Past Buildings – Future Cities

Aleksandar Sasha Zeljic
Principal, Design Director
Gensler, Chicago

Tall and supertall buildings of the past were mostly conceived as singularities, without consideration of their long-term impact on their immediate context. The future of tall buildings will depend on how they perform within a larger ecosystem of emerging technologies, evolving economic and socio-political dynamics, and rapidly changing natural and built environments.

This study set out to discover the underlying driving factors that lead to the construction of tall buildings over the last century, asking the question: is there a logical and discernible condition that determines when it is the best to build tall? As the world continues to tackle issues such as urbanization, population density, and climate change, will supertall, or even megatall, buildings be a future necessity?

Using precedent research and data analysis on past buildings, researchers built a framework to determine future trends of tall buildings, investigating what regions may be best for the typology of supertall buildings and whether it is economically feasible, technologically possible, and culturally relevant for future markets. Ultimately, the relationship between supertall buildings and their context will become significantly more responsive to drivers of urban growth.