Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 

Reflections: Thoughts from Past Chairmen and CTBUH Leaders
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The story of the evolution of the CTBUH is at once one about the coming together of brilliant, talented individuals and the growth of a worldwide body of knowledge.  Throughout the 40 years of its varied existence, the organization has been furthered principally through the sharing of technical knowledge and insight.  Such international collaboration—in spite of the myriad obstacles involved in doing so—required not only expertise in the field of tall buildings but passion for it as well.  And beneath the breadth and diversity of backgrounds and interests characterized by those integral to the Council’s history lies a common thread of passion that has sustained the organization and garnered the respect of the industry it represents.

To be sure, this passion for the Council’s body of work is an unspoken and assumed prerequisite for the role of a CTBUH Leader.  Those who have served in these roles throughout the organization’s history have dedicated incalculable time, energy and creativity to these volunteer positions, with a multitude of aspirations that include the perpetual sharing of insight brought on by a field that time and again demonstrates impressive innovation.

For its 40th anniversary, the CTBUH has collected reflections of past chairmen and other CTBUH Leaders, which highlight the organization’s fruitful existence through four decades.  In their writings, these notable individuals demonstrate the mutual respect and admiration that serves as a cornerstone to the Council’s collaborative structure.  Alongside this respect is an indication of the passion that has furthered the growth of the organization throughout its history, and will likely guide it through many more decades to come.


Mir M. Ali - Advisory Group Member (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)
Gilberto do Valle - CTBUH Chairman (1993-1996), CTBUH Fellow (2006)
Ron Klemencic - CTBUH Chairman (2001-2006)
Ryszard M. Kowalczyk - Advisory Group (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)
R. Shankar Nair - CTBUH Chairman (1997-2001)
John Rankine - CTBUH Chairman (1982-1985)
Leslie Earl Robertson - CTBUH Chairman (1985-1990)
David Scott - CTBUH Chairman (2006-2009)
Robert Solomon - Associate Director (1990-1993)
Antony Wood - Executive Director (2006-current)

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. Mir M. Ali, Urbana-Champaign, USA
Advisory Group Member (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)

I got involved with CTBUH since 1990 when I was appointed the Chairman of Committee 30: Architecture.  I assumed the task of producing a monograph on the architecture of tall buildings. I contacted many experts internationally and solicited contributions. The 750-page monograph with contributions from 32 contributors was published by McGraw-Hill in 1995. During this process I communicated with Lynn S. Beedle, the Director of CTBUH and  on occasions Bill P. Lim, Chairman of Group PC: Planning and Environmental Criteria. It was a lot of work for me but I enjoyed every moment of it since it gave me the opportunity for working closely with Lynn Beedle and other eminent people in the field.
Mir M. Ali, Advisory Group Member (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)


Subsequently in 1999 I became the Chairman of the newly formed Group PA: Planning and Architecture and a member of the Steering Committee of the Council. In the Chairman’s role I was responsible for overseeing eight topical committees. I was instrumental in proposing some revisions to all committee names in light of latest developments in the respective field, which were adopted by the Executive Committee. I attended most Steering Group and Executive Committee meetings. I also attended all World Congresses to date since 1990 and organized workshops in Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Melbourne. The idea of a bulletin was discussed during the Amsterdam Congress in 1995. Shankar Nair had an active role in this. I wrote a piece “On My Mind…” in the Council’s newsletter The Times in August, 1995 exclusively devoting it to justify the need for a bulletin, which later evolved into the online CTBUH Review journal, which was  approved by the Executive Committee in a New York meeting in 1998. I was appointed the first editor that year and the journal was launched in 1999.

The name of CTBUH does not have the word “international” before it for which I had to explain to others who were not familiar with the organization that it is an international organization. I found that somewhat awkward. I brought this up to Lynn. In an Executive Committee meeting in New York, CTBUH Chairman Gilberto do Valle mentioned that this matter was once deliberated by Fazlur Khan and others and they felt the title was appropriate without the word “international.”


