable of presenting 35mm and 70mm film programs. The projection sound system is capable of up to six channel stereo sound. The recent donation of a Dolby CP-100 processor enhances the projection capabilities even further.

Redford Theatre - Inside

The stage has seen the replacement of the grand drape and the huge 20 ft. by 40 ft. screen. Thanks to a substantial grant from the Redford Community War Memorial Association, a new computerized lighting control system has just been installed to replace the 1928 Bulldog light control system.

This progress was made possible by the generous donations of money, time and materials, both from members and others interested in the preservation of the theatre and its original pipe organ.

Admissions to the many shows and programs presented in the theatre are another important source of income. Rental of various parts of the Redford Theatre building and grounds also contributes to the operating budget. In addition to the auditorium, the theatre building includes stores on the ground level and office space on the second level. The stores are currently occupied by a bakery, a beauty salon, a pharmacy and a barber shop. Several of the second floor offices have been used by The Detroit Filmmaker’s Coalition, a society of independent film producers. Even the parking lots provide a source of revenue through the leasing of space by local businesses and an agency of the state government.

The marquee looks different now than it did when the theatre opened more than 70 years ago, but through the efforts of MCTOS members and friends, the Redford Theatre continues to provide entertainment and education to audiences of all ages.

Through the donation of money, materials and countless hours, the maintenance and restoration of this historic building, and the unique theatre organ it houses, continues.

The Motor City Theatre Organ Society’s non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) organization allows donations to the Redford to be fully deductible for tax purposes.

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Source: The Motor City Theatre Organ Society, The MCTOS Redford Theatre, http://redfordtheatre.com/index.htm.

Architecture: The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

Readers:

Well, after being stranded here in New York for the past few days, I am leaving tomorrow for Detroit, my hometown. Detroit has a lot of great architecture and I wanted to blog about something that is truly Detroit. One of my fondest memories as a kid was when my parents would take us to Canada for the day to shop. Back when I was a boy, the U.S. dollar was worth a $1.25 in Canadian currency, so I was able to get more for my money. I loved driving through the tunnel listening to CKLW on the radio (the only station that could be played in the tunnel). My brother and I would always wait for the exact moment where you left the United States and entered Canada (see photo below).

So, I am blogging about one of the greatest engineering feats of all time. I hope you find it as exciting as I do.

Best Regards,

Michael

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Point of international crossing is marked

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

The magnitude of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel job is well indicated by the following figures relative to the work performed and the quantities of materials used in the construction of the mile-long tube:

Total excavated material yards 525,000 cubic yards
River excavation 275,000 cubic yards
Weight of excavated material 787,500 tons
Concrete poured 80,000 cubic yards
Reinforcing steel used 750 tons
Total structural steel 11,000 tons
Lining for shield-driven sections 3,900 tons
River tubes 3,550 tons
Electrical conduits 50.5 miles
Roadway area 4 acres
Granite blocks in original roadway 2,000,000
Wall area 2.5 acres
Number of wall tiles 250,000
Lights in tunnel 574
Welding 12 miles
Depth of mud over tunnel 4 to 20 feet
Maximum depth of water 45 feet
Maximum depth of trench 50 feet
Maximum depth of roadway 75 feet
Length of tunnel 5,160 feet
Length of river section 2,200 feet
American shield-driven section 1,243 feet
American approach 627 feet
Canadian approach 600 feet
Cost $23,000,000
Width of roadway 22 feet
Traffic capacity per hour 2,000 vehicles
Maximum number of laborers employed simultaneously 600

More quick facts…

  • The Tunnel was finished a year ahead of schedule at a total cost of $23 Million.
  • The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was formally dedicated on Saturday, November 1, 1930. President Herbert Hoover turned a “golden key” in Washington that rang bells in both Detroit and Windsor to mark the opening of the tunnel.
  • The Tunnel is jointly owned by the Cities of Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
  • It is operated under two separate agreements by the Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation.
  • Approximately 12,000 vehicles pass through the Tunnel on a daily basis, handles almost nine million vehicles per year, of which 95% are cars and 5% are trucks.
  • Ventilation – 1.5 million cubic feet of fresh air is pumped into the tunnel each minute.
  • Renovations: A $50 Million renovation program was launched in 1993, including a completely new road surface, new sidewall tiling, new lighting, complete video surveillance and restoration of the Tunnel’s stone cover beneath the Detroit River.

Did you know that the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the only existing sub aqueous international vehicular border crossing?

That means it is the only underwater-tunnel that crosses International borders in the entire world!

The tunnel has been recognized as one of the great engineering wonders of the world.

DWTunnel

As you travel almost a mile, 75 feet below the surface of the Detroit River, you’re surrounded by 574 lights, 80,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 750 tons of reinforced steel.

The Tunnel has 4 acres of roadway area and one of the most elaborate ventilation systems ever devised.

Located between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, The Detroit Windsor Tunnel connects the U.S. Interstates to Ontario’s Highway 401. It is a large complex consisting of toll and inspection plazas on each side of the Windsor-Detroit border where you pay for your crossing and undergo inspections by Immigration and Customs.

The Tunnel provides one of the fastest links between Canada and the United States.

800px-Detroit_Customs

U.S. Customs and Protection Checkpoint

How long is the Tunnel?

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is approximately one mile long from portal to portal. The American portal is located a few hundred feet from Downtown Detroit while the Canadian end is located in the heart of Windsor’s business district.

The Tunnel is 5,160 feet long (1,573 meters) with a height clearance of 13 feet 2 inches (4 meters). The roadway is 22 feet wide (6.7 meters) and allows for two lanes of traffic in opposite directions. The maximum depth of the roadway beneath the river surface is 75 feet (22.8 meters).

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Entering from the American side at Jefferson Ave.

When did the Tunnel open?

The Tunnel first opened to traffic on November 3, 1930. Construction took 26 months and cost $23,000,000. Promotion of the Tunnel started over 120 years ago.

800px-Detroitwindsortunnelcdnentrance

Entering from the Canadian side at Goyeau Street.

Tunnel Construction History

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was the first vehicular subway ever built between two nations. At the time of its construction, two other tunnels were in use in the United States — the Holland Tunnel in New York and the George A. Posey Tunnel connecting Oakland and Alameda, California.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

As early as 1870, Detroit citizens were greatly debating the relative merits of a bridge and a tunnel between Detroit and Windsor. The railroads favored a bridge while shipping interests felt that a bridge structure would be hazardous to navigation, due to the exceedingly high masts of the sailing ships that forged the Detroit River at that time.

A Route for Swift, Border Transportation is Born

Attention then turned to a tunnel project as a means of providing swift transportation across the river. In 1871, ground was broken near the foot of St. Antoine Street for a tunnel under the Detroit River. It was to have a 15-foot bore, surrounded by masonry.

However, a pocket of sumptuous gas ended the project when workers were 135 feet out under the river. The gas made the workers so sick that none of them could be induced to resume work on the following day. The project was abandoned.

800px-Detroit-Windsor_Tunnel_Portal

Detroit portal of the tunnel

Detroit’s second tunnel venture took place in 1878, when a tube was proposed to connect Grosse Ile, Michigan with the Canadian mainland. No gas was encountered, yet this undertaking had to be abandoned because certain limestone formations made the cost of excavation prohibitive. In 1874, the Detroit Board of Trade made a determined effort to promote a bridge, despite the opposition of shipping interests. Nothing came of this project.

When the Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel under the St. Clair River at Port Huron opened in 1891, this caused another flurry of activity about additional tunnel construction. This railway tunnel was 6,000 feet in length and at the time was the longest, sub aqueous tunnel in the world. Detroit business interests, afraid of a diversion of shipping to Port Huron, made a desperate effort to generate public support for a tunnel in Detroit.

In 1906, construction began on the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel in Detroit and was completed four years later. It had a total length of two and one-half miles and cost $8,500,000. However, the opening of this tunnel did not lessen the agitation for vehicular transportation facilities across the Detroit River, especially after the phenomenal growth of the automobile industry. Bridge and tunnel advocates remained active in support of their respective undertakings, culminating several years later in an announcement that Detroit would have both projects.

In June 1919, Windsor’s Mayor Edward Blake Winter requested Ottawa to construct a tunnel as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. Winter’s argument was that a tunnel between England and France had been proposed as a war memorial, and if England and France could be united by a tunnel, so should Canada and the United States.

Despite the opinion of scientific experts that anyone using the tunnel would die of carbon monoxide poisoning, a Windsor Salvation Army Captain, Fred W. Martin, pursued the dream of a Detroit-Windsor tunnel. It was not until 1926, when a prestigious, New York architecture firm predicted that a tunnel would not only be feasible but profitable, that Martin found enough backing to get the project underway. A group of Detroit bankers agreed to back the project provided that the New York architects would design the tunnel and guarantee its construction costs.

Construction Begins

Construction operations began in the summer of 1928 at approximately the same time on both sides of the river. The completion of the tunnel was an engineering feat unparalleled at the time, which combined three different tunneling methods.

On each side of the river, a cut and cover method was used on the sections from where the open cut trenches end to the harbor line. Earth was dug away by muckers or sandhogs that used manually operated knives to cut a path for the giant, shield wall.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Construction

As the shield moved forward, foot by foot, electrically welded steel plates were put in place behind it to form the tunnel tube. Construction of the river section of the tunnel was the most spectacular of the operations, as it involved sinking nine steel tubes into a trench dug across the bottom of the river.

The steel shells were built on dry land, welded watertight, sealed and floated into the river. Once they were tugged and anchored into position over the trench, the final interior and exterior concrete was poured, and the tubes were sunk and joined together by divers using a collar of tremie cement. Once the tube was in place, the trench was backfilled with 20 feet of material to hold it in place.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Construction

Meanwhile, the crews drove the shield section toward the tube, traveling underground 466 feet on the US side and 986 feet on the Canadian side, changing courses both vertically and horizontally. When contact with the submerged tube was made, there was less than one-inch error in alignment.

Breathe Easy in the Tunnel

The Tunnel has one of the most elaborate ventilation systems ever devised.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel History

Ventilation towers are located at each end of the tunnel. Each tower is approximately 100 feet high, on a site 50 × 90 feet. Each tower, with its equipment, provides ventilation for half of the tunnel.

The equipment consists of motor-driven, fresh-air fans and exhaust fans arranged in successive tiers in different stories, with direct connections to the fresh-air ducts in the tunnel. Each fan is 12 feet in diameter and each building houses 12 fans; six blower fans to draw in fresh air and six fans to expel used air and automobile emissions.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Construction

The total amount of fresh air that can be supplied to the ducts of the tunnel is approximately 1,500,000 cubic feet a minute. Fresh air comes into the tunnel under the roadway through apertures near the curb. Used or vitiated air is thrown off through two rows of openings located at frequent intervals in the ceiling.

