Twentieth-century architecture essay

Twentieth-century architecture, especially in developed and developing countries showcased an era of great experimentation. Until the early 20th century, it was rare to see a building taller than six stories (“The Complete Guide to High-Rise America”, 2005). With new technological advances it was soon possible to build taller and sturdier buildings (“Cityscape”, n. d. ) In the United States, Chicago can be considered as one of the most architecturally important cities (“The Complete Guide to High-Rise America”, 2005).

Aside from being home to John Hancock Center, it houses an interesting history of architecture and high-rise buildings. In the autumn of 1871, a fire, starting in a ghetto spread to the city’s business district and reduced blocks of buildings to ashes. Within a week, the fire destroyed 17,000 buildings, killing 300 and leaving almost 100,000 homeless. As an effect, the rebuilding of Chicago was immediately planned and the best architects in the country were given the task.

The Chicago School style of architecture gave birth to fascinating innovations: a steel structure which was lighter and more fire-resistant than masonry and wood, and taller, more streamlined buildings – the first modern skyscrapers. New York is also a close rival to Chicago in terms of skyscrapers. In the early 20th century, Manhattan is a rather skinny land. In order to utilize the rather smaller land area, New York’s early modern architects extended their buildings upward, creating symbols of power, wealth, opportunity and inspiration (“The Complete Guide to High-Rise America”, 2005).

Perhaps inspired by the resurgence of architectural advances in Chicago, dime-store magnate Frank W. Woolworth was the first to erect a towering skyscraper as a monument to his increasing wealth and prosperity. New York is also famous for one of its tallest buildings, the Empire State Building, which has been featured in famous movies such as “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle”.

The erection of skyscrapers, not only in Chicago and New York, became a symbol of upsurging economic growth as well as rapid technological advances.


Cityscape (n. d. ). Exploring 20th century London. Retrieved October 13, 2007 from http://www. 20thcenturylondon. org. uk/server. php? show=nav. 30. The complete guide to high-rise America (2005). The Independent. Retrieved October 13, 2007 from http://travel. independent. co. uk/americas/article296150. ece.