That’s just a scroll in his hand!
November 29, 2008 8:20 PM   Subscribe

The source of a recently-broken curse, the tallest statue to adorn the top of any building surmounts the tallest masonry building in the world. A bit of perspective. Too much perspective? posted by Robin Kestrel (33 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
phend?
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:35 PM on November 29, 2008


At 548 feet high, the Philadelphia City Hall was the tallest skyscraper in the world when it was constructed and today it still holds the title of tallest load-bearing structure on the planet.

No.
posted by Tube at 8:45 PM on November 29, 2008


Tube, why don't you explain to us why the answer is "No?"

I just took some students on a tour of City Hall in the spring - this will be some neat further information to share with them. Thank you!
posted by chihiro at 9:15 PM on November 29, 2008


1. Sports "curses" are passe.

2. From the inside of William Penn's head, his eyes look like big meaty nipples.
posted by Eekacat at 9:20 PM on November 29, 2008


I don't know for sure, but I think Tube is implying that the important word "masonry" was left out of that sentence. Obviously, the steel frame inside any modern skyscraper is a "load bearing structure."
posted by maxwelton at 9:30 PM on November 29, 2008


The tallest masonry structure in the world might be what Tube is getting at. Either way, the posted building is awesome.
posted by stet at 9:41 PM on November 29, 2008


> Tube, why don't you explain to us why the answer is "No?"

Doing some research, the definition of the term is "load bearing walls." I would have to say that with that definition, the building is the tallest.

The building's walls are carrying the load, and as such, it is the highest structure (548ft) to do so. Steel and I beam construction use a framing system, to transfer load to central structures, which means that the entire building itself is not load bearing. More like a matrix or a shell that holds up the roof and supports the individual floors. In the City Hall you can test every masonry wall and say that it is in fact distributing and holding up the weight of the roof. In a modern skyscraper, almost all the walls are fake, and not part of the grand structure, so one could consider that the structure (the rooms, floor plan, offices, etc.) is not infact load bearing. Those are just things designed to fill in the gaps around the frame that has been built out of steel.

Which is why all current commercial buildings are built with steel instead of brick. You want a floor that is entirely open to be a gym or a retail outlet? not a problem, non of the walls are load bearing, just knock them out.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:00 PM on November 29, 2008


stet- the challenge is, would the Stack support a load or not. One could build a structure that could support itself, but could not support a significant load.

Also, since the stack is not a building (but in fact, a giant Tube), it could be classified as the tallest load bearing building, with the stack as the largest structure.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:02 PM on November 29, 2008


it could be classified as the tallest load bearing building

it being City Hall
posted by mrzarquon at 10:03 PM on November 29, 2008


Doing some research, the definition of the term is "load bearing walls." I would have to say that with that definition, the building is the tallest.

Ok, but the text I italicized reads tallest load-bearing structure, and that is a mistake.

Sorry, I didn't mean to be cryptic, I thought that would be an obvious mistake for most everyone.

Obviously the tallest load-bearing structure in the world is the Burj Dubai.
posted by Tube at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2008


Nifty post.

I was surprised that Inside William Penn's Head was something other than a blog.
posted by rokusan at 10:47 PM on November 29, 2008


> Ok, but the text I italicized reads tallest load-bearing structure, and that is a mistake.

Tube- you are right, it is an incorrect statement / sloppy reporting. But apparently it is the shorthand for "tallest load bearing structure == masonry building" as in the whole building, rooms, walls, etc. are part of the structure.

The Burj Dubai structure is just the steel beam framework supporting the whole thing, not the walls or the shops, those are just set dressings if you would. And that is probably a splitting of hairs that the city of hall folks encourage, as it keeps their building on the top of the list. Since it also had the title of tallest building, and the first non religious building to be so, at the time of it's construction.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:11 PM on November 29, 2008


When I was in high school, and before it was demolished, my father and I visited the tallest and possibly largest free standing masonry structure in the world.. Not a "building" in the sense that it was intended for human habitation, but neither is the Washington Monument at 555 feet, 5 and a half inches.

I thought the Washington Monument was the tallest masonry structure, but I'm glad I checked Wikipedia, as its claimed that "the Washington Monument would easily fit inside".(The Anaconda Smelter Stack).

Sorry, this is all probably all a derail; back to William Penn's Head and sports superstitions...
posted by Tube at 11:23 PM on November 29, 2008


Question:

The graffiti here?

1987 or 1887?
posted by empath at 12:17 AM on November 30, 2008


empath, looking at the style of the lettering, I would say 1987. The real question is does Susan still luv Sam?

Nice post, thanks.
posted by JujuB at 12:30 AM on November 30, 2008


Yeah, I'm so pleased I just had breakfast before I looked at this.
posted by mandal at 3:22 AM on November 30, 2008


When I was in high school, and before it was demolished
Tube, the Wikipedia article you link says that the stack is still standing, although the smelter was demolished.
posted by beagle at 5:05 AM on November 30, 2008


I thought the Monadnock Building in Chicago was similar in height, but it's "only" 197 feet tall. Standing next to the six foot thick solid brick wall and looking up, I feel the incredible weight pressing on each brick.

It's pretty amazing to build the Philadelphia City Hall over 500 feet high. The granite blocks would have to be carefully designed to carry the load. But Chartres Cathedral's spire is 349 feet tall, so builders have been pushing the limits of masonry construction for a long time.
posted by jjj606 at 5:22 AM on November 30, 2008


Too much perspective?

Nonsense! That perspective is a municipal treasure! From Atom and His Package's song about Philly:

The statue of William Penn stands on City Hall, yeah, well, he's kind of a loner.
If you look at him from the right angle it looks like he has a boner.

posted by Greg Nog at 6:13 AM on November 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Sorry, I didn't mean to be cryptic, I thought that would be an obvious mistake for most everyone.