While the fresh air is drawn into the ventilation buildings, the vitiated air is expelled through exhausts located at the top of each building.

The safety factor of the tunnel is so great that there is no possibility of the air becoming gaseous even if most of the fans were to stop functioning.

The ventilating system is patterned after that in the Holland Tunnel in New York.

Cross the Windsor-Detroit Border through The Detroit Windsor Tunnel, and you can be a part of history!

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Sources:

[1] The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Official Website, http://www.dwtunnel.com.

[2] Wikipedia.com, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit%E2%80%93Windsor_Tunnel.

Architecture: The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building at Night

The Empire State Building is a 103-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. It has a roof height of 1,250 feet (381 meters), and with its antenna spire included, it stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) high. Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State. It stood as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion in early 1931 until the topping out of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York (although it was no longer the tallest in the U.S. or the world), until One World Trade Center reached a greater height on April 30, 2012. The Empire State Building is currently the fourth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States (after the One World Trade Center, the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower, both in Chicago), and the 23rd-tallest in the world (the tallest now is Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai). It is also the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the Americas.

The Empire State Building is generally thought of as an American cultural icon. It is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style and has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2007, it was ranked number one on the List of America’ Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.

B&W Empire State Building

The building is owned by the 2,800 investors in Empire State Building Associates LLC. In 2010, the Empire State Building underwent a $550 million renovation, with $120 million spent to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure. Receiving a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, the Empire State Building is the tallest LEED certi\fied building in the United States.

The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thompson Farm in the late 18th century. At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. Beginning in the late 19th century, the block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.

The limestone for the Empire State Building came from the Empire Mill in Sanders, Indiana which is an unincorporated town adjacent to Bloomington, Indiana. The Empire Mill Land office is near State Road 37 and Old State Road 37 just south of Bloomington. Bloomington, Bedford and Oolitic area are known as the limestone capital of the world. It is a point of local pride that the stone for the Empire State building came from there.

Design and Construction

The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, which produced the building drawings in just two weeks, using its earlier designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio (designed by the architectural firm W. W. Ahlschlager & Associates) as a basis. Every year the staff of the Empire State Building sends a Father’s Day card to the staff at the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem to pay homage to its role as predecessor to the Empire State Building. The building was designed from the top down. The general contractors were The Starrett Brothers and Eken, and the project was financed primarily by John J. Raskob and Pierre S. du Pont. The construction company was chaired by Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York and James Farley’s General Builders Supply Corporation supplied the building materials. John W. Bowser was project construction superintendent.

Phases of the construction of The Empire State BuildingExcavation of the site began on January 22, 1930, and construction on the building itself started symbolically on March 17—St. Patrick’s Day—per Al Smith’s influence as Empire State, Inc. president. This was about the time that the Great Depression started. The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers, many from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction. Governor Smith’s grandchildren cut the ribbon on May 1, 1931. Lewis Wickes Hine’s photography of the construction provides not only invaluable documentation of the construction, but also a glimpse into common day life of workers in that era.

A worker bolts beams during construction; the Chrysler Building can be seen in the background.

The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of “world’s tallest building“. Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. Each held the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building surpassed them upon its completion, just 410 days after construction commenced. Instead of taking 18 months as anticipated, the construction took just under fifteen. The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 in dramatic fashion, when United States President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C. Coincidentally, the first use of tower lights atop the Empire State Building, the following year, was for the purpose of signaling the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt over Hoover in the presidential election of November 1932.

Opening

The building’s opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was initially unrented. The building’s vacancy was exacerbated by its poor location on 34th Street, which placed it relatively far from public transportation, as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station were (and are) several blocks away, as is the more-recently built Port Authority Bus Terminal. Other more successful skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building, did not have this problem. In its first year of operation, the observation deck took in approximately 2 million dollars, as much money as its owners made in rent that year. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the “Empty State Building”. The building would not become profitable until 1950. The famous 1951 sale of The Empire State Building to Roger L. Stevens and his business partners was brokered by the prominent upper Manhattan real-estate firm Charles F. Noyes & Company for a record $51 million. At the time, that was the highest price paid for a single structure in real-estate history.

Incidents

1945 plane crash

A night view from the observatory, looking south (photo, right)

At 9:40 am on Saturday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr., crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, where it landed on the roof of a nearby building, starting a fire that destroyed a penthouse. The other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the accident. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded. Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday. The crash helped spur the passage of the long-pending Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, as well as the insertion of retroactive provisions into the law, allowing people to sue the government for the accident.

A year later, another aircraft narrowly missed striking the building.

Suicide attempts

Over the years, more than thirty people have attempted suicide, most successfully, by jumping from the upper parts of the building. The first suicide occurred even before its completion, by a worker who had been laid off. The fence around the observatory terrace was put up in 1947 after five people tried to jump during a three-week span.

On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a limousine parked at the curb. Photography student Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale’s oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her death. The police found a suicide note among possessions she left on the observation deck: “He is much better off without me … I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody”. The photo ran in the May 12, 1947 edition of Life magazine, and is often referred to as “The Most Beautiful Suicide”. It was later used by visual artist Andy Warhol in one of his prints entitled Suicide (Fallen Body).

Evelyn McHale Suicide

In December 1943, ex-United States Navy gunner’s mate William Lloyd Rambo jumped to his death, landing amidst Christmas shoppers on the street below.

Only one person has jumped from the upper observatory: on November 3, 1932, Frederick Eckert, of Astoria, ran past a guard in the enclosed 102nd floor gallery and jumped a gate leading to an outdoor catwalk intended for dirigible passengers. Eckert’s body landed on the roof of the 86th floor observation promenade.

Two people have survived jumps, in both cases by not managing to fall more than a floor: On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor by a gust of wind and left with a broken hip. On April 25, 2013, a man, who is presumed to have jumped, fell from the 86th floor observation deck but landed alive on an 85th floor ledge – where security guards managed to bring him inside; he suffered only minor injuries.

Shootings

Two major shooting incidents have occurred at or in front of the Empire State Building.

On February 24, 1997, a gunman shot seven people on the observation deck, killing one, then fatally wounded himself.

On August 24, 2012 at about 9 am EDT, on the sidewalk at the Fifth Avenue side of the building, a gunman shot and killed a former co-worker from a workplace that had laid him off in 2011. When two police officers confronted the gunman, 58-year-old Jeffrey T. Johnson, he aimed his firearm at them. They responded by firing 16 shots at Johnson, killing him but also wounding nine bystanders, most of whom were hit by fragments, although three took direct hits from stray bullets.

Architecture

The Empire State Building is seen across the East River from Brooklyn.

A series of setbacks causes the building to taper with height.

The Empire State Building rises to 1,250 ft (381 m) at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft (62 m) pinnacle, its full height reaches 1,453 ft–8916 in (443.09 m). The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2,158,000 sq ft (200,500 m2). It has an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor. The remaining 16 stories represent the Art Deco tower, which is capped by a 102nd-floor observatory. Atop the tower is the 203 ft (62 m) pinnacle, much of which is covered by broadcast antennas, with a lightning rod at the very top.

The Empire State Building was the first building to have more than 100 floors. It has 6,500 windows and 73 elevators, and there are 1,860 steps from street level to the 102nd floor. It has a total floor area of 2,768,591 sq ft (257,211 m2); the base of the Empire State Building is about 2 acres (8,094 m2). The building houses 1,000 businesses and has its own zip code, 10118. As of 2007, approximately 21,000 employees work in the building each day, making the Empire State Building the second-largest single office complex in America, after the Pentagon. The building was completed in one year and 45 days. Its original 64 elevators are located in a central core;today, the Empire State Building has 73 elevators in all, including service elevators. It takes less than one minute by elevator to get to the 80th floor, which contains a gift shop and an exhibit detailing the building’s construction. From there, visitors can take another elevator or climb the stairs to the 86th floor, where an outdoor observation deck is located. The building has 70 mi (113 km)of pipe, 2,500,000 ft (760,000 m) of electrical wire, and about 9,000 faucets. It is heated by low-pressure steam; despite its height, the building only requires between 2 and 3 psi (14 and 21 kPa) of steam pressure for heating. It weighs approximately 370,000 short tons (340,000 t). The exterior of the building was built using Indiana limestone panels.

The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build (equal to roughly $500,000,000 in 2010). Long-term forecasting of the life cycle of the structure was implemented at the design phase to ensure that the building’s future intended uses were not restricted by the requirements of previous generations. This is particularly evident in the over-design of the building’s electrical system.

Unlike most of today’s skyscrapers, the Empire State Building features an art deco design, typical of pre–World War II architecture in New York. The modernistic stainless steel canopies of the entrances on 33rd and 34th Streets lead to two story-high corridors around the elevator core, crossed by stainless steel and glass-enclosed bridges at the second-floor level. The elevator core contains 67 elevators.

The lobby is three stories high and features an aluminum relief of the skyscraper without the antenna, which was not added to the spire until 1952. The north corridor contained eight illuminated panels, created by Roy Sparkia and Renée Nemorov in 1963 in time for the 1964 World’s Fair, which depicts the building as the Eighth Wonder of the World, alongside the traditional seven. These panels were eventually moved near a ticketing line for the observation deck.

The building’s lobbies and common areas received a $550 million renovation in 2009, which included new air conditioning, waterproofing, and renovating the observation deck; moving the gift shop to the 80th floor. Up until the 1960s, the ceilings in the lobby had a shiny art deco mural inspired by both the sky and the Machine Age, until it was covered with ceiling tiles and fluorescent lighting. Because the original murals, designed by an artist named Leif Neandross, were damaged, reproductions were installed. Over 50 artists and workers used 15,000 square feet of aluminum and 1,300 square feet of 23-carat gold leaf to re-create the mural. Renovations to the lobby alluded to original plans for the building; replacing the clock over the information desk in the Fifth Avenue lobby with an Anemometer, as well as installing two chandeliers originally intended to be part of the building when it first opened. In 2000, the building’s owners installed a series of paintings by the New York artist Kysa Johnson in the concourse level. In January 2014 the artist filed suit in federal court in New York under the Visual Artists Rights Act, alleging the negligent destruction of the paintings and damage to her reputation as an artist.

Lights

In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of the building at night, in colors chosen to match seasonal and other events, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Independence Day and Bastille Day. After the eightieth birthday and subsequent death of Frank Sinatra, for example, the building was bathed in blue light to represent the singer’s nickname “Ol’ Blue Eyes”. After the death of actress Fay Wray (King Kong) in late 2004, the building stood in complete darkness for 15 minutes.

