Did you know...? of the week: Home Insurance Building (first tall building or first skyscraper in history).





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Did you know...? The Home Insurance Building, designed by the architect-engineer the first school of Chicago William Le Baron Jenney, became the first tall building or first skyscraper history. The work, only ten stories high and built between 1884 and 1885 by an innovative structure consists of a steel frame, was subsequently expanded to twelve plants in 1890. Four decades later, in 1931, and in the twentieth century, the Home Insurance Building, which was built in the Chicago Loop (financial and commercial district of the city), specifically in the corner of Adams and La Salle streets -, was demolished along with other buildings to build the Empire Field, now known as LaSalle National Bank Building and Bank of America Building.



Home Insurance Building, Chicago, IL, USA, 1884-1885
Client: Home Insurance Company
Architect-Engineer: William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907)
Address: Chicago Loop, 135 South LaSalle Street,
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
Building Use: Office
Home construction: Spring 1884
End first 10 floors Construction: Fall 1885
Expansion to 12 floors 1890
Frame: Steel, formed by square pillars filled with concrete and covered with terracotta as fire protection, the slabs were supported by rolled steel type IPN containing the slabs prefabricated support of each plant.
Final height with 12 floors: 55 meters (180 feet)
Status: Demolished in 1931
Architectural style: Chicago School
Functional Period (1880-1900)



The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, rectangular, presenting a facade inspired by a classical column divided into three parts, where the first two floors coated with different pillow shapes in stone plucked from the street level, giving way to a volume stylized in search of heaven. The main body of offices, which dominated the orthogonal grid, was characterized by the function of the office building, in which large glazed spaces left for better lighting. The termination superior shot, simulating a classic capital, was decorated with different ledges.

The structural design of the building is divided into three main frames on each side of the facade, in which pillars as an outgoing, emphasized the classic Corinthian column. For modern façade cladding made ​​the use of brick as a masonry and glass for windows. The self-supporting steel structure, building support, allowed to open large glazed panels on the facade by means of "Chicago windows" (windows chicago), mostly combined with large sash fixed panels in the center to illuminate the interior of the building naturally.

The large glazed spaces, which give up the wide-load bearing wall, were the basis of what later became the traditional "curtain wall", present to this day. With this innovative building system designed by Jenney by a steel skeleton could gain more usable space inside the building, while allowing greater ventilation and lighting inside to the welfare of its occupants.



above image of the architect-engineer the first School of Chicago, William Le Baron Jenney (considered father of the skyscraper). "The principle of holding an entire building on a carefully balanced metal frame, stiffened and protected from fire, is due to the work of William Le Baron Jenney. Has no predecessors in this respect, and he is due all the credit derivative this engineering feat that he was the first to "Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912).

Chronology of the Home Insurance Building: origin of skyscrapers

Occurs in Chicago in 1871 a sad fire that destroys much of the city because most of the houses were built of wood by-almost vernacular building system-known as "Balloon frame".

Arises a new architectural style to rebuild the city called "Chicago School", in which a group of architects and engineers who propose similar solutions provide the foundation to build a new metropolis by building high-rise buildings is born " skyscrapers ".

With the arrival of the first lifts,-who avoided annoying having to climb stairs, steam (Otis, 1864) at first by hydraulic drive (Baldwin, 1870), later, or electrical (Siemens, 1887), in the end, and materials such as cast iron years ago and then with steel, made possible the challenge of building the first high-rise buildings of 10 to 15 floors.

Other factors such as population growth, high demand for houses and high land values ​​significantly influenced the decision to start building the first buildings in search of heaven. In a plot of small size, many plants were repeated in height, making the most of the space was a reality.

The style of the Chicago School, also known as "Commercial Style", was based on the creation of buildings that rose by metal structures were lined by building function. The windows could vary in size when it is desired and in many cases eliminated the thick walls of cargo, which significantly limited space, since until that time to give the necessary strength to a large building had to be built thick masonry walls . Smooth surfaces and lack of ornamentation on the walls was another characteristic of this style.

In the late nineteenth century 80 is produced in Chicago a revolution in terms of the construction of buildings of this type based on the characteristic steel frame, both residential and office use.

The appearance of the "sliding windows", occupying much of the facade, give way to what will be known later as "curtain wall", heralding the "glass boxes" of the twentieth century. Masonry walls between windows are no longer part of the building structure, so that construction steel to enable large spans as desired improving ventilation and natural lighting inside.

The structure consists of a steel frame, thanks to its ductility, admitted large deformations without breaking, so it was a pretty innovative construction system at the time, because it not only allowed to gain much more height, but also allowed large open spaces on the facade glazing.

In 1883, the Insurance Company Home Insurance Company tender brings distinctive new headquarters, a building that was to become their representative image to accommodate your main template of employees. The work, being a commercial building, should have well-lit large open spaces that would facilitate the work to employees while ahorrasen electricity.

William Le Baron Jenney, who had previously investigated with cast iron in the First Leiter Building in the same city that ended in 1879, was the winner of the competition with its innovative proposal by designing entirely based on a steel frame.

The plot on which to build the new headquarters of the Home Insurance Company is located on the corner of the Adams and La Salle streets in Chicago's Loop (city district).

Due to the proximity of Lake Michigan, the city of Chicago had the negative factor of having a somewhat weak clay soil, so to build the first high-rise buildings had to be perfecting foundation systems used until then and that "an caisson Chicago "(Chicago drawer). This drawer, of the same dimensions as the sun, was formed by a concrete wall just over a meter thick (1.20 m.) That allowed up the pillars from bedrock.

The Home Insurance Building is built between spring 1884 and autumn 1885.

Originally rose 10 floors high and then added two more plants in 1890, reaching a height of 55 meters final architectural, thus becoming the world's tallest skyscraper.

Today the final height of the Home Insurance may seem ridiculous when you consider the great technological advances that have taken place over the entire twentieth century and early twenty-first century. However, in both Chicago and New York, the construction of the first buildings in the characteristic based high steel frame were a feat and a technological breakthrough from an architectural and engineering at the time, marking a golden age in terms of Urban Planning both cities and laying the groundwork for what later became the Bauhaus, a school of design, art and architecture, which means a small number of important architects like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, among others, the design principle "form follows function", laid the foundation of the International Style that result in the "Second Chicago School".

For the construction of the Home Insurance Building was used freestanding steel structure lined with terracotta as fire protection. The different floors of offices were allocated by brick walls covered with terracotta and plaster walls to the ceiling.

Terracotta tiles, composed of sand and clay that were baked in the oven, apart from being used as a coating, were also used as a flame retardant, as they were very resistant to fire in case of any fire, so with this item is completely forraban steel columns and beams.

For the predominant façade cladding and glass brick windows. Numerous adjustable blinds and awnings were also installed on the façade and sun protection.

By using steel structure made a lot more space inside the building regardless of load thick walls, improving ventilation and lighting by sash windows combined with fixed panels, which are commonly known as "Chicago windows" (Windows of Chicago).

The Home Insurance Building is considered the first tall building or first skyscraper in history, as it was the first building in the world to be built with a metal frame in its entirety, however, was built after thought he could not resist standing for long.

William Le Baron Jenney, along with Louis Henry Soullivan, both members of the First School of Chicago, is considered the "father of the skyscraper".

The Home Insurance Building was demolished in 1931 along with other buildings to build in place the building Empire Field. As you can see in the image below, the demolition of the Home Insurance Building was not done by explosives, as the steel structure can be dismantled by human personnel from the top for safety, thus preventing possible damage the surrounding buildings. Also, the steel can be removed subsequently recycled and reused, for example in a new building.




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