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Just Because You Can

The only reason that the old office building at the southeast corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane isn’t in The Structure of Skyscrapers is that it was built in 1902, after the cut-off date for my research. The structure of this little old skyscraper is pretty much identical to those I discussed in the book, and the heavy masonry curtain wall is as well.

Except, of course, at the first and second floors, where the masonry has been replaced by a modern glass curtain wall. The effect of the very modern-appearing base with the old-fashioned wall above appeals to some people I know, so the only aesthetic comment I’ll make is that it’s a matter of taste. The masonry removal has the effect of showing us exactly where the steel columns are, which is to say that they are aligned with the wider masonry piers of the original facade. A form of structural honesty, perhaps…

The masonry removal also highlights the non-structural nature of the wall. It looks very much like the bearing walls on buildings constructed just a few years earlier, but the way that it was cleanly removed makes it clear that this is a curtain wall. With modern structural technology, you could remove the base of a 17-story bearing wall, but the result would look bulky and awkward.