The floodlights bathed the building in red, white, and blue for several months after the destruction of the World Trade Center, then reverted to the standard schedule. On June 4, 2002, the Empire State Building donned purple and gold (the royal colors of Elizabeth II), in thanks for the United Kingdom playing the Star Spangled Banner during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on September 12, 2001 (a show of support after the September 11 attacks). This would also be shown after the Westminster Dog Show. Traditionally, in addition to the standard schedule, the building will be lit in the colors of New York’s sports teams on the nights they have home games (orange, blue and white for the New York Knicks, red, white and blue for the New York Rangers, and so on). The first weekend in June finds the building bathed in green light for the Belmont Stakes held in nearby Belmont Park. The building is illuminated in tennis-ball yellow during the US Open tennis tournament in late August and early September. It was twice lit in scarlet to support nearby Rutgers University: once for a football game against the University of Louisville on November 9, 2006, and again on April 3, 2007 when the women’s basketball team played in the national championship game. From June 1 to 3, 2012, the building was lit in blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag, in honor of the 49th annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

During 2012, the building’s metal halide lamps and floodlights were replaced with LED fixtures, increasing the available colors from nine to over 16 million. The computer-controlled system allows the building to be illuminated in ways that were unable to be done previously with plastic gels. For instance, on November 6, 2012, CNN used the top of the Empire State Building as a scoreboard for the 2012 United States presidential election. When incumbent president Barack Obama had reached the 270 electoral votes necessary to win re-election, the lights turned blue. Had Republican challenger Mitt Romney won, the building would have been lit red. Also, on November 26, 2012, the building had its first ever synchronized light show, using music from recording artist Alicia Keys. Those wishing to hear the music could tune to certain radio stations in the New York area. A video of the performance was posted online the next day. In 2013 the lights were changed to Financial Times pink.

Dirigible (Airship) Terminal

The building’s distinctive Art Deco spire was originally designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles. The 103rd floor was originally a landing platform with a dirigible gangplank. A particular elevator, traveling between the 86th and 102nd floors, was supposed to transport passengers after they checked in at the observation deck on the 86th floor.However, the idea proved to be impractical and dangerous after a few attempts with airships, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the size of the building itself, as well as the lack of mooring lines tying the other end of the craft to the ground. A large broadcast tower was added to the top of the spire in 1953.

Height Records and Comparisons

Height comparison of New York City buildings, with Empire State second from left

Size comparison in relation to The Pentagon. The Pentagon is 431 metres (1,414 ft) for comparison. The Empire State Building is in light gray.

The Empire State Building remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for 23 years before it was surpassed by the Griffin Television Tower Oklahoma (KWTV Mast) in 1954. It was also the tallest free-standing structure in the world for 36 years before it was surpassed by the Ostankino Tower in 1967.

The longest world record held by the Empire State Building was for the tallest skyscraper (to structural height), which it held for 42 years until it was surpassed by the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1972. An early-1970s proposal to dismantle the spire and replace it with an additional 11 floors, which would have brought the building’s height to 1,494 feet (455 m) and made it once again the world’s tallest at the time, was considered but ultimately rejected.

With the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11 attacks, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City, and the second-tallest building in the Americas, surpassed only by the Willis Tower in Chicago. It is currently the fourth-tallest, surpassed by the Willis Tower, the Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago) and the One World Trade Center. One World Trade Center, currently under construction, surpassed the roof height of the Empire State Building on April 30, 2012, and became the tallest building in New York City—on the way toward becoming the tallest building in the Americas at a planned 1,776 feet (541 m).

When measured by pinnacle height, the Empire State Building is the fourth-tallest building in the USA, surpassed by One World Trade Center, Willis Tower and Chicago’s John Hancock Center. On clear days, the building can be seen from much of the New York Metropolitan Area, as far away as New Haven, Connecticut; Morristown, New Jersey; and from the roller coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey, specifically Kingda Ka.

Observation Decks

The Empire State Building has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world, having been visited by over 110 million people. The 86th-floor observation deck offers impressive 360-degree views of the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to the public. It was closed in 1999, but reopened in November 2005. It is completely enclosed and much smaller than the first one; it may be closed on high-traffic days. Tourists may pay to visit the observation deck on the 86th floor and an additional amount for the 102nd floor. The lines to enter the observation decks, according to Concierge.com, are “as legendary as the building itself:” there are five of them: the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck. For an extra fee tourists can skip to the front of the line.[70] The Empire State Building makes more money from tickets sales for its observation decks that it does from renting office space.

The skyscraper’s observation deck plays host to several cinematic, television, and literary classics including, An Affair To Remember, On the Town, Love Affair and Sleepless in Seattle. In the Latin American literary work Empire of Dreams by Giannina Braschi the observation deck is the site of a pastoral revolution; shepherds take over the City of New York. The deck was also the site of a publicity-stunt Martian invasion in an episode of I Love Lucy (“Lucy Is Envious”, season 3, episode 25).

A panoramic view of New York City from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, spring 2005

Above 102nd Floor

On the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building there is a door with stairs ascending up, which leads into the 103rd floor. This was originally built as a disembarkation floor for airships tethered to the buildings spire, and features a circular balcony outside the room as well. It is now a hot spot for when celebrities visit, and an access point to reach the spire for maintenance purposes. The room currently contains electrical equipment, though this was edited out, by camera angle, during the “In the Wind” season-four finale of White Collar. Above the 103rd floor, there is a set of stairs and a ladder to reach the spire for maintenance work only.

New York Skyride

View from Macy’s

Night view from the same street-corner

The Empire State Building also has a motion simulator attraction located on the 2nd floor. Opened in 1994 as a complement to the observation deck, the New York Sky ride (or NY Sky ride) is a simulated aerial tour over the city. The cinematic presentation lasts approximately 25 minutes. Currently (May 2013), tickets are Adults $57, Children $42, Seniors $49.

Since its opening, the ride has gone through two incarnations. The original version, which ran from 1994 until around 2002, featured James Doohan, Star Trek’s Scotty, as the airplane’s pilot, who humorously tried to keep the flight under control during a storm, with the tour taking an unexpected route through the subway, Coney Island, and FAO Schwartz, among other places. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, however, the ride was closed, and an updated version debuted in mid-2002 with actor Kevin Bacon as the pilot. The new version of the narration attempted to make the attraction more educational, and included some minor post-9/11 patriotic undertones with retrospective footage of the World Trade Center. The new flight also goes haywire, but this segment is much shorter than in the original.

Green Retrofit

In 2010, the Empire State Building underwent a $550 million renovation, with $120 million spent in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure. For example, the 6,500 windows were remanufactured onsite into superwindows which block heat but pass light. Air conditioning operating costs on hot days were reduced and this saved $17 million of the project’s capital cost immediately, partly funding other retrofitting. Receiving a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011, the Empire State Building is the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.

Broadcast stations

New York City is the largest media market in the United States. Since the September 11 attacks, nearly all of the city’s commercial broadcast stations (both television and FM radio) have transmitted from the top of the Empire State Building, although a few FM stations are located at the nearby Condé Nast Building. Most New York City AM stations broadcast from just across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

Antennae for broadcast stations are located at the top of the Empire State Building.

Broadcasting began at Empire on December 22, 1931, when RCA began transmitting experimental television broadcasts from a small antenna erected atop the spire. They leased the 85th floor and built a laboratory there, and—in 1934—RCA was joined by Edwin Howard Armstrong in a cooperative venture to test his FM system from the Empire antenna. When Armstrong and RCA fell out in 1935 and his FM equipment was removed, the 85th floor became the home of RCA’s New York television operations, first as experimental station W2XBS channel 1, which eventually became (on July 1, 1941) commercial station WNBT, channel 1 (now WNBC-TV channel 4). NBC’s FM station (WEAF-FM, now WQHT) began transmitting from the antenna in 1940. NBC retained exclusive use of the top of Empire until 1950, when the FCC ordered the exclusive deal broken, based on consumer complaints that a common location was necessary for the (now) seven New York television stations to transmit from so that receiving antennas would not have to be constantly adjusted. Construction on a giant tower began. Other television broadcasters then joined RCA at Empire, on the 83rd, 82nd, and 81st floors, frequently bringing sister FM stations along for the ride. Multiple transmissions of TV and FM began from the new tower in 1951. In 1965, a separate set of FM antennas was constructed ringing the 103rd floor observation area. When the World Trade Center was being constructed, it caused serious problems for the television stations, most of which then moved to the World Trade Center as soon as it was completed. This made it possible to renovate the antenna structure and the transmitter facilities for the benefit of the FM stations remaining there, which were soon joined by other FMs and UHF TVs moving in from elsewhere in the metropolitan area. The destruction of the World Trade Center necessitated a great deal of shuffling of antennas and transmitter rooms to accommodate the stations moving back uptown.

As of 2012, the Empire State Building is home to the following stations:

Neighboring Midtown Manhattan landmarks

The Midtown skyline, as viewed from the observation deck at night

The Empire State Building anchors an area of Midtown which features other major Manhattan landmarks as well, including Macy’s Herald Square, Koreatown, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and the Flower District.Together, these sites contribute to a significant volume of commuter and tourist pedestrian traffic traversing the southern portion of Midtown Manhattan.

Empire State Building Run-Up

The Empire State Building Run-Up is a foot race from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck that has been held annually since 1978. Its participants are referred to both as runners and as climbers, and are often tower running enthusiasts. The race covers a vertical distance of 1,050 feet (320 m) and takes in 1,576 steps. The record time is 9 minutes and 33 seconds, achieved by Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake in 2003, at a climbing rate of 6,593 ft (2,010 m) per hour.

In popular culture

1933 Movie poster for King Kong

12,000 brick LEGO model in the exhibition LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition

Film

  • Perhaps the most famous popular culture representation of the building is in the 1933 film King Kong, in which the title character, a giant ape, climbs to the top to escape his captors but falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes. In 1983, for the 50th anniversary of the film, a huge 90-foot (27 m) tall inflatable King Kong was placed on the building mast above the observation deck by artist Robert Vicino. In 2005, a remake of King Kong was released, set in 1930s New York City, including a final showdown between Kong and biplanes atop a greatly detailed Empire State Building. (The 1976 remake of King Kong was set in a contemporary New York City and held its climactic scene on the towers of the World Trade Center.)
  • The 1939 romantic drama film Love Affair involves a couple who plan to meet atop the Empire State Building, a rendezvous that is prevented by an automobile accident. The film was remade in 1957 (as An Affair to Remember) and in 1994 (again as Love Affair). The 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle, a romantic comedy partially inspired by An Affair to Remember, climaxes with scenes in the Empire State’s lobby and observatory.
  • Andy Warhol‘s 1964 silent film Empire is one continuous, eight-hour shot of the Empire State Building at night, shot in black-and-white. In 2004, the National Film Registry deemed its cultural significance worthy of preservation in the Library of Congress.
  • In the movie “Elf“, Buddy’s dad works in the Empire State Building
  • In the film Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Mount Olympus is located over the Empire State Building, and there is a special elevator in the building to the “600th floor,” which is supposed to be Olympus, just like in the book series.
  • The building is chosen as Ground Zero for the target of a nuclear bomb that is dropped on New York in the film Fail-Safe.
  • Both Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder go to the Observation Deck of the building in the original Mel Brooks film The Producers.
  • In the 2002 film The Time Machine, the Empire State Building is still standing in the year 2030, but dwarfed by several larger skyscrapers around it. It is presumably destroyed by pieces of the moon breaking up and hitting New York in 2037 or it decayed over time, as it is never seen again throughout the rest of the film, which takes place 800,000 years into the future.
  • In the 2004 film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the top of the building serves its original purpose of being a docking station for dirigibles, and the Hindenburg III docks at it on its maiden voyage.
  • Many films have opened with the Empire State Building, such as West Side Story, Step Up 3D, and The Other Guys.
  • The building has been destroyed in some disaster films, such as Independence Day and Knowing.
  • In the movie The Divide, the building is destroyed by a nuclear bomb detonated on New York. It was heavily featured on posters promoting the film.
  • In the poster for the movie Oblivion, the ruins of the building are seen in the distant future next to a waterfall.
  • Many other movies that feature the Empire State Building are listed on the building’s own website.

