Three-Part Vertical Block
The three-part vertical block is identical to the two-part vertical block except that it has a distinct upper zone of generally one to three stories. Thus, the composition is analogous to the divisions of a classical column: base, shaft and capital. The type has much the same history of development, with experiments in vertical three-part composition beginning around the 1850s.
By the early 1890s, fully developed examples, especially in the Richardsonian mode, are not uncommon. Yet, as with the two-part vertical block, the results often remain transitional, characterized by a continuing sense of stacked layers, until the early 20th century. Mature examples of this type represent the dominant pattern in tall buildings built through the 1920s. The variety of treatments given to the upper zone, and to the facade as a whole, is as great as with the two-part vertical block. Similarly too, theaters are often incorporated into the complex. Sometimes the upper section has a transitional zone between it and the mid-section and, perhaps, an attic story above. By the 1920s, some variation may occur in the upper section’s massing. The concurrent objective to design tall buildings as soaring, three-dimensional towers led to a major change in the type’s conﬁguration. Instead of serving as a capital in the visual sense, the upper section is recessed, sometimes in several stages, underscoring the idea of continuous vertical movement. The effect can be especially dramatic in the numerous Art Deco examples where the shaft culminates in an intricate crown of setback masses.
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