Fazlur Khan also defined the height of the tall building as the distance between the finished grade at its main entrance to the top of its structure. This definition was revisited and deliberated in 2004 by the Council’s Height Committee appointed by Ron Klemencic, Chairman of CTBUH at that time. I was a member of the Committee. Many interesting and provocative discussions among committee members took place via email. Khan’s definition still remains the official definition of how the Council measures the top of a tall building. The height issue became critical when CTBUH had to make a decision on the title of the “tallest building of the world” when the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur was completed in 1996. Some controversy arose at that time, but following the official definition of height, CTBUH declared the Petronas Tower as the winner of the title over the Sear Tower that held this title so long since 1974.

I visited CTBUH Headquarters in Bethlehem in 1999 to carry out research on Fazlur Khan when I was in the middle of writing a book on him. I met Lynn and other staff there and checked the library and slide collections, and gave a seminar at Lehigh University. It was a good experience for me to be at the HQ of the organization and see firsthand its functions and activities.

I was invited by Ron Klemencic, the then CTBUH Chairman, to edit a book of tributes on Lynn Beedle in 2003. I accepted the invitation. The idea was conceived by Ryszard Kowalczyk, who proposed it to Ron after discussions with me and others. The project was funded with a generous gift from Sabah Al-Rayes. When I called Lynn on his cell phone to tell him about it, he was driving and he stopped at a parking lot to hear the details. He sounded very happy and assured me to help me by giving me any information that I needed from him. He provided me with a lot of information, pictures and archival materials that I requested when he was in a critical stage fighting for his life with terminal illness. The book was published by CTBUH in 2004 after his death. In a note of thanks to me after the book was published, his wife Ella Beedle wrote that Lynn was very busy before his death working on the “last project of his life.”


Gilberto do Valle, CTBUH Chairman (1993-1996) Gilberto do Valle, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
CTBUH Chairman (1993-1996)

I was scheduled to attend a Congress of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers at Rome (September 1991) where I would be elected as Vice-President of IABSE. Lynn Beedle was aware of my schedule, phoned me and said: “Since you will be traveling to Rome, why not stop by New York.  Les Robertson, Don Ross and I would like to have lunch with you.”  So I made a stop in New York for the scheduled lunch, and almost fell off my chair when they said, “We would like to invite you to be the next Chairman of CTBUH.”  “Why me?”, I asked.  “Because you have attended all the meetings of the Executive Committee since you took on the role as Vice Chairman for South America, and you have attended this lunch.  This means that you believe in CTBUH.”

Gilberto do Valle, CTBUH Chairman (1993-1996)

From then on, for anyone who knew Lynn, phone calls and fax messages came almost every day (email was still a thing of the future).  As a result of a mistake by my secretary, Lynn also learned the telephone number of my summer home (outside of Rio); so, during the weekends we had many telephone conferences! At that time, the CTBUH finances were always in the red and we had to work very hard with Lehigh University to try to right the situation but, I am afraid to say, this never happened during my term. All of that, however, was compensated with the pleasure of having so many good friends at the meetings: Don Ross (Jaros Baum & Bolles) as host, with fantastic New York sandwiches for lunch, Shankar Nair, Sabah Al-Rayes, Ken Yeang, Edison Musa, Doug Bennett (of Turner Construction, who later took on the role of host), Ron Klemencic, Jerry Reich, Charlie DeBenedittis, Joe Colaço, Irwin Cantor, and many others; as well as the Council staff of Dolores and Geri.   

I always remember with pleasure my visit to the Council’s headquarters at Lehigh.  Lynn was very honored and happy about this and showed me all of the offices, the work the staff was doing, the Library, and the  archives with hundreds of photos and facts tied to Tall Buildings. And I also toured the Fritz Engineering Laboratory where Lynn worked at the beginning of his career at Lehigh University.

When I passed the command to Shankar in 1997 the “ceremony” took place at the top of the Sears Tower. At the time the Sears Tower was being surpassed by the Petronas Towers, Chicago pride was being hurt, and the press was anxious to know what the Council’s ruling was going to be.  Would those pinnacles of the Petronas Towers defeat the Sears Tower? Lynn Beedle received the press and gave them the decision and a diplomatic solution: “We will create a new listing of the tallest building to the highest occupied floor.”  Chicago could continue to keep its honor for several years to come. I couldn’t believe what a fantastic, shining day it was when we took the photograph on the roof of the Sears Tower; no clouds and a 10km round view.


