FOUNDATIONS

4/27/2020

A city is as vain as a young actor who spies their movements through mirrors. Nothing makes a mayor happier than to have a prominent high-rise building poking up above the city’s skyline like a gold medal winner above his competition. These architectural masterpieces can identify a city from one quick glance by an ordinary citizen. Toronto has its CN Tower; Chicago has its Willis (Sears) Tower and New York has its Freedom Tower to replace the World Trade Center that was destroyed to demoralize the country. These premier spires of wealth need to stand on solid ground or else they will fall horizontally like a corpse on the highway, dead and disgusting. A building’s height is pretty much dictated by the rock depth, type, and quality that lies beneath the structure. Without a solid foundation to resist gravity and wind loads, they will become giant fly swatters that chose humans to squash. An (almost) example would be the distinctive angle topped Citigroup Center in New York. Perched on 9 story stilts to give an existing church beneath it an extension on life, the supporting columns were forced from the corners to the mid length by the layout. This unwittingly created a built-in design flaw that was recognized by a young architectural student. If the 400-ton mass damper that was installed to counteract the building sway had failed due to a power loss, the entire structure could topple in a quartering wind load (winds that hit a building at an angle). The design engineer checked the calculations and agreed. Nighttime welding in the occupied building corrected this flaw without public knowledge. With an approaching hurricane that luckily never made landfall, a possible topple of this midtown structure could have dominoed the buildings downstream of its fall, all the way to Central Park. Even with a sturdy foundation, all nations can topple from pride just by given a small, steady push from the right, (wrong) direction. Kind of like the US and Vietnam. 

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