"a person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm's reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm's reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door."
"Besides an occasional landmark building, the cities in which we live aren’t all that different from the urban environments we’ve had to contend with since the day we were born. Perhaps the only change you might remark on is that there is more of the city today than there once was. But for those of us who engage with culture as an ever-changing expression of the Zeitgeist, it can be frustrating to live in a time capsule that exhibits the frozen relics of an otherwise long-forgotten past. There are, of course, many reasons for this—among them the various demands and requirements of clients, politicians, urban planners, contractors, etc.—but the most fundamental is architecture’s inherent immutability. Once erected, a building’s walls rigidly maintain the status quo, whereas culture at large constantly reinvents itself."
New York and Chicago in particular experienced an intense electrification and metallization, which resulted in the birth of the skyscraper, an original urban form unique to the United States…The iron frame, which allowed masonry walls to be replaced with glass, had been pioneered in European cities such as London and Paris. But it was in America that this metallic endoskeleton evolved into the skyscraper. Electric motors in turn allowed elevators to transport people vertically through these huge towers. Chicago pioneered the use of steel and electricity in the construction industry, catalyzed by the great fire of 1871, which destroyed the city’s commercial center and literally cleared the way for innovative building techniques to be applied. By the 1890s, Chicago was the world capital of the skyscraper, with New York a close second. (A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History 91)
To think a fire had a bigger part in creating the vertical city than Le Corbusier’s grand ideas…