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Looking Up: Imagining a Vertical Architecture

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReflecting Histories and Directing Futures
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings Series
EditorsAnne Elisabeth Toft, Magnus Rönn, Even Smith Wergeland
PublisherNordic Academic Press of Architectural Research
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)978-91983797-3-0
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019
Publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book
EventNordic Association of Architectural Research NAAR 2017 Symposium, Oslo, Norway 15-16.6.2017 : Reflecting Histories and Directing Futures - Oslo School of Architecture and Design & Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 15 Jun 201716 Jun 2017


ConferenceNordic Association of Architectural Research NAAR 2017 Symposium, Oslo, Norway 15-16.6.2017


Densification is a much-used concept in urban planning in Finland today. Big cities are dealing with a growing population, and a reasonable solution to housing needs seems to be infill construction. Along with the demand for density comes a discussion about vertical building and the role of tall buildings in the city skyline and the townscape. Today’s discussion is updating a similar discussion from the early decades of the 20th century, when the future seemed vertical in many urban planners’ visions, on both sides of the Atlantic. In this article, two such visions from the 1920s are re-visited: Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier’s famous plan for the centre of Paris and Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen’s plan for the lakefront of Chicago. These plans reflected a contemporary belief in technological advancement and showed a master planner attitude with a focus on the whole urban environment. Both planners were also looking upward, although seeing the possibilities of a vertically constructed city somewhat differently. In spite of their forward-reaching visionary qualities, both plans remained on paper, depicting a possible future that is now looked at as an alternate past. These visions and discussions of the previous century could still offer a comprehensive view for the contemporary discussion on urban density and one of its results: the vertical city. Many of the questions that should be answered when increasing densities in today’s cities already had their beginnings in the visions that the 20th century architects offered for the future.


  • high-rise, skyscraper, tall building, townscape, Saarinen, Le Corbusier

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland