Multistory Buildings

Multistory Buildings


The concept of the multistory building has changed throughout history, depending on the heights of urban structures, which, in turn, have been determined by social, economic, and urban-construction requirements.

Residential and public multistory buildings became widespread in ancient Greek and Roman cities as a result of the need for accelerated construction of inexpensive dwellings to house the low-income population (for example, ancient Roman insulae). They were widespread in medieval cities because only a limited amount of territory could be protected by town walls. Examples of the medieval multistory building were the residences of wealthy European city-dwellers, which had living quarters, workshops, and commercial establishments on the first two floors and warehouses on the upper floors.

During the capitalist period the rapid growth of cities and the considerable rise in costs of urban real estate resulted in great expansion of the construction of multistory buildings. Engineering advances, particularly the invention of the elevator, made it possible to increase heights significantly (16-story Monadnock Building in Chicago, 1891; architects D. H. Burnham and J. W. Root).

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries buildings several dozen stories high (skyscrapers) were constructed in the United States. They were used for offices, banks, hotels, and residences. The Empire State Building (architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon), which was built in New York City in 1930–31, has 102 stories; its height (without the television antenna, which was erected in 1951) is approximately 380 m. Beginning in the late 1940’s, in conjunction with intensive urbanization and, at times, as a result of shortages of space, multistory buildings became widespread in many countries. The typical multistory building has from nine to 17 stories. Taller buildings, which are known as high-rises, frequently serve multiple purposes. For example, the 100-story John Hancock Building in Chicago (1971, architects L. Skidmore, N. A. Owings, and J. O. Merrill) contains stores, a bank, a garage, offices, and apartments.

Under conditions of capitalist urban construction, the spontaneous concentration of multistory buildings in a limited amount of territory and the accumulation of considerable masses of people and means of transport result in the destruction of the functional, hygienic, and aesthetic qualities of the urban environment (transport congestion; noisy, narrow streets devoid of fresh air; a sensation of chaos created by viewing the dense construction of multistory buildings that are of various heights and are frequently architecturally unexpressive).

In the USSR and other socialist countries, multistory buildings are usually erected in accordance with urban construction requirements and in harmony with the general plan of the city. They are built specifically to save space in the center of the city, which is particularly valuable because of the concentration there of expensive communications and engineering equipment. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s seven high-rise buildings with 26 to 32 stories were built in Moscow in accordance with a unified urban construction plan (architects V. G. Gel’freikh, A. N. Dushkin, B. S. Mezentsev, M. A. Minkus, A. G. Mordvinov, L. M. Poliakov, L. V. Rudnev, D. N. Chechulin). The erection of these buildings promoted innovations in the construction industry. Placed in key parts of the capital and crowned with spires, the high-rises imparted to the city a new silhouette and scale. The buildings are characterized by complex compositions of masses of varying heights, abundance of decoration on facades and in the interiors, and a low percentage of living space. The construction of multistory buildings by mass-production methods sharply increased in the USSR during the late 1960’s (in 1973, 20 percent of the total construction of residential buildings). In addition to buildings with the typical nine to 17 stories, structures of 25 or more floors are being erected. Sometimes, multistory buildings form entire complexes (for example, Kalinin Prospect in Moscow, 1964—69; architects M. V. Posokhin and A. A. Mndoiants).

There is no unified classification of multistory buildings. It is customary to consider qualitative changes (as a result of great heights) in planning, design, and technical equipment as criteria for putting a building in the category of multistory buildings. Such buildings require special provisions for fire safety (structures with increased fire resistance, smoke-free staircases, systems of water supply for fire-fighting, and smoke removal equipment) and structural stability under the impact of wind loads (including dynamic loads). Elevator facilities and mechanical equipment are particularly complex in multistory buildings.

Structural stability of residential multistory buildings is achieved, for the most part, through load-bearing cross walls or a braced frame (in the USSR mainly of sectional reinforced concrete). In public buildings structural stability generally is combined with what is referred to as the rigid core (a reinforced-concrete casing enclosing the elevator shafts and mechanical systems, which are assembled together). In high-rise buildings outside of the USSR, core-casing structures are widespread, in which the casing—a load-bearing facade enclosure of the lattice type, made of steel or prestressed reinforced-concrete elements —is linked by the floors to a core situated in the center. These elements form a single system of great rigidity (for example, the two 110-story towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; architects M. Yamasaki and others, 1971–73).

It is very difficult to find expressive architectural solutions for multistory buildings because their enormous size and the repetition of thousands of identical facade elements has a great and, at times, negative influence on the traditional appearance of old cities. Striving to overcome superhuman scales and monotony, architects employ contrasting masses of various heights and, at times, curvilinear contours. They seek expressive proportion and silhouette and have recourse to rhythmic organization of facade elements (for example, the grouping of balconies and their enclosures or windows in an ornamental composition) and effective decoration of facades with stainless steel, aluminum, bronze, or glass (for example, the 38-story Seagram Building in New York City, 1958; architect L. Mies Van der Rohe).


Dykhovichnyi, Iu. A. Konstruirovanie i raschet zhilykh i obshchestvennykh zdanii povyshennoi etazhnosti. Moscow, 1970.
I Mezhdunarodnyi simpozium: Mnogoetazhnye zdaniia. Moscow, 1972. (A collection in English and Russian of papers presented at a symposium in Moscow in October 1971.)
Rafeiner, F. Hochhduser. Planting, Kosten, Bauausführung. Berlin, 1968.


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