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Lecture

SOSC 1731 Lecture Notes - Commuter Town, Urban Design, Infill


Department
Social Science
Course Code
SOSC 1731
Professor
Lewis Code

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Module 4
Part 1: The City Grows Up: Technology and the Modern Skyscraper
Skyscrapers
definition: The skyscraper is a tall building with a steel or reinforced concrete framework that
supports the floors, contents and people that use these buildings. It also supports the weight of
the relatively thin and lightweight outer wall that clads the building and protects the interior from
weather fluctuations.
- **technology** vital here - Remember that Lewis's lectures are all about how technology has
impacted urban places. So, key into the technologies and the outcomes (what this did to urban
places economically, socially, and politically as well as the internal structure of urban places).
Role of steel technology
- strong flexible framework
- steel frame with curtain walls
- much more load bearing capacity while retaining floor space
- enabled buildings to be built much taller than masonry buildings
- now there is no longer a 'cap' on building size as was the case in masonry construction
Why Build Skyscrapers?
- three components to the answer:
1) we have the technological capability to construct such enormous and complex structures
2) industrial cities operate - in a functional sense - to concentrate the types of economic activities
that are easily accommodated in skyscrapers - the Central Business District
3) businesses derive significant economic benefit from central city locations in prestigious, easily
identifiable skyscrapers (Alonso and Bid Rent Theory)
1) Construction Capabilities
- two important technologies here
1) the elevator
- powered by machinery and flexible energy (electricity)
- safe thanks to Elisha Graves Otis
- could not have upward growth without the elevator to transport people and goods
2) innovations in steel production
- Sir Henry Bessemer revolutionizes the steel making process
- easy to mass produce

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- relatively inexpensive to manufacture
- easy to mold
- strong, light and flexible at the same time
- all of the essential ingredients needed to construct a modern skyscraper - technologically
speaking - were in place by 1892
2) The Birth of the Modern Central Business District
- tied up with Alonso's Bid-Rent Theory of urban land use here
- land users, landlords and investors alike must derive a financial benefit from the land that they
occupy or control
- in the CBD, there were two key factors at play here.
- cities were getting larger
- it was becoming easier to interact over the increased area that the larger cities represented
(CBDs expanding)
- transportation and communication technologies involved here
- building upward (the skyscraper) = a much more concentrated CBD
- intensification of land use in ever taller structures
Key points emphasized by Lewis:
- the CBD became the hub of economic, social, political and cultural life
- the railroad was instrumental in defining the nucleus of the CBD and concentrating activities in
the centralized location
- he CBD was progressive, modern and technology-rich
- the CBD was the symbol of the growth, prosperity, diversity and innovations of the city
- cities were organized around an ever-changing, expanding and increasingly complex city core
Key theme:
transportation and communications innovations = fast and efficient movement of people,
product and information over longer distances
but mass transit = concentration in the CBD
- so residential areas spread outward
- economic activities concentrate in the CBD
3) The Economic Benefits of Skyscrapers
- first factor - businesses want to be near the center of things
- face-to-face contact
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- access to bankers, buyers, wholesalers, distributors, lawyers, accountants, specialized advisors
and consultants, etc.
- CBD needs to be physically compact so - it grows up
- second factor - the growing size of the economy that paralleled the growth of cities
- firms were growing in size
- transportation and communication technologies = larger scale operations
- third factor - prestige
- skyscrapers were the outcome of several key factors:
- technological innovation in transportation, communication, production and construction
techniques
- the rapid growth of the Industrial City in terms of its economy, population and the areal extent
of its physical form
- the changing nature and concentration of control and command functions and the burgeoning
service sector (office workers)
- the enduring symbolism of the modern Industrial City that they represented
Alonso's Bid Rent Model
I want to take a moment to review Alonso's model (the audio and graphs) here because it is vital
to the understanding of the concentration of economic activities in the center of the city. I can
guarantee you that there will be *at least *one question on this model.
The model is based on the idea of location Rent. Lewis states that:
- location rent is the amount of money that is paid for the use of a given parcel of land
- location rent is paid out of the net proceeds of the sale of product at market
- variable transportation costs consume different amounts of the net proceeds depending on
location
- thereby leaving differing amounts of money available for bidding for the right to use a given
parcel of land
- location rent, therefore, varies by location depending on transportation costs
In other words, the center of the city is the most accessible = most desirable land = most
expensive land (location rent).
Assumptions
- land is privately owned
- identical producers, perfect competitive environment
- all firms have an identical set of production costs
- market place for goods and services is located in the centre of the city, product must be
transported to the market
- transportation costs are a linear function of distance
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