Saturday, August 23, 2008

Height Is Fleeting - Beauty Endures

Before the Devon Tower project was approved at the August 20, 2008, OCURA meeting, Jon Pickard of Pickard Chilton Architects Inc., the Design Architects for the project, had this to say: "Height is fleeting. Beauty is not."

Related articles
Initial Devon Tower Article, 8/20/2008

Oklahoma Skyscraper City Circa 1931
Also, see this forum thread

While most Oklahoma Citians (myself certainly included) are absolutely thrilled to be joining the list of United States cities which can rightly boast at least one very tall, contemporary, and iconic downtown (or elsewhere) building, this article focuses not only on the height of the building, but, as Mr. Pickard said, the fleeting nature of pure size.

THE RELATIVE SIZE. Before putting "size" into perspective, though, it is certainly a fine thing to spend some time, at least until the "newness" of this grand new Oklahoma City development wears off a little, taking great pride (and thanking Devon Energy & Larry Nichols, its CEO) for giving Oklahoma City tomorrow (meaning by 2012) something that it couldn't have rightly said much beyond 1931 when the First National Center and Ramsey Tower were finished in that year — relative to the rest of the country, at least one (in the 1931 instance, two) "tall" buildings relative to other cities in the country. When those two buildings were constructed in 1931, the Oklahoma City that then existed probably felt just as we do now.

In that time, for example, it appears that the tallest buildings in Los Angeles were several buildings in the 12-15 story range, at least as far as I was able to locate at as well as several other internet locations I reviewed. By comparison to our cousin up the turnpike, Tulsa, its tallest buildings in 1931 appear to have been 320 S. Boston (1929, 22 floors), Philtower (1928, 24 floors) and the Mayo Hotel (1925, 18 floors).

As noted in a Business Week article, utilizing only existing completed buildings as the measurement, if already built today, the 925' Devon Tower would be the 20th tallest building in the United States, according (the article said) to databases compiled by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Preferring to use the original source, I went there to do my digging. I was able to confirm that, if the Devon Tower existed today, the only cities with taller buildings in the United States would be Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Seattle, as shown in the map below:

Click the map for a larger view

More particularly, I assembled the list — click on any building name for a quick article elsewhere about the particular buildings below:


Color & Abbreviation Used Below
yellow = proposedStr. = "stories"

11451110ChicagoSears Toweroffice1974
21250102New YorkEmpire State Buildingoffice1931
3113683ChicagoAon Centeroffice1973
41127100ChicagoJohn Hancock Centerofc/res1969
5104677New YorkChrysler Buildingoffice1930
6104652New YorkNew York Times Toweroffice2007
7103955AtlantaBank of America Plazaoffice1993
8101873Los AngelesU.S. Bank Toweroffice1990
9100760ChicagoAT&T Corporate Centeroffice1989
10100275HoustonJP Morgan Chase Toweroffice1982
1199564ChicagoTwo Prudential Plazaoffice1990
1299271HoustonWells Fargo Plazaoffice1983
1397457PhiladelphiaComcast Centeroffice2008
1496166Chicago311 South Wacker Driveoffice1990
1595267New YorkAmerican International Buildingoffice1932
1694757ClevelandKey Toweroffice1991
1794561PhiladelphiaOne Liberty Placeoffice1987
1893376SeattleColumbia Centeroffice1984
1992771New YorkThe Trump Buildingoffice1930
2092554Oklahoma CityDevon Toweroffice2012

To put the "20th ranking" into better and more realistic perspective, though, the Devon Tower would be 25th if compared to buildings whose construction is already underway. Those buildings are included in the list below.


Colors & Abbreviation Used Below
coral = under constructionStr. = "stories"

12000150ChicagoChicago Spireres2010
2177682New YorkWorld Trade Center Oneoffice2011
31451110ChicagoSears Toweroffice1974
4136296ChicagoTrump International Hotel & Towerhotel/res2009
51250102New YorkEmpire State Buildingoffice1931
6120054New YorkBank of America Toweroffice2008
7113683ChicagoAon Centeroffice1973
81127100ChicagoJohn Hancock Centerofc/res1969
9104789ChicagoWaterview Towerhotel/res2010
10104677New YorkChrysler Buildingoffice1930
11104652New YorkNew York Times Toweroffice2007
12103955AtlantaBank of America Plazaoffice1993
13101873Los AngelesU.S. Bank Toweroffice1990
14100760ChicagoAT&T Corporate Centeroffice1989
15100275HoustonJP Morgan Chase Toweroffice1982
1699564ChicagoTwo Prudential Plazaoffice1990
1799271HoustonWells Fargo Plazaoffice1983
1897457PhiladelphiaComcast Centeroffice2008
1996166Chicago311 South Wacker Driveoffice1990
2095267New YorkAmerican International Buildingoffice1932
2194757ClevelandKey Toweroffice1991
2294561PhiladelphiaOne Liberty Placeoffice1987
2393376SeattleColumbia Centeroffice1984
2492771New YorkThe Trump Buildingoffice1930
2592554Oklahoma CityDevon Toweroffice2012

Last, keeping in mind that Devon Tower's construction is not scheduled to begin until 2009, it must be regarded as a "proposed" building. Throwing the "proposed" buildings shown at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat into the mix, and assuming that all such buildings would be built according to present plans, the Devon Tower drops down to 35th in the list, below — 35th is not at all shabby, but a relatively quick "fall" from 20th to 35th does make the point — height is fleeting!

