~ a horizontal building at the base of a skyscraper


The base, shaft and crown are the elements of a classical skyscraper. This morphology is typical for the skypricking skyscrapers that started to appear in the 1920’s and can also be explained as street, city and sky. Post-war Modernism reduced this to either single shafts or shafts on distinct bases. When the difference in orientation and the width between the shaft and the base makes them look like two separate buildings on top of each other instead of one integrated building, we speak of a podium instead of a base.

The Lever House in New York City as pictured above can be regarded as a classic example of a podium. It is one of the early designs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill which helped establishing their international reputation in the field of Modern and corporate architecture.

Podiums are a good way to incorporate usages that just need horizontal space, such as conference halls, or street space such as shops or other public amenities. Contrary to the stadnd-alone shafts, podiums offer the opportunity to use urban space that otherwise might be experienced as public emptiness. On the other hand, a horizontally orientated and designed podium might not be the most exciting thing to pass from a pedestrian point of view, especially when the space inside the podium is deemed private.

On the individual building level, existing low-rise building can be re-used as podiums for skyscrapers, as it is the case in the World Trade Center in Rotterdam, or the Hearts Tower in New York City (see below).

Extreme examples of a podium at work can be found in some of the private neighborhoods called housing estates as developed in Hong Kong starting in the 1970’s. Tens of equally designed residential blocks containing thousands of units are neatly stacked on top of a huge podium, which integrates public transport and shops, with private amenities and parks, providing integrated management throughout whole estate.

The 250-meter tall Shenzhen Stock Exchange as designed by OMA takes the podium to a whole new level, literally, by hoisting the whole thing up 6 floors, doubling as a canopy for a public plaza at its feet. As such it combines the characteristics of the podium-less Modernistic skyscrapers, and the ones with a podium.