The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has recently released a new research study titled “Tallest Demolished Buildings” that examines 100 of the tallest buildings ever to have been dismantled by their owners. The report confirms that, if JPMorgan Chase continues with their plans, SOM’s 270 Park Avenue in New York City would become the tallest building ever conventionally demolished, as well as the first over 200 meters in height.
The study showed that in most cases, the buildings were torn down to make way for newer high-rises, as was the case for the current tallest building ever to be demolished, the Singer Building in New York City. The Singer Building stood 187 meters and 41 stories tall until it was torn down in 1968 to make way for One Liberty Plaza.
Not surprisingly, land constraints in dense urban environments along with greater financial potential are two key factors in the decision to demolish a building. CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood said of the study, “We should be thinking of tall buildings as perpetual entities with lifecycles potentially exceeding 100 or 200 years while designing them in such a way that they can be creatively adapted for potential future uses.” However, according to the study, the average lifespan of the 100 tallest demolished buildings is only 41 years.
While economic considerations were most often the primary reasons for demolition, not all of the buildings studied were razed to clear the way for new towers. Structural concerns and even fire damage have also contributed to the ultimate demolition of buildings, such as the 116-meter Ocean Tower on South Padre Island in the US, as well as the 104-meter Edificio Windsor in Madrid respectively. (For the purposes of the study, the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was not classified as a “demolition.”)
More than a quarter of the 100 tallest demolished buildings were built between 1890 and 1920, with the majority of buildings having been located in North American cities.