15 February 2007

Mythical Heights

As the downtown Columbia discussion continues, one of the constants has been the polarization of the community over building height. Today’s Columbia Flier includes two letters to the editor that address the building height issue. Over the last year and a half, I have heard people mention Washington DC and Paris as good models regarding building height. I addressed these models in the following post. Recently, I came across this website, which catalogs buildings all over the world. From this database, I have compiled a list of buildings in Washington DC that would violate “the coalition” recommended (Stated? Suggested? Wished?) height limit of 140 feet:

Old Post Office Building, 12 floors, 315 ft
One Franklin Square, 12 floors, 210 ft
Healy Building, 4 floors, 200 ft (on U Georgetown Campus)
700 Eleventh Street, 13 floors, 199 ft
Renaissance Washington DC Hotel, 15, floors, 188 ft
1090 Vermont Avenue, 12 floors, 187 ft
The Tower Building, 14 floors, 177 ft
National Archives Building, 8 floors, 166 ft
Cairo Hotel Condominiums, 14 floors, 164 ft
1625 Eye Street, 12 floors, 162 ft
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, 14 floors, 160 ft
World Bank Headquarters, 13 floors, 160 ft
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, 13 floors, 160 ft
1000 Connecticut Avenue, 13 floors, 156 ft
Capital Hilton, 13 floors, 155 ft
1875 K Street, 12 floors, 155 ft
Wyndham Washington DC, 14 floors, 153 ft
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, 13 floors, 153 ft
Washington Gas Building, 15 floors, 152 ft
William T. Golden Center for Science and Engineering, 12 floors, 151 ft
Connecticut Connection, 12 floors, 150 ft
1225 Eye Street, 12 floors, 149 ft
1201 Eye Street, 12 floors, 148 ft
Columbia Square, 13 floors, 148 ft
Madison Hotel, 14 floors, 144 ft
1100 17th Street, 12 floors, 144 ft
Potomac Electric Company Building, 10 floors, 143 ft
1000 Connecticut Avenue, 13 floors, 156 ft
National Press Building, 13 floors, 141 ft

Similarly, a list of the ten tallest buildings in Paris reveal a higher than expected skyline:

Paris' 10 tallest skyscrapers:

Tour Montparnasse, 59 stories, 689 ft.
Total Fina Elf, 48 stories, 614 ft.
Tour Gan, 42 stories, 604 ft.
Societe Generale I, 38 stories, 548 ft.
Societe Generale II, 37 stories, 548 ft
Coeur Defense, 40 stories, 528 ft.
Tour Axa, 41 stories, 521 ft.
Tour Egee, 40 stories, 509 ft.
Tour Adria, 40 stories, 509 ft.

So what do you think? Is the longing for a DC or Parisian skyline in keeping with the reality on the ground?


Tag(Carpet)Bagger said...

Both cities, and especially DC are built to impress. I can't help but think that helter skelter tall buildings in DC would undo a masterpiece...

pzguru said...

Why are you comparing Town Center to Paris and DC? Yes, DC has height limits, and maybe that height limit is higher than any building in Town Center, but it's an apples to oranges analogy.

If you wanted to go that route though, let's take what's being proposed for TC and apply it to DC. Let's say that the tallest existing building in DC was 200'. But a bunch of people think DC is not vibrant enough, so they want to revitalize it. So they decide to allow new buildings up to 400' tall (twice the current height of the tallest building) or maybe 600' tall (three times as tall). The new buildings would be vastly out of scale and context with the city. Sure, as a few more additional 400' tall buildings are built, the skyline might not look quite as odd. But even over a period of 20 or 30 years, you won't have every building recosntructed at a similar height. It is not a practical or logical way of planning or developing a city or urban area.

Right now, the tallest building in TC is maybe 12 stories (I'm not exactly sure but it's got to be one of the office buildings directly across LPP from Symphony Woods). Suddenly the rules are changed and buildings can be built 24 stories tall. How odd will that look? Extremely is the answer. Not to mention that existing buildings will now be shadowed by the newer, taller building(s). Not sure that the tenants or residents in the shorter buildings would like that. For instance, the 3-4 story garden apartment for elderly persons that was built where the old movie theater was. I don;t think those residents would appreciate being surrounded by skyscrapers - that's not why they bought a unit in that building.

B. Santos said...


My friend, slow down here. In my post, I stated that others have pointed to DC and Paris as good examples of limiting building height. I just was providing the data as to what buildings have been built under what they think is a responsible building height program.

pzguru said...

I understand. But you were also making the point that you think the height limit idea is not ok by saying that certain buildings in those cities would not be permitted in Columbia if height limits are imposed in Columbia, right? My point is that you can't take a bunch of buildings in a much bigger city than Columbia and say that height limits would not allow those particular buildings, and therefore height limits would be a bad idea.