Ron Klemencic, CTBUH Chairman (2001-2006) Ron Klemencic, Seattle, USA
CTBUH Chairman (2001-2006)

I had my first interactions with CTBUH around 1990. I was working on the design of a tall concrete tower for a Japanese client and the client suggested that the project design team travel to Hong Kong to attend the CTBUH World Congress. This trip was my first to Hong Kong, in fact my first to Asia, and WOW, …what an eye opening experience. Hundreds and hundreds of very tall buildings that I had never seen before… all in one location. Who designed all of these buildings, I wondered?

The Congress itself was an eye opener as well. Attended by something like 600 of the world’s top architects, engineers and contractors, I remember distinctly catching a glimpse of some of the “rock stars” of the industry—Walter P. Moore, Les Robertson, Gene Kohn, Richard Keating, and so on… then there was Dr. Lynn Beedle… the energetic, charismatic man leading the Council and the Congress.

Ron Klemencic, CTBUH Chairman (2001-2006)

Interestingly, my senior project at Purdue University was based on a book written by Dr. Beedle, Plastic Design of Steel Structures. As a senior at Purdue, I simply thought the material in his book was an interesting and exciting design direction. I had no idea our paths would ever cross, or what a huge influence Dr. Beedle would have on my career.

I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Beedle at the Congress and spend a few minutes chatting with him.   Always the promoter, Dr. Beedle had me signed up as a member of the organization and assigned to a committee before that first conversation ended. Being simply bedazzled by the energy of the Congress on the construction-crazy Hong Kong environment, I returned from the trip with a clear and specific vision of what I wanted to do… design tall buildings… cool tall buildings… all around the world.

Over the course of the next few years, I actively engaged in CTBUH activities, attending other conferences and committee meetings, networking with the “who’s who” of the tall buildings industry.   The opportunity to learn from the best in the world was profound.

By the late 1990s I had entered a leadership role in CTBUH, first serving as the Finance Committee Chair, then as Congress Chair of the 7th World Congress in Melbourne, Australia, and ultimately was appointed CTBUH Chairman in the summer of 2001. I accepted the Chairmanship two months before the attacks of 9/11.

The 9/11 attacks resulted in the media reporting the “end of the high rise” in a panic-ridden time.  Immediately, the Council was called upon to attempt to assess what the collapse of the World Trade Center towers meant for the future of high rises and tall building safety. Industry leadership was the call of the Council for the ensuing months and even into the next few years. Countless meetings, seminars, and phone conferences resulted in CTBUH publishing the first set of high rise safety guidelines in the fall of 2002.

During my term in service as Chairman, I had tremendous opportunities to travel and interact with some of the most interesting and engaging people in the industry and around the world. Prince Charles, the Mayors of Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, London, Seoul, and Shanghai, the President of Taiwan, and countless other dignitaries were among the numbers. I relished the opportunity of interacting and learning from colleagues around the globe… not just technical engineering information, but also business and cultural practices.  What an enjoyable and fascinating journey. I remain most honored and privileged to have served the CTBUH organization in this capacity and happily remain active today, serving on the Board of Trustees.



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Ryszard M. Kowalczyk - Advisory Group Member (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)
Ryszard M. Kowalczyk, Warsaw, Poland
Advisory Group Member (current), CTBUH Fellow (2009)

Since I have been involved in Council on Tall Building activity from the very beginning, it is extremely difficult to select some particular events of this long, already lasting 40 years story. Let’s start from the very beginning.

When I joined the “Joint Committee on Tall Buildings” I previously had little to do with tall buildings. The only prior involvement I had was my work at a special unit established by the Polish Academy of Science to study the achievements in the building of the “Palace of Culture and Science” in Warsaw. Poland at this time belonged to the communist part of the world, and the tallest building in Warsaw, “Palace of Culture and Science,” was a gift of the Soviet Union and was designed and built by the Russians.  Its form and architecture was kept in the specific Russian style of this time, known from similar buildings built in Moscow. It was built in 1955 and has 42 stories and a height with spire reaching 237 meters...click here to read Ryszard's full report.
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Shankar Nair, CTBUH Chairman (1997-2001) R. Shankar Nair, Chicago, USA
CTBUH Chai
rman (1997-2001)

My term as chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ended just weeks before September 11th 2001, when the world of tall buildings was suddenly turned upside-down.  Thoughtful people know of course that what happened that day was a security failure, not a building failure, and that the lesson of 9/11 is not that tall buildings should be built differently; it is that criminals should be prevented from flying airplanes into buildings.  But this wasn’t obvious at the time, at least to the general public, and correcting the misperception gave the Council an immediate and critical raison d’être.  

