The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis

By Deane Barker on May 5, 2007

The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis: This is a fascinating story about the Citicorp Center in Manhattan. About a year after it was built, the architect realized that something was very wrong with it.

This famous New Yorker article, published two decades after the problem was found and fixed, explained what happened and how they fixed it.

[…] in the spirit of intellectual play, he wanted to see if they were just as strong in winds hitting from forty-five degrees. His new calculations surprised him. In four of the eight chevrons in each tier, a quartering wind increased the swain by forty per cent. Under normal circumstances, the wind braces would have absorbed the extra load without so much as a tremor. But the circumstances were not normal. A few weeks before, during a meeting in his office, LeMessurier had learned of a crucial change in the way the braces were joined.

A good story about a guy that screwed up and admitted it rather than tried to cover it up.



  1. I think you’ll find he was a structural engineer, not an architect! And it was covered up, to prevent widespread panic and the company being sued for millions, during the time it was being fixed.

    It’s still a great story, but it could have been heaps different had a strong enough wind come during the time they were fixing it.

    A good summary is found at

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