Tube, while the statement you quoted was clumsy and inaccurate, it directly followed a paragraph which you didn't quote which made its real meaning perfectly clear. Thus, I easily figured out what the original author meant and found your perfunctory "no" rather inexplicable.
posted by localroger at 6:15 AM on November 30, 2008


I find it astonishing that adults can believe that a statue and it's relative height to other buildings can be responsible for the fortunes of a load of people playing sports. I find it unsurprising and a sign of a lack of education that people believed that sort of thing 200 years ago, but to still cling to that sort of primitive bullshit now is....

I truly can't find words that are enough.

If this is all a little bit tongue in cheek, then I can enjoy it. If anyone is more than 20% serious? I weep for them.
posted by Brockles at 6:24 AM on November 30, 2008


Brockles, well over half the population seriously believe in an invisible magic sky being that might do you favors if you are really nice to him. Superstitions are a relatively benign phenomenon by comparison, and pretty universal; we're wired to overgeneralize this kind of thing.
posted by localroger at 7:34 AM on November 30, 2008


Well, I was deliberately avoiding going there.

However, religious types laugh at superstitions too, so it isn't directly applicable. The idea that something as random as a building height could make a dead person (normal dead, you know. Just a rotting/rotted corpse) care enough to make a team of lots of people not hit something hard enough, or run fast enough, or train hard enough, or make another team better out of spite is just...well. It's Pre-School thinking. After all, why would this dead being just not curse the builders of the higher building? Or the occupants? Or the people that approved the planning? Why would they think that sports (which truly doesn't matter in any real sense) is a good way to get revenge?

The fact that it is in the slightest bit entertained, as opposed to an in-joke, is incredible. Mind you superstitions are pretty much all borne either of uneducated minds or those that choose to ignore science, causality, evidence and logic, I guess. It'd be nice if, as a species, we could actually get past that level of ignorance, rather than encouraging it, mind you.
posted by Brockles at 7:52 AM on November 30, 2008


The Burj Dubai structure is just the steel beam framework supporting the whole thing

Nitpicking, but I'm pretty sure that the Burj Dubai is actually reinforced concrete, not steel beams. Many of the recent crop of skyscrapers are reinforced concrete, as is the CN tower.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2008


Just the concrete-framed part of the Burj Dubai would be the tallest building all on it's own (550m+), but then they went and put another 300m+ steel-framed building on top just because.
posted by blasdelf at 9:23 AM on November 30, 2008


Many of the recent crop of skyscrapers are reinforced concrete, as is the CN tower.

Like many Seattle residents, I had a vague notion for a long time that Seattle's Space Needle was truly unique. Imagine my surprise upon visiting the CN tower in Toronto! Not only was it also a tower, it was vastly taller than Seattle's Space Needle. At the time, it was the tallest freestanding structure in the world. Note that you must include the modifier freestanding, as there was a guy-wire-supported-radio-mast that was taller.

Philadelphia City Hall is not the "tallest load-bearing structure" in the world. It's not even the tallest masonry load-bearing structure in the world.

The OP is phrased "the tallest masonry building in the world" and I think that's a correct designation, and kudos to Robin Kestrel for using words and terms correctly, as "building" implies "structure intended for human habitation".

But if some of you want to demonize me as an anal "grammar Nazi" type, I shall confess to the following true story: Upon reading a Seattle Times or Post Intelligencer story about recycling that included the term "tin can" I sent a complaining e-mail to the author. Surprisingly, the author wrote me back, and laid the blame on the city's original press release...
posted by Tube at 9:27 AM on November 30, 2008


In terms of masonry buildings, Ulm Cathedral, at 530 feet, is pretty impressive, too. I guess that's what Philly town hall probably surpassed, though. And Lincoln was reportedly 525' for a while (when there was a spire on the crossing tower). Or St. Peters, with a DOME going to 440 feet.
OTOH, the pyramid of Khafre was 448 feet, and stood up for a while. . .
Interesting OP.
posted by Capybara at 9:35 AM on November 30, 2008


Interesting stuff, thanks Robin Kestrel!
posted by carter at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2008


At least they didn't put a jersey on the statue this time.
posted by fixedgear at 10:20 AM on November 30, 2008


Tallest (actually largest) masonry building in the US - not the world.
posted by Zambrano at 10:44 AM on November 30, 2008


Dang, I lived in Philly for ten years and never knew there was an observation deck up there.
posted by moonmilk at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2008


A good portion of the building is off limits to the public as obviously the Mayor's Office and other important stuff like the Court of Common Pleas are located there. I just started working in the judicial system not long ago and got my badge to access restricted areas and can't wait to start exploring, it's such an awesomely oddball building.
posted by The Straightener at 7:09 AM on December 1, 2008


The Burj Dubai structure is just the steel beam framework supporting the whole thing, not the walls or the shops, those are just set dressings if you would.

Yeah, like ROU_Xenophobe says, the bulk of the load isn't borne buy by a steel framework. One of the things that makes the Burj so interesting structurally is that it's got a concrete core rather than the steel latticework of the majority of skyscrapers built in the last century.

I tend to think of the Burj's structural system like a coniferous tree, with the trunk supporting the branches (floors) which radiate from the center. Most traditional skyscrapers use a variation on the the Jenny Steel Frame method, which has been accurately described above as a matrix.

Masonry buildings, the subject of this post, use a shell (i.e. an exterior wall) to bear live and dead loads. An excellent book on the subject is Mario Salvidori's Why Buildings Stand Up.

Most buildings' structures are hybrids of the above structural systems; in Gothic cathedrals, for instance, the walls bear some of the load, but flying buttresses bear a great deal as well. Anyway.
posted by andromache at 8:06 AM on December 1, 2008


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