But this was after my tenure.  In the years leading up to 9/11, the challenge facing the Council was to answer two questions: (1) Does the Council have a reason to exist and (2) how do we manage after Lynn Beedle?
R. Shankar Nair, CTBUH Chairman (1997-2001)

These issues would have seemed very remote in 1972, when I had my first experience with the Council.  That was at Lehigh University, at the first Congress of the predecessor to CTBUH.  The organization was known then as the Joint Committee on Tall Buildings of IABSE and ASCE, and the conference title was “Planning and Design of Tall Buildings.”  Skyscraper design seemed like a new and exciting field then, and I still remember that there was a certain spirit and enthusiasm at that event that could make it a model for almost any conference on any subject (even if a clambake is not possible everywhere). 

I never imagined in 1972 that I would one day be chairman of the Council, but I became increasingly active in the organization from the mid-1980s onward.  By that time the Council had been transformed into much more than a structural engineering group.  And the tall building focus had been broadened to include the urban habitat of which the buildings are a part.  The international nature of the organization had also been reinforced.  By the mid-1980s, the Council was recognized as the only organization in the world involved with tall buildings and the urban habitat that was both international and multidisciplinary. 

By 1997, when I became chairman of the Council, the technology of skyscrapers had advanced to the point that the “why” of tall buildings was at least as important as the “how.”  We knew how to build skyscrapers of almost any size, shape and form; the bigger question now was whether we should.  But the Council’s focus was perceived, rightly or not, as being more the nuts-and-bolts of skyscraper design and construction than the broader issues of the building’s place in the urban environment.  So the challenge was to correct that perception or, if the perception was correct, to change the focus of the Council to conform to what was needed for the age.  But there was legitimate concern that this would duplicate what other, larger organizations were doing already. 

An interesting sideshow—of great interest to the public but peripheral to the Councils’ mission—throughout my tenure was the controversy over how to measure skyscraper height.  The Sears Tower had just lost the tallest-building crown to Petronas, as a result of rules under which spires count in the height measurement.  To many people this just didn’t make sense.  But to those who say that spires shouldn’t count, I would ask:  Should we not count the spire on the Chrysler Building?  Anyway, the issue has gone away now, with Taipei 101 (and soon Burj Dubai) being the tallest by any measure. 

The other challenge facing the Council in the 1990s, beyond the matter of its reason to exist, was leadership transition.  The Council had had several very illustrious chairmen before my time but the guiding spirit all along was Lynn Beedle, the founding director.  And after 30-plus years, the Council was so closely identified with Dr. Beedle that a CTBUH without him as its anchor was hard to contemplate.  It was touch-and-go for a while but thanks to the efforts of my successors, Ron Klemencic and David Scott, the transition has been made successfully and this organization is well positioned now to go from strength to strength.


John Rankine, Sydney, Australia
CTBUH Chairman (1982-1985)

I was very honored to have been associated with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, virtually right from the very beginning. I was closely associated with Lynn Beedle at Lehigh University and enjoyed every moment of my association both with Lynn and the Council. To be asked to follow Fazlur Khan as Chairman of the Council was a great inspiration in itself. In addition, being the Chairman of the Council allowed me to travel to the USA and provided me with the opportunity to meet all of the top engineers and to be kept up to date with all of the latest trends in engineering.

When my term as Chairman ended I “passed the gavel” on to Les Robertson who I regard as one of my dearest friends. Looking back, I realize how privileged I was to have been sandwiched between two of the greatest structural engineers—Fazlur Khan and Les Robertson. As I enjoy my retirement on my farm in Australia I fondly remember the very happy memories of my time with the Council.



Leslie Earl Robertson, CTBUH Chairman (1985-1990) Leslie Earl Robertson, New York, USA
CTBUH Chairman (1985-1990)

My term of office was so long ago as to dull the memory of any but the most significant of events.  Indeed, the plural is improper as my memory focuses on but just one central remembrance: Prof. Lynn S. Beedle.

Lynn created the Council… and did so from nothing more than his own dreams and his own energies. He dragged us, sometimes kicking and screaming, to the far corners of the globe… thus providing a sort of technical transfer of information about tall buildings. In a way that was typical of Lynn, he gently “bulldozed” us into creating the “Monographs”, that stack of books that has turned up in the offices and the classrooms of the world.  He did his gentle prodding with both enthusiasm and grace. 

Leslie Earl Robertson, CTBUH Chairman (1985-1990)

The truth of the matter is that, during my term, Lynn was the real Chairman of the Council.  My role as the titular Chairman was but to nod in admiration of that which he accomplished.  Being only modestly interested in assistance from me, Lynn was both the technical and the business leader of the Council.  With a staff, eager, loyal, and talented, but scant in numbers, he carried a huge burden on his shoulders.  Lynn explained this to me as being the result of “financial limitations”. While it’s likely that these limitations were both real and serious, the essence of that burden was more likely associated with his desire to be involved in the smallest details of the operation of the Council.

With military precision, Lynn outlined nearly all that came to the fore, thus allowing us to follow in his footsteps, filling in the missing pieces (which were few in number, and often zero were truly important).  And he collected everything! His three-drawer filing cabinets must have been countless: containing papers, letters, slides, notes...everything.

Travel was the story of his life.  Leaving wife (Ella), and daughter (Helen), behind to guard the home front, it appeared that he accepted all of the countless speaking invitations that came his way. And those invitations were endless! When I wrote to Lynn, followed by a one-day visit to Lehigh, suggesting that on all future travel he change his air reservations from Coach to Business Class, he argued that it was too expensive, conceding only when I became insistent.

Lynn was a consummate communicator. Every morning, Monday through Friday, as I turned on my computer, I knew that there would be a message from Lynn. On Saturday mornings, with few exceptions, he telephoned to discuss some obscure issue.  His messages were largely about the activities of the Council, but strayed regularly into personal comments on family and friends. Lynn must have sent birthday notes to hundreds of members of the Council. On the occasion of his annual holiday, the notes continued; at the end of the holiday there was always a little recap of the wonders of his days away from Lehigh and the Council.

At meetings of the Council, and there were so many, in the evenings Lynn preferred to be a bit of a loner; always there was a “good” reason for his not joining us in revelry. It was not because others would exclude him, this was just his way. When I would chide him, he would give me a BIG smile and say that he had just too much on his plate.

Lynn’s gentle manner and smiling countenance were always present. When times got a bit rough, particularly when he was forced to deal with my errant ways, his quick smile seemed to become broader and easier to surface.

Prof. Lynn S. Beedle, unmistakably the real Chairman of the Council, was my ideal of the perfect gentleman. Would that I, as well as others, could rise to his level. 



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David Scott - CTBUH Chairman (2006-2009)
David Scott, New York, USA
CTBUH Chairman (2006-2009)

It is with a considerable mix of emotions that I write this message, which will be my last as Chairman. It has been a great honor to lead the Council during the last 3½ years and I am incredibly proud of what we have managed to achieve in this time.  

We have met all of the strategic objectives set out in the Council’s 5 year plan. Over the last few years the Council has grown substantially and is functioning effectively at many new levels. We now have an active Board of Trustees, and Advisory Board. Our Country Representatives, Working Groups, Committees and Interest Groups are active and engaged.  We keep in contact with our members through our very popular Newsletter, our Journals, Award Books and other publications. Indeed our Newsletter has seen its circulation more than double in the last twelve months alone.  Members are perhaps not aware that not only have we changed the way we operate as well as our face to the world, but behind the scenes we have also legally incorporated these changes into our Not-for- Profit and 501.c3 status in Illinois. The Council is thus more solid and better protected than it ever has been.


Of course it would be disingenuous to claim that all this occurred as a result of my direction and control. As with many things in life, I was a victim of circumstance.  I took over the Council shortly before the world-wide building boom reached full throttle and was able to build upon the enthusiasm and commitment of our membership and a resurging interest in tall buildings.  The shock of 9-11 had passed by, casting a fleeting shadow on the design of tall buildings. However, it was healed by the understanding of what happened, and in parallel there was a re-appraisal and re-evaluation of tall buildings in the urban habitat, and recognition of their importance to the future success of our cities.

