18 aug 08 | The Chicago Tribune

Trump Tower "topping out" vindicates those who said skyscrapers would go on after 9/11

By Blair Kamin

The topping out of the 92-story Trump Tower in Chicago over the weekend represents more than just a construction milestone. It marks a vindication for those who downplayed dire predictions that no more supertall skyscrapers would be built in the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 felled the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Among those who kept a cool head was Adrian Smith, then a partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago and now a partner in the Chicago firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

In a Tribune story published on September 13, 2001, Smith argued that once the initial shock of the attacks had passed, people would still want to live and work in downtown high-rises close to business and cultural centers. As long as that was true, he said, real estate developers would seek to make a profit by meeting that demand.

"You can't stop living," he said. "You have to keep going. If you try to build in all the design criteria that would eliminate this possibility of collapse, you'd have a bunker. You can't live in bunkers."

Events have proved that prediction right. Indeed, far from witnessing the end of the skyscraper, the last seven years have seen an explosion of high-rise construction in the U.S. and around the world. The Burj Dubai, which Smith designed while still at Skidmore, will be the biggest of them all. It is expected to be roughly half a mile tall upon its completion next year--about the same height as the John Hancock Center placed atop Sears Tower.