Television

  • The Empire State Building featured in the 1966 Doctor Who serial The Chase, in which the TARDIS lands on the roof of the building; The Doctor and his companions leave quite quickly, however, because The Daleks are close behind them. A Dalek is also seen on the roof of the building while it interrogates a human. In 2007, Doctor Who episodes “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks” also featured the building, which the Daleks are constructing to use as a lightning conductor. Russell T Davies said in an article that “in his mind”, the Daleks remembered the building from their last visit.
  • In the science fiction drama series Fringe, the observation deck of the Empire State Building serves its primary purpose as a docking station for zeppelins in the parallel universe shown in the second season episode Peter.
  • The Discovery Channel show MythBusters tested the urban myth which claims that if one drops a penny off the top of the Empire State Building, it could kill someone or put a crater in the pavement. The outcome was that, by the time the penny hits the ground, it is going roughly 65 mph (105 km/h) (terminal velocity for an object of its mass and shape), which is not fast enough to inflict lethal injury or put a crater into the pavement. The urban legend is a joke in the 2003 musical Avenue Q, where a character waiting atop the building for a rendezvous tosses a penny over the side—only to hit her rival.
  • In Gerry Anderson‘s popular puppet series Thunderbirds, the episode Terror in New York City, the Empire State Building is being moved to a new location as the site around it is set for redevelopment. However, something goes wrong and the building collapses, trapping a reporter and his cameraman underneath the rubble. Their rescue is the focus of the rest of the episode.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon “Much Ado About Nutting”, a squirrel has so much difficulty opening a coconut, he carries it to the Empire State Building’s observation deck and tosses it over the edge. While the street is damaged by the impact, the coconut remains intact.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon “Mouse in Manhattan,” Jerry walks by and views the Empire State Building, along with other landmarks (the Statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center and arriving via train at Grand Central Station).
  • The music video of the song “Everything is Everything” (by singer Lauryn Hill) prominently features the Empire State Building as the center of a city (record) turntable.

Literature

  • H.G. Wells‘ 1933 science fiction book The Shape of Things to Come, written in the form of a history book published in the far future, includes the following passage: “Up to quite recently Lower New York has been the most old-fashioned city in the world, unique in its gloomy antiquity. The last of the ancient skyscrapers, the Empire State Building, is even now under demolition in C.E. 2106!”.
  • David Macaulay‘s 1980 illustrated book Unbuilding depicts the Empire State Building being purchased by a Middle Eastern billionaire and disassembled piece by piece, to be transported to Saudi Arabia and rebuilt there. The mooring mast is rebuilt in New York, while the remainder of the building is lost at sea.
  • The Empire State Building is featured prominently as both a setting and integral plot device throughout much of Michael Chabon‘s 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
  • In his “biography”, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Philip Jose Farmer theorizes that the skyscraper in which Doc Savage lived and where he met with his comrades, had his laboratories, etc., was the Empire State Building. Since the 86th Floor (mentioned in the Savage stories as his floor) was the Observatory, one may presume that Doc “actually” lived on another floor.
  • In the series, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians“, Rick Riordan shows the Empire State Building as the headquarters of the Olympian Gods, where the Greek Gods live and also hold their meetings.
  • In the children’s novel, James and the Giant Peach, at the end of the book the giant peach is dropped onto the lightning rod of the Empire State Building.
  • In the sci-fi/alternate history series of novels Wild Cards, the 86th floor is the location of New York’s premier chic restaurant, Aces High, a very popular hangout for the superpowered aces.

Other

  • A 7.6 feet (2.3 m) scale model built from 12,000 LEGO bricks over 250 hours is featured along with other notable buildings in the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Notable tenants

Current

Soaring more than a quarter of a mile above the heart of Manhattan, the Empire State Building is the World’s Most Famous Office Building. A symbol of dreams and aspirations, the Empire State Building connects with people around the world. A beacon for international and domestic tourists alike, the Empire State Building is a New York City and a National Historic Landmark.

Our world-famous 86th and 102nd floor Observatories offer unmatched views of New York City and on a clear day one can see to New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. 1,050 feet above the city’s bustling streets, the 86th floor Observatory offers panoramic views from within a glass-enclosed pavilion and from the surrounding open-air promenade. 200 feet higher, our 102nd floor Observatory is a private and serene perch in the middle of the greatest city in the world.

Our Observatories have been a “must visit” for millions each year since it opened to the public in 1931. Each year approximately four million people are whisked to our 86th and 102nd floors, consistently one of New York City’s top tourist attractions. Visit our Observatories 365 days per year, day and night, rain or shine, for magnificent views of Manhattan and beyond. We are open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. The last elevators go up at 1:15 a.m.

The Empire State Building embodies the feeling and spirit of New York City. It is recognized not only as an iconic landmark offering some of the most spectacular views on earth, but also as an international symbol of shared hopes, dreams, and accomplishment.

Vital Statistics

  • 1,050 feet to the 86th floor Observatory
  • 1,250 feet to the 102nd floor Observatory
  • 1,453 feet, 8 9/16 inches to the tip of the broadcast tower
  • Broadcast tower adds 203 feet 8 9/16 inches
  • 103 floors
  • 1,872 steps to the 103rd floor
  • Sits on 79,288 square feet, approximately 2 acres
  • Weighs 365,000 tons
  • Volume is 37 million cubic feet
  • 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone & granite exterior cladding
  • An estimated ten million bricks were used in construction
  • 730 tons of aluminum and stainless steel were used in construction
  • 57,000 tons of steel were used in construction
  • Contains 473 miles of electrical wiring and 70 miles of pipe
  • 6,514 windows
  • 210 columns at the base support the entire weight of the building
  • Construction was completed in one year and 45 days
  • Seven million man-hours went into constructing the Empire State Building
  • Final cost of property and construction was $41 million
  • 73 elevators
  • Five entrances
  • 2.85 million rentable square feet

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Sources:

[1] The Official Empire State Building Web Site, http://esbnyc.com/

[2] Wikipedia.com

Architecture: NYC’s Flatiron Building

Readers:

I am in New York City again this week on business. Last time I was here, I was not able to blog about some of the great sounds and sights of this great city. Today, I am blogging about one of my favorite building in New York; The Flatiron Building.

I hope you enjoy this article.

Best Regards,

Michael

Flatiron BuildingThe Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, and is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper. Upon completion in 1902, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city and one of only two skyscrapers north of 14th Street – the other being the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, one block east. The building sits on a triangular island-block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street, with 23rd Street grazing the triangle’s northern (uptown) peak. As with numerous other wedge-shaped buildings, the name “Flatiron” derives from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron.

The building anchors the south (downtown) end of Madison Square and the north (uptown) end of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. The neighborhood around it is called the Flatiron District after its signature building, which has become an icon of New York City. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

History of the site

The site on which the Flatiron Building would stand was bought in 1857 by Amos Eno, who would shortly build the Fifth Avenue Hotel on a site diagonally across from it. Eno tore down the four-story St. Germaine Hotel on the south end of the lot, and replaced it with a seven-story apartment building, the Cumberland. On the remainder of the lot he built four three-story buildings for commercial use. This left four stories of the Cumberland’s northern face exposed, which Eno rented out to advertisers, including the New York Times, who installed a sign made up of electric lights. Eno later put a canvas screen on the wall, and projected images onto it from a magic lantern on top of one of his smaller buildings, presenting advertisements and interesting pictures alternately. Both the Times and the New York Tribune began using the screen for news bulletins, and on election nights tens of thousands of people would gather in Madison Square, waiting for the latest results.

During his life Eno resisted suggestions to sell “Eno’s flatiron”, as the site had become known, but after his death in 1899 his assets were liquidated, and the lot went up for sale. The New York State Assembly appropriated $3 million for the city to buy it, but this fell through when a newspaper reporter discovered that the plan was a graft scheme by Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker. Instead, the lot was bought at auction by William Eno, one of Amos’s sons, for $690,000 – the elder Eno had bought the property for around $30,000 forty years earlier. Three weeks later, William re-sold the lot to Samuel and Mott Newhouse for $801,000. The Newhouses intended to put up a 12-story building with street-level retail shops and bachelor apartments above, but two years later they sold the lot for about $2 million to Cumberland Realty Company, an investment partnership created by Harry S. Black, CEO of the Fuller Company. The Fuller Company was the first true general contractor that dealt with all aspects of building construction except design, and they specialized in building skyscrapers.

Black intended to construct a new headquarters building on the site, despite the recent deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood, and he engaged Chicago architect Daniel Burnham to design it. The building, which would be the first skyscraper north of 14th Street, was to be named the Fuller Building after George A. Fuller, founder of the Fuller Company and “father of the skyscraper”, who had died two years earlier, but locals persisted on calling it “The Flatiron”,a name which has since been made official.

Flatiron Building Construction

Architecture

The Flatiron Building was designed by Chicago’s Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. Unlike New York’s early skyscrapers, which took the form of towers arising from a lower, blockier mass, such as the contemporary Singer Building (1902–1908), the Flatiron Building epitomizes the Chicago school conception: like a classical Greek column, its facade – limestone at the bottom changing to glazed terra-cotta from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in Tottenville, Staten Island as the floors rise – is divided into a base, shaft and capital.

Early sketches by Daniel Burnham show a design with an (unexecuted) clockface and a far more elaborate crown than in the actual building. Though Burnham maintained overall control of the design process, he was not directly connected with the details of the structure as built; credit should be shared with his designer Frederick P. Dinkelberg, a Pennsylvania-born architect in Burnham’s office, who first worked for Burnham in putting together the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, for which Burnham was the chief of construction and master designer.Working drawings for the Flatiron Building, however, remain to be located, though renderings were published at the time of construction in American Architect and Architectural Record.