I was very fortunate to be able to appoint Antony Wood as Executive Director of the Council early in my tenure as Chairman. Antony is a dynamo and his appointment was swiftly followed by several more, including Philip Oldfield, Katharina Holzapfel, Steven Henry, Jan Klerks and many others who joined us on a part time basis. This team and our members have helped organize and delivered a wide array of information and data to our membership.    
 
There have been some dramatic technical achievements in my time as chairman, and one of the most remarkable has been the Burj Dubai. By being approximately 60% taller than the previous world’s tallest, the Burj is the world’s first star-scraper. The Burj has increased tall building aspirations by making 500m towers seem more commonplace, which they are not, but it has also caused architects and engineers to rethink the technical constraints of super-tall.

It has long been recognized that Building Codes were not written for the tall buildings that we are designing today. Prescriptive rules that are blindly applied to tall buildings can make them uneconomic or unsafe, and sometimes both. I am pleased to see the growth of performance based design approaches in dealing with wind, seismic, fire safety and blast, and the Council is keen to collect best practice examples in these areas. Frequently a Performance Based approach will lead to a more appropriate and efficient design solution. The Council’s Guide on the Seismic Design of Tall Buildings highlighted some of the problems with existing seismic codes and outlined a strategy to build safer, and more economic, towers in areas of severe seismicity. Next year we expect to follow our Seismic Guide with a Guide to Wind Tunnel Testing and a Discussion Document on the Performance Based Fire Engineering of Tall Buildings. 


The Council is the most prominent international organization dedicated to sharing information and opinions about tall buildings and the urban infrastructure. Our membership is unique, insofar as it is holistic and diverse: it is international and covers the whole range of professionals in the modern construction industry, from developers, builders, building officials, project managers, architects, engineers, planners and many others.

This is the great strength of our organization and gives us the opportunity to raise standards and awareness of technical issues, such as the seismic, fire and wind issues described above.  We provide a platform for our members to change and improve practice, and I am in awe of their dedication and commitment in the Committees, Panels and Working Groups where they participate.

Over the last four years the quest for sustainability and efficiency has become one of the most dominating drivers for our cities and tall buildings. We have a long way to go. The Council is committed to collecting and disseminating knowledge on this issue. Our very successful 8th World Congress Dubai in 2008, Tall and Green, was our first conference with a sustainability focus.  It is clear to me that sustainability will be a major part of conferences for years to come.


Robert Solomon, New York, USA
Associate Director (1990-1993)

All of my CTBUH activities have been most interesting and enjoyable from the first year I became active (1999 in Kula Lumpur-where I met Dr. Beedle for the first time) to the most recent activities in Dubai last year and the Fire Safety Task Group.  The Council has collected a vast amount of very special and knowledgeable members and individuals that I have been honored to have worked with and  have gotten to know including the dedicated staff.

Probably the most memorable event for me was at the October 2001, Task Force on Tall Buildings: The Future  meeting in Chicago.  I think the public perception was that high rise construction was at the end of the road as a result of September 11th.  The group under Ron’s leadership really set a tone to move that perception in other directions and to find some plusses as to what worked on September 11th and to begin to identify areas that could use another look.  The roll out of the Assessment and Enhancement Guidelines the following year and the Elevator Guideline in 2004 are two examples of those ideas.  Many provisions that have been included in the myriad NFPA codes and standards that address life safety, first responder safety and building safety in the last 7 years or so can be traced back to some of the CTBUH initiatives that were identified and undertaken at that October 2001 meeting.



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Antony Wood, Executive Director (2006-current)
Antony Wood, Chicago, USA
Executive Director (2006-current)

When I first arrived at the newly opened Chicago office of the Council to take up the executive directorship of the CTBUH in the Fall of 2006 (three weeks before our Chicago Conference Thinking Outside the Box: Tapered, Tilted, Twisted Towers), I inherited a storeroom packed high with “CTBUH Archive” cardboard boxes. Though the Council had notionally moved to the Illinois Institute of Technology from its longtime home of Lehigh, Pennsylvania two years previously, its heart and staff were still largely in Pennsylvania after 37 years there, so my arrival marked the start of a full-time staff presence in Chicago for the Council.

