Land of the Giants
One of the things I truly wanted to do while back in America was visit Chicago. Having an interest in cities, how could I pass the opportunity up? Chicago has almost exactly the same population as Osaka, and to some degree the same historic role of “Second City,” so they make interesting counterparts. And for someone with an interest in high-rise architecture, Chicago has the allure of having most of America’s tallest buildings.
Sears Tower (none of that Willis nonsense), to date the tallest high-rise in the United States since 1974, tallest in the world by roof height (true measure of a building’s real height IMO) until Taipei got in in 2004, and still fifth-tallest in the world by roof height. Built in the extreme southwest corner of the Loop, the old financial district, for an army of Sears Co. office workers the department store could never fulfill. I ascended for a view I hadn’t seen in years.
But I came more for THIS…
The newest renovation to the Sears Tower skydeck is a group of glass chambers that hang over the structural edge of the building, enabling one to…
Despite having the same number of people at roughly three times the density, Osaka cannot boast nearly the same madcap construction Chicago has. Part of this is no doubt the influence of earthquakes, which precluded any high-rise construction until the structural advances of the 1960s. But part of it has to be an approach to buildings that differs between the two countries. Japan builds for function, turning out relatively nondescript and small buildings meant simply to house workers or tenants. America, though, tends to build monuments, grand towers intended to boast of their cities and owners.
The American approach may seem pompous, but it has its positive points, as larger architecture tends to show a greater attention to detail and appreciation for architecture, as opposed to Japan’s nondescript little gray boxes, thrown out wholesale in the 1970s with next to no consideration for aesthetic. Since the 1980s, though, Japanese high-rise architecture has begun to show a greater sense of proportion and style, perhaps a quiet concession that sometimes a great city just needs some monuments, no matter how modest.