Setback (architecture)
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alt=A series of five setbacks, each of decreasing size, result in the pyramid being much narrower at its peak than at its base., upright=1.2, Setbacks on the Pyramid_of_Djoser,_Saqqara,_Egypt.html" ;"title="Saqqara.html" ;"title="Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara">Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara, Egypt">Saqqara.html" ;"title="Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara">Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara, Egypt A setback, in the specific sense of a step-back, is a step-like form of a wall or other building frontage, also termed a recession or recessed storey. Importantly, one or more step-backs lowers the building's center of mass, making it more stable. A setback as a minimum one-bay indent across all storeys is called a recessed
bay A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface ...
or recess and is the more common exterior form of an
alcove (architecture) In architecture File:Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted).jpg, upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gal ...
. Notable upper storeys forming a step-back may form a
belvedereBelvedere (from Italian, meaning "beautiful sight") may refer to: Places Australia *Belvedere, Queensland, a locality in the Cassowary Coast Region, Australia Africa *Belvedere (Casablanca), a neighborhood in Casablanca, Morocco *Belvedere, Ha ...
– and in residential use are considered the penthouse. If part of the roof, then they are a
loft 's Near West Side A loft is a building's upper storey or elevated area in a room directly under the roof (American usage), or just an attic: a storage space under the roof usually accessed by a ladder (primarily British usage). A loft apartment r ...

loft
.


History

Setbacks were used by ancient builders to increase the height of
masonry Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar Mortar may refer to: * Mortar (weapon), an indirect-fire infantry weapon * Mortar (masonry), a material used to fill the gaps betwee ...

masonry
structures by distributing gravity loads produced by
building material Building material is material used for construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English Dictionary' ...

building material
s such as clay, stone, or brick. This was achieved by regularly reducing the footprint of each level located successively farther from the ground. Setbacks also allowed the natural erosion to occur without compromising the structural integrity of the building. The most prominent example of a setback technique is the step pyramids of
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
and
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric ...

Ancient Egypt
, such as the Teppe Sialk ziggurat or the
Pyramid of Djoser The Pyramid of Djoser (or Djeser and Zoser), or Step Pyramid, is an archaeological site in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis, Egypt, Memphis. The 6-tier, 4-sided structure is the earliest colossal stone building in Egy ...

Pyramid of Djoser
. For centuries, setbacks were a structural necessity for virtually all multi-level load-bearing
masonry Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar Mortar may refer to: * Mortar (weapon), an indirect-fire infantry weapon * Mortar (masonry), a material used to fill the gaps betwee ...

masonry
buildings and structures. As
architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that ha ...

architect
s learned how to turn setbacks into an architectural feature, most setbacks were however less pronounced than in step pyramids and often skillfully masked by rich
ornamentation An ornament is something used for decoration. Ornament may also refer to: Decoration *Ornament (art), any purely decorative element in architecture and the decorative arts *Biological ornament, a characteristic of animals that appear to serve onl ...
. The introduction of a
steel frame frame at 30 St Mary Axe 30 St Mary Axe (known previously as the Swiss Re Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd,
" Swis ...
structural system in the late 19th century eliminated the need for structural setbacks. The use of a frame building technology combined with conveniences such as
elevator Berlin U-Bahn, U-Bahn station in Berlin is built with glass walls and doors, exposing the inner workings. An elevator (North American English) or lift (Commonwealth English) is a type of wire rope, cable-assisted, hydraulic cylinder-assi ...

elevator
s and motorized
water pump near the Hengsteysee The Hengsteysee (Lake Hengstey) is a reservoir A reservoir (; from French language, French ''réservoir'' ) is most commonly an enlarged natural or artificial lake created using a dam to water storage, store water. ...

water pump
s influenced the physical growth and density of buildings in large
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...

cities
. Driven by the desire to maximize the usable floor area, some developers avoided the use of setbacks, creating in many instances a range of fire safety and health hazards. Thus, the 38-story
Equitable Building
Equitable Building
, constructed in
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the Northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...

New York
in 1915, produced a huge shadow, said to "cast a noonday shadow four blocks long", which effectively deprived neighboring properties of sunlight. It resulted in the
1916 Zoning Resolution 300px, Midtown Manhattan in 1932, showing the results of the Zoning Resolution: skyscrapers with Setback (architecture), setbacks The 1916 Zoning Resolution in New York City was the first citywide zoning code in the United States. The zoning res ...
, which gave New York City's skyscrapers their typical setbacks and soaring designs.


Setbacks and urban planning

Today many
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s rely on
urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, a ...
regulations, such as zoning ordinances, which use setbacks to make sure that streets and yards are provided more open space and adequate light and air. For example, in high density districts, such as
Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as the City and the urban core of the New York metropolitan area, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of Unit ...

Manhattan
in
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the Northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...

New York
, front walls of buildings at the street line may be limited to a specified height or number of stories. This height is also called base height which is only required if the building will exceed maximum base height. Above that height, the buildings are required to set back behind a theoretical inclined plane, called ''sky exposure plane'', which cannot be penetrated by the building's exterior wall. For the same reason, setbacks may also be used in lower density districts to limit the height of perimeter walls above which a building must have a pitched roof or be set back before rising to the permitted height. In many cities, building setbacks add value to the interior real estate adjacent to the setback by creating usable exterior spaces. These setback Terrace (building), terraces are prized for the access they provide to fresh air, skyline views, and recreational uses such as gardening and outdoor dining. In addition, setbacks promote fire safety by spacing buildings and their protruding parts away from each other and allow for passage of Fire apparatus, firefighting apparatus between buildings. In the United States, setback requirements vary among municipality, municipalities. For example, the absence of sky exposure plane provisions in Chicago's Zoning Code makes the Chicago skyline quite different from the skyline of New York where construction of tall buildings was guided by the zoning ordinance since 1916. The 1916 Zoning Resolution, New York City Zoning Ordinance also provided another kind of setback guideline, one that was intended to increase the amount of public space in the city. This was achieved by increasing the minimum setback at street level, creating in each instance an open space, often referred to as plaza, in front of the building. File:Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock.jpg, Increasing setbacks make the Empire State Building in New York taper with height. File:Malloch Building.jpg, alt=A white and silver building built with curved corners and streamlined features, stepped back along the slope of a hill., The Malloch Building in San Francisco is stepped back along the contour of the steep side of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, Telegraph Hill. File:New York Daily News building 1930.jpg, New York's Daily News Building features a number of setbacks. It was designed by architect Raymond Hood in 1929. The
1916 Zoning Resolution 300px, Midtown Manhattan in 1932, showing the results of the Zoning Resolution: skyscrapers with Setback (architecture), setbacks The 1916 Zoning Resolution in New York City was the first citywide zoning code in the United States. The zoning res ...
of New York led to many soaring, setbacked towers.


See also

*Height of Buildings Act of 1910 (Washington DC) *Urban canyon


References


Further reading

*Alexander, Christopher. ''A Pattern Language''. Oxford University Press, 1977. *Rem Koolhaas, Koolhaas, Rem. ''Delirious New York''. Monacceli Press, reprint 1997.


External links


NYC Zoning History
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