McMahan, Joshua (2023-11). The Vertical City. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • The Vertical City was a project meant to reexamine the role of skyscrapers within the urban environment. Rather than seeing skyscrapers as just another low to mid-rise building placed within the context of the city, the Vertical City sought to explore what would happen if the skyscraper was treated as a vertical extension of the city itself. While many skyscrapers have taken approaches to change how the skyscraper is integrated within a city, most skyscrapers are inaccessible to the average urban pedestrian. Not in that you can't enter them, but rather, they are meant to be utilized only for the patrons who rent space within the building. As such, most skyscrapers don't have the same feeling of belonging that your local coffee shop might. While part of the reason for this stems from the monumentality of a skyscraper, that conception is often born from the notion that skyscrapers are representations of major corporations and thus have no place for the individual wanting to simply relax and read or grab a coffee. In order to overcome this, a different approach was taken that developed the skyscraper with the concept of a vertical city in mind. This came down to three main design aspects: urban approach, vertical purpose, and green infusion. All three elements were derived from components that make up great cities and would be developed utilizing concepts for good city design. Urban approach is a concept meant to reconfigure the transition from the horizontal plane of the city to the vertical plane of the skyscraper. While both the infrastructure of the skyscraper and the streets of the city serve as a way to travel from one point to another, there is a stark difference in the sense of community that each one provides. Utilizing an urban approach to infrastructure design would help mediate this difference and help create a stronger sense of connection within the building. Vertical purpose stems from the concept that cities need a variety of business, commercial, and residential in close proximity in order to flourish. By doing so, it allows for a variety of pedestrian traffic throughout the day making the city feel alive and helping smaller businesses that give a city its character stay open. Green infusion refers to the concept of green community space. Most great cities have a variety of parks and green spaces for the community to meet up, relax, and spend part of their day. As such, it is important that those "moments" occur throughout the skyscraper. While this element alone doesn't result in a vertical city, the culmination of all of these concepts create the essence of a vertical city. While more of a conceptual project, steps were taken in order to make this new design more feasible. With innovative design often come new costs and so it is important to consider the economics of the project. This was done by designing in such a way that new elements would serve multiple purposes thus reducing costs and giving credence to any new design elements.

publication date

  • October 2023