No-one seemed to Guess My Overarching Narrative, but the gist is the morphology of the skyscraper as it passes through Chicago, through Berlin and ends up at Moscow...the Soviet skyscraper is a fascinating and under-researched thing. There's something very cool about Nikolai Ladovsky's Psycho-Technical Laboratory declaring itself to have 'solved the problem of the skyscraper' in 1926, in a country whre 6 floors was considered a bit excessive. Perhaps the finest of the skyscrapers produced by the aforementioned laboratory is a huge, stepped tower, a series of oblongs stacked up (exhibiting a familiarity with the New York zoning code) into a vertiginous collage, intrinsically opposed to the pure aesthetic object approach (cf Le Corbusier's Cartesian skyscraper).
What I won't be writing about, for reasons of space and sanity, is what happens when these designs return to Chicago. Via Ludwig Hilberseimer, there's little doubt that Chicago's architectural schools in the 60s would have known their Soviet Modernism pretty well, and there's an echo of the Ladovsky tower in Bruce Graham/SOM's vast, stepped Sears Tower, tallest building in the world for an impressively long reign. The interesting thing about the Sears tower though, already a rather hard, militaristic looking thing - all darkside blacks and harsh lines - is how fundamentally uninhabitable it was. Not only do the upper floors shake to the extent that no-one will keep an office in there, but apparently on occasion the windows have been blown in. After a certain height, the skyscraper becomes a kind of capitalist potlatch - never mind, the function, how high!