The 2012 Studio at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), held by Prof. Adam Caruso focused on the important relation betweeen the office and the city. In the last 120 years, the office type changed very little in regards with the technical aspects of its construction. Strong emphasis has been given to the volumetric articulation and very little to the surface elaboration, which suffers from a “perverse celebration of emptyness”. The semester addressed the defects in the design of office buildings and “explore the potential of trabeation to give expression to this reluctant actor in the city”.
The studio begins with the analysis of the important essay ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered‘ by Louis Sullivan, in which the architect of the Guaranty Building in Buffalo emphasized the artistical origin of the tall building respect of the technical one.
The architects of this land and generation are now brought face to face with something new under the sun – namely, that evolution and integration of social conditions, that special grouping of them, that results in a demand for the erection of tall office buildings.
It is not my purpose to discuss the social conditions; I accept them as the fact, and say at once that the design of the tall office building must be recognised and confronted at the outset as a problem to be solved – a vital problem, pressing for a true solution.
Sullivan was interested in how the technical means offered by the construction industry ( the steel frame, the elevator, and caisson foundations), cold become, as raw materials, a part of the discipline of architecture.
A section of the studio was dedicated to the analysis – in plans, sections, elevations and perspective views – of the most iconic tall office buildings. Here’s the results.
William Holabird / Martin Roche: Takoma Building, Chicago
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Seagram Building, New York
Daniel Hudson Burnham: Rookery Building, Chicago
Daniel Hudson Burnham / John Wellborn Root: Reliance Building, Chicago
Leon Battista Alberti: Palazzo Rucellai, Florence
Peter Ellis: Oriel Chambers, Liverpool
Daniel Hudson Burnham: Monadnock Building, Chicago
Henry Hobson Richardson: Marshall Fields Warehouse, Chicago
Louis Henri Sullivan: Guaranty Building, Buffalo
Eliel Saarinen: Chicago Tribune Tower, Chicago
Hans Poelzig: Bankgebäude Poelzig, Dresden