Since it employed a steel skeleton – with the steel coming from the American Bridge Company in Pennsylvania – it could be built to 22 stories (285 feet) relatively easily, which would have been difficult using other construction methods of that time. It was a technique familiar to the Fuller Company, a contracting firm with considerable expertise in building such tall structures. At the vertex, the triangular tower is only 6.5 feet (2 m) wide; viewed from above, this pointed end of the structure describes an acute angle of about 25 degrees.

The “cowcatcher” retail space at the front of the building was not part of Burnham or Dinkelberg’s design, but was added at the insistence of Harry Black in order to maximize the use of the building’s lot and produce some retail income to help defray the cost of construction. Black pushed Burnham hard for plans for the addition, but Burnham resisted because of the aesthetic effect it would have on the design of the “prow” of the building, where it would interrupt the two-story high Classical columns which were echoed at the top of the building by two columns which supported the cornice. Black insisted, and Burnham was forced to accept the addition, despite the interruption of the design’s symmetry. Another addition to the building not in the original plan was the penthouse, which brought the building to 21 floors. It was constructed after the rest of the building had been completed to be used as artists’ studios, and was quickly rented out to artists such as Louis Fancher, many of whom contributed to the pulp magazines which were produced in the offices below.

New York’s Flatiron Building was not the first building of its triangular ground-plan: aside from a possibly unique triangular Roman temple built on a similarly constricted site in the city of Verulamium, Britannia, the Maryland Inn in Annapolis (1782), the Gooderham Building of Toronto (1892), and the English-American Building in Atlanta (1897) predate it. All, however, are smaller than their New York counterpart.

(photo, right) Sur le Flatiron, Albert Gleizes, gouache and ink (1916)

The facade of the Flatiron Building was restored in 1991 by the firm of Hurley & Farinella.

Impact

The Flatiron Building has become an icon of New York City, and the public response to it was enthusiastic, but the critical response to it at the time was not completely positive, and what praise it garnered was often for the cleverness of the engineering involved. Montgomery Schuyler, editor of Architectural Record said that its “awkwardness [is] entirely undisguised, and without even an attempt to disguise them, if they have not even been aggravated by the treatment. … The treatment of the tip is an additional and it seems wanton aggravation of the inherent awkwardness of the situation.” He praised the surface of the building, and the detailing of the terra-cotta work, but criticized the practicality of the large number of windows in the building: “[The tenant] can, perhaps, find wall space within for one roll top desk without overlapping the windows, with light close in front of him and close behind him and close on one side of him. But suppose he needed a bookcase? Undoubtedly he has a highly eligible place from which to view processions. But for the transaction of business?”

But some saw the building differently. Futurist H. G. Wells wrote in his 1906 book The Future in America: A Search After Realities:

I found myself agape, admiring a sky-scraper the prow of the Flat-iron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

The Flatiron was to attract the attention of numerous artists. It was the subject of one of Edward Steichen‘s atmospheric photographs, taken on a wet wintry late afternoon in 1904, as well as a memorable image by Alfred Stieglitz taken the year before, to which Steichen was paying homage. (See below) Stieglitz reflected on the dynamic symbolism of the building, noting that it “…appeared to be moving toward [him] like the bow of a monster ocean steamer – a picture of a new America still in the making,” and remarked that what the Parthenon was to Athens, the Flatiron was to New York. When Stieglitz’ photograph was published in Camera Work, his friend Sadakichi Hartmann, a writer, painter and photographer, accompanied it with an essay on the building: “A curious creation, no doubt, but can it be called beautiful? Beauty is a very abstract idea … Why should the time not arrive when the majority without hesitation will pronounce the ‘Flat-iron’a thing of beauty?”

Besides Stieglitz and Steichen, photographers such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, Jessie Tarbox Beals, painters of the Ashcan School like John Sloan, Everett Shinn and Ernest Lawson, as well as Paul Cornoyer and Childe Hassam, lithographer Joseph Pennell, illustrator John Edward Jackson as well the French Cubist Albert Gleizes all took the Flatiron as the subject of their work. But decades after it was completed, others still could not come to terms with the building. In 1939, sculptor William Ordway Partridge remarked that it was “a disgrace to our city, an outrage to our sense of the artistic, and a menace to life.”

“23 skidoo”

Well I'll be Blowed!When construction on the building began, locals took an immediate interest, placing bets on how far the debris would spread when the wind knocked it down. This presumed susceptibility to damage had also given it the nickname Burnham’s Folly. But thanks to the steel bracing designed by engineer Corydon Purdy, which enabled the building to withstand four times the amount of windforce it could be expected to ever feel, there was no possibility that the wind would knock over the Flatiron Building. Nevertheless, the wind was a factor in the public attention the building received.

Due to the geography of the site, with Broadway on one side, Fifth Avenue on the other, and the open expanse of Madison Square and the park in front of it, the wind currents around the building could be treacherous. Wind from the north would split around the building, downdrafts from above and updrafts from the vaulted area under the street would combine to make the wind unpredictable. This is said to have given rise to the phrase “23 skidoo“, from what policemen would shout at men who tried to get glimpses of women’s dresses being blown up by the winds swirling around the building due to the strong downdrafts.

Original tenants and subsequent history

The Fuller Company originally took the 19th floor of the building for its headquarters. In 1910, Harry Black moved the company to Francis Kimball‘s Trinity Building at 111 Broadway, where its parent company, U.S. Realty, had its offices. They moved them back to the Flatiron in 1916, and left permanently for the Fuller Building on 57th Street in 1929.

The Flatiron’s other original tenants included publishers (magazine publishing pioneer Frank Munsey, American Architect and Building News and a vanity publisher), an insurance company (the Equitable Life Assurance Society), small businesses (a patent medicine company, Western Specialty Manufacturing Company and Whitehead & Hoag, who made celluloid novelties), music publishers (overflow from “Tin Pan Alley” up on 28th Street) and other miscellaneous concerns (a landscape architect, the Imperial Russian Consulate and the Bohemian Guides Society), as well as the offices of the Roebling Construction Company, owned by the sons of Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker.

The retail space in the building’s “cowcatcher” at the “prow” was leased by United Cigar Stores, and the building’s vast cellar, which extended into the vaults that went more than 20 feet (6.1 m) under the surrounding streets,was occupied by the Flatiron Restaurant, which could seat 1,500 patrons and was open from breakfast through late supper for those taking in a performance at one of the many theatres which lined Broadway between 14th and 23rd Streets.

(photo, left) After the end of World War I, the 165th Infantry Regiment passes through the Victory Arch in Madison Square, with the Flatiron Building in the background (1919).

Even before construction on the Flatiron Building had begun, the area around Madison Square had started to deteriorate somewhat. After U.S. Realty constructed the New York Hippodrome, Madison Square Garden was no longer the venue of choice, and survived largely by staging boxing matches. The base of the Flatiron became a cruising spot for gay men, including some male prostitutes. Nonetheless, in 1911 the Flatiron Restaurant was bought by Louis Bustanoby, of the well-known Café des Beaux-Arts, and converted into a trendy 400-seat French restaurant, Taverne Louis. As an innovation to attract customers away from another restaurant opened by his brothers, Bustanoby hired a black musical group, Louis Mitchell and his Southern Symphony Quintette, to play dance tunes at the Taverne and the Café. Irving Berlin heard the group at the Taverne and suggested that they should try to get work in London, which they did.The Taverne’s openness was also indicated by its welcoming a gay clentele, unusual for a restaurant of its type at the time. The Taverne was forced to close due to the effects of Prohibition on the restaurant business.

When the U.S. entered World War I, the Federal government instituted a “Wake Up America!” campaign, and the United Cigar store in the Flatiron’s cowcatcher donated its space to the U.S. Navy for use as a recruiting center. Liberty Bonds were sold outside on sidewalk stands. By the mid-1940s, the cigar store had been replaced with a Walgreens drug store.

The building sold

In October 1925, Harry S. Black, in need of cash for his U.S. Realty Company, sold the Flatiron Building to a syndicate set up by Lewis Rosenbaum, who also owned assorted other notable buildings around the U.S. The price was $2 million, which equaled Black’s cost for buying the lot and erecting the Flatiron. The syndicate defaulted on its mortgage in 1933, and was taken over by the lender, Equitable Life Assurance Company after failing to sell it at auction. To attract tenants, Equitable did some modernization of the building, including replacing the original cast-iron birdcage elevators, which had cabs covered in rubber tiling and were originally built by Hecla Iron Works, but the hydraulic power system was not replaced. By the mid-1940s, the building was fully rented.

Equitable sold the building in 1946 to the Flatiron Associates, an investor group headed by Harry Helmsley, whose firm, Dwight-Helmsley, which would later become Helmsley-Spear, managing the property. The new owners made some superficial changes, such as adding a dropped ceiling to the lobby, and, later, replacing the original mahogony-panelled entrances with revolving doors. Because the ownership structure was a tenancy-in-common, in which all partners have to agree on any action, as opposed to a straightforward partnership, it was difficult to get permission for necessary repairs and improvements to be done, and the building declined during the Helmsley/Flatiron Associates era. Helmsley-Spear stopped managing the building in 1997, when some of the investors sold their 52% of the building to Newmark Knight-Frank, a large real estate firm, which took over management of the property. Shortly afterwards, Helmsley’s widow, Leona Helmsley, sold her share as well. Newmark made significant improvements to the property, including installing new electric elevators, replacing the antiquated hydraulic ones.

The building today

A view from the inside of a “point” office

As an icon of New York City, the Flatiron Building is a popular spot for tourist photographs, but it is also a functioning office building which is currently the headquarters of publishing companies held by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck of Stuttgart, Germany, under the umbrella name of Macmillan, including St. Martin’s Press, Tor/Forge, Picador and Henry Holt and Company.Macmillan is renovating some floors, and their website comments that:

The Flatiron’s interior is known for having its strangely-shaped offices with walls that cut through at an angle on their way to the skyscraper’s famous point. These “point” offices are the most coveted and feature amazing northern views that look directly upon another famous Manhattan landmark, the Empire State Building.

There are oddities about the building’s interior: to reach the top floor, the 21st, which was added in 1905, three years after the building was completed, a second elevator has to be taken from the 20th floor; on that floor, the bottoms of the windows are chest-high; the bathrooms are divided, with the men’s rooms on even floors and the women’s rooms on odd ones.

During a 2005 restoration of the Flatiron Building a 15-story vertical advertising banner covered the facade of the building. The advertisement elicited protests from many New York City residents, prompting the New York City Department of Buildings to step in and force the building’s owners to remove it.

