IIT and CTBUH Launch New High-Rise Buildings Curriculum


Antony Wood, President of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), begins just about every speech he gives with “Ninety-five percent of the tall buildings are crap; they should never have been built.

This is why he launched a new curriculum at the School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He said the program will be a revisionist and critical examination of the role tall buildings should play in a time of cataclysmic climate change and vintage urban migration. “It’s not a rah-rah-rah high-rise program,” he said. A.

The millions of people flocking to cities, the displacement pressure resulting from climate change, and the wider benefits of collective living and the sustainability of density “herald a future with many high-rise buildings”, said said Reed Kroloff, Dean of IIT. College of Architecture.

But today’s tall buildings are more often than not pure “commercial containers” for one-dimensional mercantile exchanges or a “ridiculous piece of sculpture” — superficial iconography unrelated to the city, Wood said. And these types of skyscrapers rarely serve people who face the precariousness and deprivation that high-rise buildings can remedy.

Wood (the new program director) and Kroloff will build on IIT’s historic legacy as a home for skyscraper research and design, from the early embrace of the Mies School of Architecture van der Rohe, who developed some of the world’s first glass and steel skyscrapers, to the super-tall innovations of Fazlur Khan and Bruce Graham, who collaborated on the clustered tubular structures (researched at IIT) that pushed the ever-higher skyscrapers with ever-increasing material economy. “No other school has the expertise to deliver this type of education like IIT,” Kroloff said.

The professional community reviews the final results of ‘The Remaking of Mumbai’ high-rise studio at IIT College of Architecture’s ‘Open House’ exhibition. (© IIT/CTBUH)

Classes begin this fall and two non-professional degrees will be offered: a master’s degree in high-rise buildings and vertical urban planning and a master’s degree in architectural science. The first is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, and the second is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree in architecture, and both degrees consist of two semesters of coursework. The degrees emphasize design and research and are organized around design studios, technology, research methodology, and seminars that address the cultural, historical, and design context of tall buildings. Students will have access to internship opportunities that are “not available to anyone else,” Kroloff said. “They were specially created for this program.”

Although the program originates from a school of architecture, it aims to attract students from all trades involved in the creation of high-rise buildings: architecture, real estate, engineering, construction, business and finance. Altogether, this is the first multidisciplinary graduate program with a specific focus on skyscrapers. Research topics that students should address include materials like mass timber, structural technologies, vegetation integration, air bridges, and new financing models.

Yet the program’s commitment to a unique typology and emphasis on technology creates reason to suspect that tall buildings are the most direct route to a sustainable and dignified future for humanity. Leading an ambitious series of Green New Deal design studios at nearly 100 universities over the past few years, Billy Fleming, director of the McHarg Center for Urban Planning and Ecology at the University of Pennsylvania, is well known for linking pedagogy to the realities of politics and political economy. He said A that the density derived from high-rise buildings is an “insufficient means to achieve a climate [and] social justice goals.

a brochure for a classroom showing the rendering of two learning skyscrapers
Cover image of the M.TBVU brochure distributed online: Project titled “CO2ngress Gateway Towers”, created by Kyle Bigart and Peter Binggeser as part of the IIT-CTBUH Tall Building Studio, and featured in the Chicago exhibit Architecture Foundation “Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago.” (© IIT/CTBUH)

Research from the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research indicates that the sustainability and induced carbon emissions of a development are determined less by the density of what is built and more by the consumption habits of the population living there. And in many parts of the world, high-rise buildings are built for and attract high-income people with consumption rates that result in much higher carbon emissions.

The policy determines how high-rise buildings are built and who can access them, so “there is always a risk that this type of technology-driven program will be seen as a plug-and-play solution to the climate crisis. said Fleming. . Truly reassessing how tall buildings work “is less about structural engineering and more about the workings of the political economy of the built environment.”

Wood said his nearly two decades of work with the CTBUH led him to the same conclusion. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and [the architects] okay,” he said. “But it has no impact, because the people who need to hear this message are the policy makers. It’s all about politics. As the program matures, it hopes to attract a student body capable of ‘refining policy recommendations and situating tall buildings within real-world constraints with as much expertise as formalists tinker with proportions and details and as technological innovations alter performance and structural regimes.’ building must be part of the city, including its infrastructure – parks, sidewalks – vertically flipped and connected,” Wood said.

“High-rise buildings are not the only solution to the challenges of rapid urbanization,” Kroloff said. “They are part of the solution, and an important part of the solution. We want to develop this program to ensure that this type of building is directed, as often as possible, towards innovations that benefit people of all economic levels and that make these buildings more ecological and sustainable. How can we make tall buildings a tool to help alleviate economic hardship rather than becoming a defining example of why it is? »

Zach Mortice is a Chicago-based journalist and design critic specializing in the relationship between architecture and landscape architecture and public policy.

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