With the upcoming construction of the Kingdom Tower just north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the world has another opportunity to witness another marvel of construction engineering. The tower was designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture based out of Chicago, IL. It is projected to trump the Burj Khalifa as it stands over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). Construction is expected to be completed in 2017. (Rosenfield, 2014)
As I review the information about Kingdom Tower, and look at various renderings I can't help but be inspired to look back at a remarkably similar looking project designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be built in Smith + Gill's hometown of Chicago. The beauty and majesty of such a large project of this nature can easily be found in both designs. (Rosenfield, 2014)
Wright's work on the Mile High Illinois skyscraper was originally published in his 1956 book, A Testament. It was projected to have 528 floors including extensive automotive parking as well as helicopter parking. Wright produced various drawings of the building including floor plans for the “base”, 320th, and 528th levels.
What sets both the Burj Khalifa, and soon to be the Kingdom Tower, apart from Mile High Illinois is that the technologies of today much more readily afford us the ability to construct such large buildings. Wright designed the Illinois with steel construction in mind. Though this may have been possible at the time, there are serious drawbacks of steel construction at the proposed height of one mile. If not coupled with the use of concrete, serious swaying from wind loads could greatly undermine the useability of the building. Tuned mass dampening would have been implemented for approximately fifteen more years. ("The illinois," 2014)
Also, in the aforementioned floor plans, Wright designed the building with a severe lack of vertical circulation compared to the standards of today. On the 320th floor plan, there is shown only one staircase that is open to the rest of the building. Today, multiple fire-rated stairs would be required by code. Just as interesting, the 528th floor has one elevator serving it with no stair access. Wright stated the lack of proper vertical circulation was attributed to the idea that the building was designed to be fire-proof. ("The illinois," 2014)
Despite its shortcomings, the Mile high Illinois is a work of beauty in an already very illustrious and influential career. The silhouette of the buildings exemplifies a slender beauty that can be rarely found outside of a project of this nature. The elevator banks of the lower levels extend beyond the sloping exterior facade. This imbues the building with the appearance of a triangular pyramid with several parapets rising from the facade. ("The illinois," 2014)
Sadly, the building was designed before its time. Just as many other visionaries have done before, Wright had to leave his creation to posterity to decide its value. It has influenced Skidmore, Owings & Merill's design for the Burj Khalifa and Smith + Gill's design for Kingdom Tower. Perhaps if the Mile High Illinois is never built closely to its original design, it may still live on in the influences it casts upon the people who have been caught in its awe.
Rosenfield, Karissa. "Construction Slated to Begin on 1km Kingdom Tower" 27 Mar 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 02 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=490768>
The illinois. (2014, April 02). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mile_High_Illinois
Photo ReferenceSolt, I. (Photographer). (2014). The Illinois and Burj Dubai comparison [Web Photo]. Retrieved from