In January 2009, an Italian real estate investment firm bought a majority stake in the Flatiron Building, with plans to turn it into a world-class luxury hotel, although the conversion may have to wait ten years until the leases of the current tenants run out. The Sorgente Group S.p.A., which is based in Rome, controls just over 50% of the building and plans to increase its stake. The firm’s Historic and Trophy Buildings Fund owns a number of prestigious buildings in France and Italy, and was involved in buying, and then selling, a stake in New York’s Chrysler Building. The value of the 22-story Flatiron Building, which is already zoned by the city to allow it to become a hotel, is estimated to be $190 million.

Close-up of the Apex

In popular culture

In the 1958 comedy film Bell, Book and Candle, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak were filmed on top of the Flatiron Building in a romantic clinch, and for Warren Beatty‘s 1980 film Reds, the base of the building was used for a scene with Diane Keaton.

Today, the Flatiron Building is frequently used on television commercials and documentaries as an easily recognizable symbol of the city, shown, for instance, in the opening credits of the Late Show with David Letterman or in scenes of New York City that are shown during scene transitions in the TV sitcoms Friends, Spin City, and Veronica’s Closet. In the 1998 film Godzilla, the Flatiron Building is accidentally destroyed by the US Army while in pursuit of Godzilla, and it is depicted as the headquarters of the Daily Bugle, for which Peter Parker is a freelance photographer, in the Spider-Man movies. It is shown as the location of the Channel 6 News headquarters where April O’Neil works in the show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series. The Flatiron Building is also the home of the fictional company Damage Control in the Marvel Universe comics and for the CIA sponsored, super hero management team “The Boys” in the Dynamite Comics title of the same name.

In 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art installed a life-sized 3D-cutout replica of Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting Nighthawks in the Flatiron Art Space located in the “prow” of the Flatiron building. Although Hopper said his picture was inspired by a diner in Greenwich Village, the prow is reminiscent of the painting, and was selected to display the two-dimensional cutouts.

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Source: Wikipedia

(photo, below) Rear View of the Flatiron Building

Rear View of the Flatiron Building

DataViz as Photography: Construction of the Eiffel Tower

NOTE: Greetings from Paris. I continue my Paris week of data visualization blogging with these great images of the construction of the Eiffel Tower. I got an idea in my head today and I am going to create a MicroStrategy dashboard about the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps MicroStrategy will have another dashboard contest at MicroStrategy World in January that would motivate me to complete it quickly.

I had a fight this morning with the shower hose and the bathroom lost. It became a swimming pool.

Best regards and I hope you stay tuned this week for other great data visualization stories relating to Paris and France.

Michael

Construction of the Eiffel Tower

Work on the foundations started in January 1887. The tower is comprised of 18, 038 pieces of wrought iron and 2 and half million rivets. No drilling or shaping was done on site. If any part did not fit, it was sent back to the factory for alteration.

The critical stage of joining the four legs at the first level was complete by March 1888. Although the metalwork had been prepared with the utmost precision, provision had been made to carry out small adjustments in order to precisely align the legs: hydraulic jacks were fitted to the shoes at the base of each leg, each capable of exerting a force of 800 tonnes, and in addition the legs had been intentionally constructed at a slightly steeper angle than necessary, being supported by sandboxes on the scaffold.

No more than three hundred workers were employed on site, and because Eiffel took safety precautions, including the use of movable stagings, guard-rails and screens. Only one man died during construction.

The main structural work was completed at the end of March 1889. Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years. It was to be dismantled in 1909. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit.

In the opening weeks of the First World War, the powerful radio transmitters using the tower were used to jam German communications, seriously hindering their advance on Paris and contributing to the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne.

Source: http://webodysseum.com/art/construction-of-the-eiffel-tower

Gustave Eiffel: The Man Behind The Eiffel Tower

Gustave EiffelEarly Life

Gustave Eiffel was born in France, in the Côte-d’Or, the first child of Catherine-Melanie (née Moneuse) and Alexandre Eiffel.  He was a descendant of Jean–Rene Bönickhausen, who emigrated from the German town of Marmagen and settled in Paris at the beginning of the eighteenth century.The family adopted the name Eiffel as a reference to the Eifel mountains in the region from which it had come. Although the family always used the name Eiffel, Gustave’s name was registered at birth as Bönickhausen, and was not formally changed to Eiffel until 1880.

At the time of Gustave’s birth his father, an ex-soldier, was working as an administrator for the French Army but shortly after his birth his mother expanded a charcoal business she had inherited from her parents to include a coal-distribution business and soon afterwards his father gave up his job to assist her. Due to his mother’s business commitments, Gustave spent his childhood living with his grandmother, but nevertheless remained close to his mother, who was to remain an influential figure until her death in 1878. The business was successful enough for Catherine Eiffel to sell the business in 1843 and retire on the proceeds. Eiffel was not a studious child, and thought his classes at the Lycée Royal in Dijon boring and a waste of time, although in his last two years, influenced by his teachers for history and literature, he began to study seriously, so that he managed to gain his baccalauréats in humanities and science. An important part in his education was played by his uncle, Jean-Baptiste Mollerat, who had invented a process for distilling vinegar and had a large chemical works near Dijon, and one of his uncle’s friends, the chemist Michel Perret. Both men spent a lot of time with the young Eiffel, teaching him about everything from chemistry and mining to theology and philosophy.

Eiffel went on to attend the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris, in order to prepare for the difficult entrance exams set by the most important engineering colleges in France. Eiffel had hoped to enter the École Polytechnique, but his tutors decided that his performance was not good enough, and instead he qualified for entry to the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, which offered a rather more vocational training. During his second year he chose to specialize in chemistry, and graduated 13th of the 80 candidates in 1855. This was the year that Paris hosted the first World’s Fair, and Eiffel was bought a season ticket by his mother.

Engineering career

Early career

The Bordeaux bridge, Eiffel's first major work.

The Bordeaux bridge, Eiffel’s first major work.

After graduation, Eiffel had hoped to find work in his uncle’s works in Dijon, but a family dispute made this impossible. After a few months working as an unpaid assistant to his brother-in-law, who managed a foundry, Eiffel approached the railway engineer Charles Nepveu, who gave Eiffel his first paid job as his private secretary. However, shortly afterwards Nepveu’s company went bankrupt, but Nepveu found Eiffel a job with the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de l’Ouest, for whom Eiffel produced his first bridge design, a 22 m (72 ft) sheet iron bridge for the Saint Germaine railway. Some of Nepveu’s businesses were then acquired by the Compagnie Belge de Matériels de Chemin de Fer: Nepveu was appointed the managing director of the two factories in Paris, and offered Eiffel a job as head of the research department. In 1857 Nepveu negotiated a contract to build a railway bridge over the river Garonne at Bordeaux, connecting the Paris-Bordeaux line to the lines running to Sète and Bayonne, which involved the construction of a 500 m (1,600 ft) iron girder bridge supported by six pairs of masonry piers on the river bed. These were constructed with the aid of compressed air caissons and hydraulic rams, both innovative techniques at the time. Eiffel was initially given the responsibility of assembling the metalwork and eventually took over the management of the entire project from Nepveu, who resigned in March 1860.

Following the completion of the project on schedule Eiffel was appointed as the principal engineer of the Compagnie Belge. His work had also gained the attention of several people who were later to give him work, including Stanslas de la Roche Toulay, who had prepared the design for the metalwork of the Bordeax bridge, Jean Baptiste Krantz and Wilhelm Nordling. Further promotion within the company followed, but the business began to decline, and in 1865 Eiffel, seeing no future there, resigned and set up as an independent consulting engineer. He was already working independently on the construction of two railway stations, at Toulouse and Agen, and in 1866 he was given a contract to oversee the construction of 33 locomotives for the Egyptian government, a profitable but undemanding job in the course of which he visited Egypt, where he visited the Suez Canal which was being constructed by Ferdinand de Lesseps. At the same time he was employed by Jean-Baptiste Kranz to assist him in the design of the exhibition hall for the Exposition Universelle which was to be held in 1867. Eiffel’s principal job was to draw up the arch girders of the Galerie des Machines. In order to carry out this work, Eiffel and Henri Treca, the director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, conducted valuable research on the structural properties of cast iron, definitively establishing the modulus of elasticity applicable to compound castings.

Eiffel & Cie

The Budapest-Nyugati station.

The Budapest-Nyugati station.

At the end of 1866 Eiffel managed to borrow enough money to set up his own workshops at 48 Rue Fouquet in Levallois-Perret. His first important commission was for two viaducts for the railway line between Lyon and Bordeaux, and the company also began to undertake work in other countries, including the church of San Marcos in Arica, Chile, which was an all-metal prefabricated building, manufactured in France and shipped to South America in pieces to be assembled on site.

On 6 October 1868 he entered into partnership with Théophile Seyrig, like Eiffel a graduate of the Ecole Centrale, forming the company Eiffel et Cie. In 1875 Eiffel et Cie were given two important contracts, one for a new terminus for the line from Vienna at Budapest and the other for a bridge over the river Douro in Portugal. The station in Budapest was an innovative design. The usual pattern for building a railway terminus was to conceal the metal structure behind an elaborate facade: Eiffel’s design for Budapest used the metal structure as the centerpiece of the building, flanked on either side by conventional stone and brick-clad structures housing administrative offices.

The Maria Pia Bridge.

The Maria Pia Bridge.

The bridge over the Douro came about as the result of a competition held by the Royal Portuguese Railroad Company. The task was a demanding one: the river was fast-flowing, up to 20 m (66 ft) deep, and had a bed formed of a deep layer of gravel which made the construction of piers on the river bed impossible, and so the bridge had to have a central span of 160 m (520 ft). This was greater than the longest arch span which had been built at the time. Eiffel’s proposal was for a bridge whose deck was supported by five iron piers, with the abutments of the pair on the river bank also bearing a central supporting arch. The price quoted by Eiffel was FF.965,000, far below the nearest competitor and so he was given the job, although since his company was less experienced than his rivals the Portuguese authorities appointed a committee to report on Eiffel et Cie’s suitability. The members included Jean-Baptiste Krantz, Henri Dion and Léon Molinos, both of whom had known Eiffel for a long time: their report was favorable, and Eiffel got the job. On-site work began in January 1876 and was complete by the end of October 1877: the bridge was ceremonially opened by King Luis I and Queen Maria Pia, after whom the bridge was named, on 4 November.

The Exposition Universelle in 1878 firmly established his reputation as one of the leading engineers of the time. As well as exhibiting models and drawings of work undertaken by the company, Eiffel was also responsible for the construction of several of the exhibition buildings. One of these, a pavilion for the Paris Gas Company, was Eiffel’s first collaboration with Stephen Sauvestre, who was later to become the head of the company’s architectural office.