Various internet and other sources put together "lists" of tall buildings and some include "proposed" buildings. For example, this Wikipedia page contains some which are not listed in the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings database. However, spot-checking the Wikipedia article reveals that it includes buildings which do not match the criteria for being included as a "proposed" building at CTBUH. For example, the Wikipedia article includes the theoretical Trans National Place in Boston at 1,175 feet even though the height was nixed by the FAA in May 2008, as reported in the Boston Globe. An example that both sources include even though the project has been suspended due to financing is the Waterview Tower in Chicago. That said, the Wikipedia and CTBUH listings are not terribly dissimilar, even though the Wikipedia article is more lax in its inclusions, and there are other examples of this such as the still theoretical and unapproved Madison Square Garden projects.

Given the strong CTBUH credentials, I've chosen to use its list, shown below, also relied upon by this Business Week article. The CTBUH criteria for including a "proposed" building are the following:
When is a tall building considered to be a ‘real’ proposal?
A 'real' proposed tall building can be considered such if it fulfills all of the following criteria:
1. Has a specific site,
2. Has a developer / financer,
3. Has a full professional design team who are in the process of progressing the design beyond the conceptual stage,
4. Has a dialogue with the local planning authorities with a view to obtaining full legal permission for construction,
5. Has a full intention to progress the building to construction and completion.

Only buildings that are fully in the public domain and fulfill all the above criteria will be included in the CTBUH 'proposed' building listings. Also, note that due to the changing nature of early stage designs and client information restrictions, some height data for 'proposed' tall buildings that appears on the CTBUH 'Tallest Lists' is unconfirmed.
Given that definition, as of the CTBUH July 2008 databases, and adding the Devon Tower which was approved this week in August, the list looks like this:


Colors & Abbreviations Used Below
coral = under constructionStr. = "stories"
yellow=proposed???? = no date stated

12000150ChicagoChicago Spireres2010
2177682New YorkWorld Trade Center Oneoffice2011
3151063PhiladelphiaAmerican Commerce Centerofc/hotel2012
41451110ChicagoSears Toweroffice1974
5136296ChicagoTrump International Hotel & Towerhotel/res2009
6135079New YorkTwo World Trade Centeroffice2012
71250102New YorkEmpire State Buildingoffice1931
8124079New YorkThree World Trade Centeroffice2012
9120054New YorkBank of America Toweroffice2008
10120080San FranciscoTransbay Transit Center & Toweroffice????
11115475New YorkTorre Verrehotel/res????
12113683ChicagoAon Centeroffice1973
131127100ChicagoJohn Hancock Centerofc/res1969
14105770NashvilleSignature Toweroffice2010
15104970MiamiOne Bayfront Plazaofc/hotel2014
16104789ChicagoWaterview Towerhotel/res2010
17104677New YorkChrysler Buildingoffice1930
18104652New YorkNew York Times Toweroffice2007
19103955AtlantaBank of America Plazaoffice1993
20102293MiamiEmpire World Condo Towerres????
21102293MiamiEmpire World Apartment Towerres????
22101873Los AngelesU.S. Bank Toweroffice1990
23100760ChicagoAT&T Corporate Centeroffice1989
24100275HoustonJP Morgan Chase Toweroffice1982
2599564ChicagoTwo Prudential Plazaoffice1990
2699271HoustonWells Fargo Plazaoffice1983
2797564New YorkFour World Trade Centeroffice2012
2897457PhiladelphiaComcast Centeroffice2008
2996166Chicago311 South Wacker Driveoffice1990
3095267New YorkAmerican International Buildingoffice1932
3194757ClevelandKey Toweroffice1991
3294561PhiladelphiaOne Liberty Placeoffice1987
3393376SeattleColumbia Centeroffice1984
3492771New YorkThe Trump Buildingoffice1930
3592554Oklahoma CityDevon Toweroffice2012

To be sure, no certainty exists that any or all or just some of the "proposed" buildings ever get built, at least as they are proposed. For example, concerning the twin Empire World Miami projects, this South Florida Business Journal article concerning possible fraud issues relating to the developer.

BEAUTY ENDURES. Soooo ... as proud as we are to be joining the rarefied air of those relatively few United States cities which can rightly boast of at least one very tall, contemporary, and iconic downtown (or elsewhere) building, "height is fleeting." Larry Nichols wisely tasked Devon's design architects by saying that size is not the object, beauty IS (my paraphrased words, not his actual). So, when some successor of mine writes a much later article like I did in The First National Center, 75 Years Later, I'm pretty sure that the beauty we see in the drawings today will still be seen by such a writer 75 years from now.

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