A Vertical Industrial Park Designed for the Central City


In the early 1970s factories were moving to suburbs, leaving central cities with diminishing tax bases and many people without employment. Large parcels of inexpensive, empty land in the suburbs and tax incentives attracted industry. Tens of thousands of acres of productive farmland were turned into parking lots, building sites, and highways, with the aid and encouragement of local governments. Without access to public transportation, employees had to drive to work, leading to vast amounts of pollution and suburban sprawl.

Few inner-city industrial plants pro­vided the flexible space often needed by modern industry, land in the city was expensive, and It was hard to acquire adjoining land for expansion. I thought the answer to that problem might be a multi-tenant, multi-level, multi-purpose, highly flexible building. I called it, “INDUSTRUCTURE.”

Industructure must provide a large amount of flexible manufacturing space on a relatively small parcel of land, have direct connection to railroads and other public transportation, and be easily accessible from workers’ homes.

One such design might be a 760 x 360 ft. building on a site centered over a depressed railroad right-of-way. Tracks would pass through the upper of two basement levels. Part of the ground floor and the mezzanine above would be for parking, the need for which would diminish in time. The four full floors above the mezzanine would be for manufacturing, and the smaller top floor for offices, restaurants, etc.

Twenty-eight massive columns, 120 ft. on center, would extend up to the top floor, where they would support a system of perpendicular interlocking trusses. The floors, up through the level above the mezzanine, would be supported by the massive columns and secondary columns 40 ft. on center. The floors above would be suspended by structural members, also 40 ft. on center, hung from the truss system above. When manufacturing operations require, the structural hangers can be relocated, provided that additional hangers are added and spans kept to less than 40 ft. This structural system leaves the production level above the mezzanines free of vertical supports except for the large columns 120 ft. apart. The roof structure of the smaller top floor is sup­ported by columns 40 ft. on center, which rest on the truss system.

Optical measurements or strain gauges monitored at a central station would warn against overloading. Excessive stresses resulting from the movement of the structural hangers or installation of very heavy machinery can be accommodated by reinforcing overloaded beams with steel plates.

As drastic changes are taking place in the movement of goods and must be dealt with as we move into the future, flexibility is insurance against obsolescence. Containerization of freight makes sense for many manufactured goods today. However, other possibilities and changes must be expected. As rail is more fuel-efficient than trucking, we must plan for and expand its use, while keeping all possibilities open. Trains would enter Industructure at the upper basement level, and trucks at street level. Containers could be taken directly to production floors by elevators. Should conditions require, elevators could be installed capable of lifting freight cars or tractor-trailers directly to production floors. Cargo can also be loaded or unloaded by conveyors connected directly into production lines anywhere in the structure. Freight elevators and vertical conveyors can be installed between floors so that continuous production processes may take place on several floor levels. Reflecting conditions in 1972, the accompanying illustrations show a greater use of elevators for tractor-trailers and freight cars than makes sense today.


A subway tunnel is envisioned beneath the rail­road right-of-way which passes through Industructure. Escalators bring passengers from the subway station to production floors, and elevators can bring them directly to the top floor. Pedestrians and bus passengers enter at street level and motorists park on the mezzanine level. This building, other high-density manufacturing facilities, shop­ping areas, and high-density residential districts arranged along a transportation route would enable this route to work well.

Long-span multi-story structural bays, floors able to carry heavy loads, other features needed for flexibility, and the cost of elevators would result in manufacturing space considerably more expensive than in a typical one-story factory. How­ever, there would be substantial savings in land costs, in the construction and maintenance of parking lots and landscaping, and in freight and human transportation versus designs where most everything is far apart. When the cost of petroleum soars, and we finally must reduce energy consumption to minimize global warming, single-story manufacturing operations in remote areas will become untenable, and we will have rely more on locally produced products. What might look impossible now might be essential in our future. What we now see as desirable; may become impossible. It is foolish not to plan for this inevitability.