In 1879 the partnership with Seyrig was dissolved, and the company was renamed the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel. The same year the company was given the contract for the Garabit viaduct, a railway bridge near Ruynes en Margeride in the Cantal département. Like the Douro bridge, the project involved a lengthy viaduct crossing the river valley as well as the river crossing, and Eiffel was given the job without any process of competitive tendering due to his success with the bridge over the Douro. To assist him in the work he took on several people who were to play important roles in the design and construction of the Eiffel Tower, including Maurice Koechlin, a young graduate of the Zurich Polytechnikum, who was engaged to undertake calculations and make drawings, and Emile Nouguier, who had previously worked for Eiffel on the construction of the Douro bridge.

The same year Eiffel started work on a system of standardised prefabricated bridges, an idea that was the result of a conversation with the governor of Cochin-China. These used a small number of standard components, all small enough to be readily transportable in areas with poor or non-existent roads, and were joined together using bolts rather than rivets, reducing the need for skilled labour on site. A number of different types were produced, ranging from footbridges to standard-gauge railway bridges.

Interior structural elements of the Statue of Liberty designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Interior structural elements of the Statue of Liberty designed by Gustave Eiffel.

In 1881 Eiffel was contacted by Auguste Bartholdi who was in need of an engineer to help him to realise the Statue of Liberty. Some work had already been carried out by Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc, but he had died in 1879. Eiffel was selected because of his experience with wind stresses. Eiffel devised a structure consisting of a four legged pylon to support the copper sheeting which made up the body of the statue. The entire statue was erected at the Eiffel works in Paris before being dismantled and shipped to the United States.

In 1886 Eiffel also designed the dome for the Astronomical Observatory in Nice. This was the most important building in a complex designed by Charles Garnier, later among the most prominent critics of the Tower. The dome, with a diameter of 22.4 metres (73 ft) was the largest in the world when built and used an ingenious bearing device: rather than running on wheels or rollers, it was supported by a ring-shaped hollow girder floating in a circular trough containing a solution of magnesium chloride in water. This had been patented by Eiffel in 1881.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower.

Koechlin’s first drawing for the Eiffel Tower. Note the sketched stack of buildings, with Notre Dame at the bottom, indicating the scale of the proposed tower.

The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, who had discussed ideas for a centrepiece for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. In May 1884 Koechlin, working at his home, made an outline drawing of their scheme, described by him as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals”. Initially Eiffel showed little enthusiasm, although he did sanction further study of the project, and the two engineers then asked Stephen Sauvestre to add architectural embellishments. Sauvestre added the decorative arches to the base, a glass pavilion to the first level and the cupola at the top. The enhanced idea gained Eiffel’s support for the project, and he bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier and Sauvestre had taken out. The design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1884, and on 30 March 1885 Eiffel read a paper on the project to the Société des Ingénieurs Civils. After discussing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower, he finished his talk by saying that the tower would symbolise.

“not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.”

Little happened until the beginning of 1886, but with the re-election of Jules Grévy as President and his appointment of Edouard Lockroy as Minister for Trade decisions began to be made. A budget for the Exposition was passed and on 1 May Lockroy announced an alteration to the terms of the open competition which was being held for a centerpiece for the exposition, which effectively made the choice of Eiffel’s design a foregone conclusion: all entries had to include a study for a 300 m (980 ft) four-sided metal tower on the Champs de Mars. On 12 May a commission was set up to examine Eiffel’s scheme and its rivals and on 12 June it presented its decision, which was that only Eiffel’s proposal met their requirements. After some debate about the exact site for the tower, a contract was signed on 8 January 1887. This was signed by Eiffel acting in his own capacity rather than as the representative of his company, and granted him one and a half million francs toward the construction costs. This was less than a quarter of the estimated cost of six and a half million francs. Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation during the exhibition and for the following twenty years. Eiffel later established a separate company to manage the tower.

The tower had been a subject of some controversy, attracting criticism both from those who did not believe it feasible and from those who objected on artistic grounds. Just as work began at the Champ de Mars, the “Committee of Three Hundred” (one member for each metre of the tower’s height) was formed, led by Charles Garnier and including some of the most important figures of the French arts establishment, including Adolphe Bouguereau, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Gounod and Jules Massenet: a petition was sent to Jean-Charles Alphand, the Minister of Works, and was published by Le Temps.

“To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour de Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal”
Caricature of Eiffel, published in 1887 at the time of "The Artist's Protest".

Caricature of Eiffel, published in 1887 at the time of “The Artist’s Protest”.

Work on the foundations started on 28 January 1887. Those for the east and south legs were straightforward, each leg resting on four 2 m (6.6 ft) concrete slabs, one for each of the principal girders of each leg but the other two, being closer to the river Seine were more complicated: each slab needed two piles installed by using compressed-air caissons 15 m (49 ft) long and 6 m (20 ft) in diameter driven to a depth of 22 m (72 ft) to support the concrete slabs, which were 6 m (20 ft) thick. Each of these slabs supported a limestone block, each with an inclined top to bear the supporting shoe for the ironwork. These shoes were anchored by bolts 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and 7.5 m (25 ft) long. Work on the foundations was complete by 30 June and the erection of the iron work was started. Although no more than 250 men were employed on the site, a prodigious amount of exacting preparatory work was entailed: the drawing office produced 1,700 general drawings and 3,629 detail drawings of the 18,038 different parts needed. The task of drawing the components were complicated by the complex angles involved in the design and the degree of precision required: the position of rivet holes were specified to within 0.1 mm (0.04 in) and angles worked out to one second of arc. The components, some already riveted together into sub-assemblies, were first bolted together, the bolts being replaced by rivets as construction progressed. No drilling or shaping was done on site: if any part did not fit it was sent back to the factory for alteration. The four legs, each at an angle of 54° to the ground, were initially constructed as cantilevers, relying on the anchoring bolts in the masonry foundation blocks. Eiffel had calculated that this would be satisfactory until they approached halfway to the first level: accordingly work was stopped for the purpose of erecting a wooden supporting scaffold. This gave ammunition to his critics, and lurid headlines including “Eiffel Suicide!” and “Gustave Eiffel has gone mad: he has been confined in an Asylum” appeared in the popular press. At this stage a small “creeper” crane was installed in each leg, designed to move up the tower as construction progressed and making use of the guides for the elevators which were to be fitted in each leg. After this brief pause erection of the metalwork continued, and the critical operation of linking the four legs was successfully completed by March 1888. In order to precisely align the legs so that the connecting girders could be put into place, a provision had been made to enable precise adjustments by placing hydraulic jacks in the footings for each of the girders making up the legs.

By June construction had reached the second level platform, and on Bastille Day this was used for a fireworks display, and Eiffel held a celebratory banquet for the press on the first level platform.

The main structural work was completed at the end of March, and on the 31st Eiffel celebrated this by leading a group of government officials, accompanied by representatives of the press, to the top of the tower. Since the lifts were not yet in operation, the ascent was made by foot, and took over an hour, Eiffel frequently stopping to make explanations of various features. Most of the party chose to stop at the lower levels, but a few, including Nouguier, Compagnon, the President of the City Council and reporters from Le Figaro and Le Monde Illustré completed the climb. At 2.35 Eiffel hoisted a large tricoleur, to the accompaniment of a 25-gun salute fired from the lower level.

The Panama Scandal

Illustration of Eiffel's lock design from a contemporary magazine.

Illustration of Eiffel’s lock design from a contemporary magazine.

In 1887, Eiffel became involved with the French effort to construct a canal across the Panama Isthmus. The French Panama Canal Company, headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, had been attempting to build a sea-level canal, but came to the realization that this was impractical. The plan was changed to one using locks, which Eiffel was contracted to design and build. The locks were on a large scale, most having a change of level of 11 m (36 ft).Eiffel had been working on the project for little more than a year when the company suspended payments of interest on 14 December 1888, and shortly afterwards was put into liquidation. Eiffel’s reputation was badly damaged when he was implicated in the financial and political scandal which followed. Although he was simply a contractor, he was charged along with the directors of the project with raising money under false pretenses and misappropriation of funds. On 9 Feb 1893 Eiffel was found guilty on the charge of misuse of funds, and was fined 20,000 francs and sentenced to two years in prison, although he was acquitted on appeal.The later American-built canal used new lock designs (see History of the Panama Canal).

Shortly before the trial Eiffel had announced his intention to resign from the Board of Directors of the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel, and did so at a General Meeting held on 14 February, saying “I have absolutely decided to abstain from any participation in any manufacturing business from now on, and so that no one can be misled and to make it most evident that I intend to remain absolutely uninvolved with the management of the establishments which bear my name, I wish to that my name should disappear from the name of the company.” The company changed its name to La Société Constructions Levallois-Perret, with Maurice Koechlin as managing director. The name was changed to the Anciens Etablissements Eiffel in 1937.

Later career

Bust of Eiffel at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Bust of Eiffel at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

After his retirement from the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel, Eiffel went on to do important work in meteorology and aerodynamics. Eiffels’s interest in these areas was a consequence of the problems he had encountered with the effects of wind forces on the structures he had built.His first aerodynamic experiments, an investigation of the air resistance of surfaces, was carried out by dropping the surface to be investigated together with a measuring apparatus down a vertical cable stretched between the second level of the Eiffel Tower and the ground. Using this Eiffel definitely established that the air resistance of a body was very closely related to the square of the airspeed. He then built a laboratory on the Champ de Mars at the foot of the tower in 1905, building his first wind tunnel there in 1909. The wind tunnel was used to investigate the characteristics of the airfoil sections used by the early pioneers of aviation such as the Wright Brothers, Gabriel Voisin and Louis Blériot. Eiffel established that the lift produced by an airfoil was the result of a reduction of air pressure above the wing rather than an increase of pressure acting on the under surface. Following complaints about noise from people living nearby, he moved his experiments to a new establishment at Auteuil in 1912. Here it was possible to build a larger wind tunnel, and Eiffel began to make tests using scale models of aircraft designs.

In 1913 Eiffel was awarded the Samuel P. Langley Medal for Aerodromics by the Smithsonian Institute. In his speech at the presentation of the medal, Alexander Graham Bell said:

…his writings upon the resistance of the air have already become classical. His researches, published in 1907 and 1911, on the resistance of the air in connection with aviation, are especially valuable. They have given engineers the data for designing and constructing flying machines upon sound, scientific principles

Eiffel had meteorological measuring equipment placed on the tower in 1889, and also built a weather station at his house in Sèvres. Between 1892 and 1891 he compiled a complete set of meteorological readings, and later extended his record-taking to include measurements from 25 different locations across France.

Eiffel died on 27 December 1923, while listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony andante, in his mansion on Rue Rabelais in Paris, France. He was buried in the family tomb in Levallois-Perret Cemetery.

