“The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis”

Citicorp Center in New York is a striking building for lots of reasons, but the most obvious is that it sits on four huge “stilts” that allow one corner to hover over a church. Less obvious is its massive motion dampening system, developed to reduce wind-induced motion sickness in tenents.

Its most interesting aspect, though, is what happened when its structural engineer realized, several years after its completion, that his structure might not be as safe as it should be under significant wind loads, and what he did about it. Let’s be clear: when I say “not as safe as it should be,” I mean he realized the 59-story skyscraper might fall down.

Seventeen years later, Joe Morgenstern wrote a long piece in the New Yorker about what happened next; it’s online here and is well worth your time.

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