In the absence of an established office in Chicago that first day, my first task then became one of sorting through the archival boxes and seeing what this “CTBUH Archive” consisted of. I have to tell you that, prepared as I was for the challenges of the new job and the role of helping develop both the Council and tall buildings in new directions, I wasn’t quite prepared for the impact the contents of those boxes had on me…


My first exposure to the Council had occurred three years earlier, at the CTBUH Kuala Lumpur conference in 2003. I have often mused since then that, but for a chance seating on the technical tours bus next to then-Chair Ron Klemencic during the conference, I might never have found my way to the role that I now
occupy. Having already spent a couple of days at the KL conference by that stage, and having excitedly presented a paper on the benefits of skybridge connections between tall buildings, I was mightily impressed with this organization—“The Council”—that had drawn people from all around the globe to debate the myriad issues of tall buildings. So an afternoon sat next to Ron as we toured some of the tall delights of the Malaysian capital was a boon for me, and very likely a nightmare for Ron, as I grilled him for all manner of information on this impressive organization.

I smile when I read Ron’s account of his first encounter with CTBUH founder Lynn Beedle numerous years before (click here to read), and how Lynn—“ever the consummate promoter” had him signed up for membership and various committees by the end of that first brief conversation. In a trait that is perhaps common to all CTBUH Chairmen, I found my enthusiastic questions to Ron similarly rewarded with an involvement in various roles and sub-structures of the Council as penance for my questions.

It was a fairly swift rise from that chance meeting with Ron and my humble speaking slot at the Kuala Lumpur conference in 2003. I chaired a session of the Seoul Conference the next year, chaired the Scientific Committee of the 7th World Congress New York and became CTBUH Vice-Chairman for Research the year after that, and in 2006 the new Chair of the Council, David Scott, asked me to take up the newly planned Executive Directorship of the Council in Chicago.


So it was that I arrived in Chicago with a wife, a couple of kids, a huge excitement at the new role ahead (coupled with a complete naivety on what was involved), and found myself on the first day in the office opening dusty boxes. The boxes contained much of the material that the Council had produced over the preceding 37 years. Some of it—the odd conference proceeding for example—was familiar to me, but most of it was not; monographs and data books, pre-prints and committee reports, newsletters and photographs.

As I worked my way through the boxes backwards in time to the Council’s foundation, the material took on both an air of historic importance and a certain fragility, as glossy books gave way to hand-written journals and idiosyncratically-typewritten brochures. The very final document I opened was the first document that the Council had ever produced—a kind of manifesto outlining what the Council was about, with its aims and objectives and list of anticipated committees. It must have been hand-typed by Lynn not long after the inception of the organization as the Joint Committee on Tall Buildings in 1969 and, enthralled, I found myself a partially opened box for a perch and, turning the delicate pages of this and other early documents, settled down to read about this great organization of which I was now a part…


Several hours later a knock on the door announced the arrival of my computer and I was jolted back into the present from this yester-year of seminal tall buildings, people and organizations who were all there at the beginning—the Hancock and Sears Towers, the Fazlur Khans and Les Robertsons, the IABSE’s and ASCE’s, the exotic sounding conference locations such as Bled and Bogota. It was largely a world of literature and-action-around-a-common-goal that had been created by one man—Lynn Beedle. The mark of Lynn was evident everywhere (as it still largely is throughout this document, some six years after his passing), and as I carefully placed the historical, fragile documents back into their dusty boxes, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility, not only to the organization and what it promised to become, but to the people who had created the Council, and the legacy they had produced.

It is almost three years to the day later as I write this, since that first day of opening the boxes of the CTBUH Archive. It has been a whirlwind three years since then, as David Scott as Chair and myself as Executive Director have steered and witnessed the growth of the Council, on the back of an unprecedented worldwide boom in tall buildings, much re-organization and re-focusing of the Council and, perhaps most importantly, an international reputation that is a result of 40 years of the efforts of people like Lynn Beedle. As many have said before me, and I know I speak for David and others charged with steering the Council, it is easy to reach great heights when you are standing on the shoulders of giants…

Thus, as we approach now the cusp of the second decade of the 21st Century, it is excellent to see that the Council is in perhaps its strongest position ever. It is also important to note that this strong position is in spite of the ravages of a severe worldwide economic recession which has gripped the globe for the past twelve months. It is testimony to the value of the Council that, even in a time of necessary cut-backs and reductions across companies, we still have the strong support of our members which has allowed us to grow to venture into a myriad of new initiatives for the greater benefit of our membership and the international building community.