Influence

Edward Moran's 1886 painting, The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, depicts the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.

Edward Moran’s 1886 painting, The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, depicts the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.

Edward Moran‘s 1886 painting, The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, depicts the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.

Gustave Eiffel’s career was a result of Industrial Revolution. For a variety of economic and political reasons, this had been slow to make an impact in France, and Eiffel had the good fortune to be working at a time of rapid industrial development in France. Eiffel’s importance as an engineer was twofold. Firstly he was ready to adopt innovative techniques first used by others, such as his use of compressed-air caissons and hollow cast-iron piers, and secondly he was a pioneer in his insistence on basing all engineering decisions on a base of thorough calculation of the forces involved, combining this analytical approach with an insistence on a high standard of accuracy in drawing and manufacture.

The growth of the railway network had an immense effect on people’s lives, but although the enormous number of bridges and other work undertaken by Eiffel were an important part of this, the two works that did most to make him famous are the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, both projects of immense symbolic importance and today internationally recognized landmarks. The Tower is also important because of its role in establishing the aesthetic potential of structures whose appearance is largely dictated by practical considerations.

His contribution to the science of aerodynamics is probably of equal importance to his work as an engineer.

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Sources:

    1. Green, Meg. The Eiffel Tower. Lucent Books, Inc., 2001.
    2. Loyrette, Henri. Gustave Eiffel. Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1985.
    3. Plumley,Karen, Gustave Eiffel: The Man Behind The Masterpiece, Paris Eiffel Tower News. http://www.paris-eiffel-tower-news.com/eiffel-tower-stories/paris-story-gustave-eiffel.htm
    4. The official website of the Eiffel Tower: www.tour-eiffel.fr
    5. –, Gustave Eiffel, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Eiffel

Infographic: Failure by Design: Famous Architectural Mistakes

It’s sometimes easy to take for granted the calculated, enormous complexity of the everyday things in the world that make our lives easier and more convenient. For most of us, traffic is a minor (or possibly major, depending on where you are) inconvenience that we have to deal with day in and day out. In terms of human achievement, though, it took an incredible amount of ingenuity and technological breakthroughs just to make modern cars, not to mention the massive highway systems that so many of us use. Speaking of our carefully crafted roads and freeway structures, the huge buildings, monuments, and skyscrapers that we see as commonplace also take a mind-boggling amount of preparation and planning, and for good reason.

Today’s infographic from Popular Science reminds us exactly why there is so much work and care put into the large structures we build, since a few careless miscalculations can spell disaster for the building’s surrounding population. For example, the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas is one of many buildings in that famous city to have a unique shape or style, which isn’t an issue on its own. Unfortunately, the building’s curvature and reflective glass windows, when combined with the blistering Las Vegas sun, create spots of heat directly on the pool area hot enough to leave people with burns and melt objects. The lesson here: architects must think of any and every possible issue a building may come across in its environment in order to ensure safety.

For more info on architectural missteps throughout history, have a look at the graphic below. [Source]

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Architecture: Structurally Sound Buildings That Look Like They’ve Been Smashed

Structurally Sound Buildings That Look Like They’ve Been Smashed [SOURCE]

There’s something super-comforting about living in a building with super straight lines — it looks sturdy and reliable. But what if you lived in a place that looked like the Hulk had attacked it? Or a tornado had hit it? Here are some livable buildings which look messed up. On purpose.

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Above: Dancing House or Fred and Ginger House (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), Prague, Czech Republic

Designed by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry in 1992, and completed four years later.

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The upside-down White House, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, 1992ku-xlargeaa

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Crooked House (Krzywy Domek), Sopot, Poland

Built in 2004 as a part of a shopping center.ku-xlargeff

Ray and Maria Stata Center or Building 32

Designed by Frank Gehry for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an academic complex.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ku-xlargehh

The Hole House, Houston, Texasku-xlargeii

This house with a trans-dimensional vortex (or a black hole?) was a limited time art project in the spring of 2005, designed and constructed by sculptors Dan Havel and Dean Ruck.

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Errante Guest House, Chileku-xlargell

Ripley Believe it or Not Museum, Niagara Falls, Canada

Blog note: I have actually been to this one!ku-xlargemm

Honey Bee Hive House, Jerusalem, Israelku-xlargenn

Designed by Zvi Hecker in the 1970s and built by the National Ministry Of Housing.ku-xlargepp

Below: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, Branson, Missouri

It reflects the effects of a giant, (c. 8.0 on a Richter scale) earthquake in New Madrid, Missouri. Built in 1994.ku-xlargexx

Visionary Architect Paolo Soleri Has Died at 93

399488Visionary architect Paolo Soleri, the Italian-born designer of the experimental city called Arcosanti in the high desert 60 miles north of Phoenix, died last Tuesday. He was 93. [SOURCE]

Soleri, one of the few remaining direct disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright, actually saw few of his projects built. But his exalted manifestos on a revolutionary lifestyle of complex but compact cities where cars are not needed and more of the natural landscape is preserved made him one of the most recognized names in architecture and design.

Few of his projects have been built, but it was his exalted manifestos that made him one of the most recognized names in architecture and design.

“If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment: Join us,” says the poster at Arcosanti’s entrance.

Just off Interstate 17 in Cordes Junction, Arcosanti is an urban project that explores the possibilities of future city life in concrete and steel. Soleri envisioned more than 5,000 people living in the complex. It never achieved Soleri’s full vision, though it continues to operate and evolve with his goals in mind.

Soleri’s impact can also be seen — and heard — across the Valley. Among his completed projects is a $3.5million pedestrian bridge in Scottsdale, Soleri Bridge and Plaza, southwest of Camelback and Scottsdale roads. It is the only completed bridge of the hundreds he designed.

Soleri Bells

And thousands of Valley residents treasure their “Soleri Bells,” unique cast-bronze wind-bells that are prized for their purity of tone. Soleri began designing and selling them half a century ago to finance Arcosanti.

Valley architect Will Bruder likened Soleri to Leonardo da Vinci, the prolific Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect, for his breadth of work on paper and his influential ideas.

“I’m not blowing smoke when I say he was of that stature,” Bruder said. “He’s more widely known in the world than Arizona by far. He will be remembered for hundreds of years.”

Bruder, who came to Arizona to work with Soleri in 1967 and 1968, spent last Wednesday morning visiting Soleri at his home in Paradise Valley, where he had taken to staying in bed.

“Paolo taught me about the ordinary becoming extraordinary,” Bruder said.

He added that the celebrated architecture of Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix, which Bruder designed, would not have come about without Soleri’s input on materials and design.

Soleri studied with Wright at Taliesin West from 1947 to 1949. Yet he disagreed with the master architect’s vision of a utopian suburbia reliant on the automobile, a concept Wright called “Broadacre City.”

“We must build up, not out,” Soleri told The Arizona Republic in 2011.

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“The problem is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the Earth, turning farms into parking lots, and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses.”

Soleri received his first commission with architect Mark Mills in 1949 from heiress Nora Woods to build the “Dome House” in Cave Creek. He married Woods’ daughter, Colly, the same year. They had two daughters, Kristine and Daniela. Colly Soleri died in 1982.

Born in Turin, Italy, Paolo Soleri returned to his home country in 1950. There, he studied solar energy and completed several architectural commissions, including a lauded sculptural-ceramics factory on the coast south of Naples.

He returned to Arizona in 1956, the same year he founded the Cosanti Foundation. “Cosanti” combines the Italian words, “cosa” (things) and “anti” (against).

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Soleri distrusted affluent suburbia. But as the Valley grew, urban sprawl surrounded his Paradise Valley home — a 5-acre compound called Cosanti.

Cosanti has grown amid the paloverde trees, mesquite, prickly pear and saguaro. A collection of concrete domes set into the Earth dot the property at 6433 E. Doubletree Ranch Road.

It also features a foundry that produces the famous Soleri Bells. Each is cast in bronze or clay and is unique. Ranging in price from $29 to $3,000, they have been the main financial support for Soleri and his projects.

Implementing Wright’s idea of using apprentices, people work at the foundries at Cosanti and Arcosanti pouring about 600 pounds of molten bronze a day into the sand molds to make the bells.

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Until recently, Soleri had divided his time between the weathered, wood-frame house on the Cosanti property and his Arcosanti creation north of the Valley.

Soleri began constructing Arcosanti in 1970 on 860 acres of desert outside Phoenix.

The model city, as it was envisioned, was based on a philosophy of “arcology,” or a combination of architecture and ecology. The compact beehive complex where human activity is surrounded by the desert’s natural beauty was proclaimed by Newsweek magazine in 1976 as “probably the most important experiment undertaken in our time.”

But no one could ever judge the experiment because the honeycomb buildings are less than 5 percent complete, and only 55 people reside there.

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He retired in 2011 as the president of the Cosanti Foundation. The new president is Jeff Stein, a former dean of the Boston Architectural College. Stein, who worked for Soleri at Arcosanti during the 1970s and ’80s, hopes to revitalize the “accidental community.”

Stein said that though Soleri was disappointed Arcosanti wasn’t more realized, he did have patience in the process of building sustainable life in a new city. Arcosanti is not an “instant culture,” he said, created by resort developers flush with money.

“So, 40 years ago, where I’m talking right now was a mesa top,” Stein said from Arcosanti. “In another 40 years, it will be transformed that much more. Forty years ago, Phoenix didn’t seem like much, and in the first 40 years, neither did Tokyo or London or Chicago.

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“(Soleri) was very realistic about the speed of construction here and why it was so slow and what it meant in the global conversation of developing cities.”

One project, completed through what Soleri called “no pushing or pulling” of his own, was the Soleri Bridge and Plaza. At $3.5 million, the bridge was the largest project ever undertaken by Scottsdale Public Art, the city-subsidized group that oversees public-art projects and events in the city.

The bridge took 20 years from concept to completion, largely because of financial issues. Dedicated in December 2010, the span was designed as a pedestrian passage and gathering place.

The 130-foot-long bridge widens from 18 to 27 feet and opens onto a 22,000-square-foot plaza, which has been a featured setting for several art and tourism events.

Most striking are two 64-foot brushed-steel pylons that generate a light beam on the walking surface of the bridge to mark solar events. A second set of 22-foot pylons set in the plaza house Soleri’s cast-bronze bells. The plaza features ten 8-foot-high concrete panels etched with Soleri designs.

“I wasn’t pushing or pulling for this,” he said at the dedication. “But when you come up with a concept, you do like to develop it. You do like to stay with it. That it serves as a sundial was also important. … We are so (disconnected) from our past. The sun is just something that happens. It’s not our business. But it is our business. We are the ‘big bang’ in development. We should be reminded of how we are connected with something that happened 12 billion years ago.”

A private burial will be held at Arcosanti, and a public memorial service will be held later this year.

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