Architecture Planning and Preservation Skyscrapers
by
Gail Fenske
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0044

Introduction

Our knowledge of the skyscraper as a building type is based on research exploring the type’s many facets, among them architectural, technological, and urban. In history, the question of a single definitive “first skyscraper” was debated throughout the 20th century. More recently, historians have asked: Is the type’s defining feature the technology of metal skeleton construction? If so, that places its origins in Chicago in the 1880s with the Home Insurance Building, Tacoma Building, Masonic Temple, and Reliance Building. Or is it simply “height”? That would place its origins in New York City during the late 1860s to mid-1870s with the Equitable, Western Union, and Tribune Buildings, both of which utilized elevator technology to attain height. A complete definition of the skyscraper, however, encompasses several key technologies. Making structures habitable for work or living, for example, required mechanical and electrical systems—initially plumbing, heating, and illumination, and later air conditioning. Within the city, a vast transportation infrastructure by rail facilitated movement to and from the skyscrapers of the central business district. Throughout history, the architecture of the skyscraper has illustrated aspects of American economic, political, and cultural change. The earliest skyscrapers in New York, the nation’s corporate headquarters, for example, recalled the towers of preindustrial Europe, and thus served as memorable landmarks, as demonstrated by the Woolworth Building, whereas those of Chicago, an entrepôt with an entrepreneurial business culture, exemplified the organic-functionalist theories of John Wellborn Root and Louis Sullivan, as realized in the Monadnock and Wainwright Buildings. During the 1920s, the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago inflected forms prescribed by zoning legislation, creating an urban vernacular specific to each city. New York’s 1916 ordinance engendered the setback skyscraper and its associated urbanism, with the Empire State Building as classic example, whereas Chicago’s comparable but unique 1923 code led to a “city of towers,” as illustrated by the Carbide and Carbon and Mather towers. The “Art Deco” and “skyscraper Gothic” idioms, best represented in the Chrysler Building and Chicago’s Tribune Tower, inspired exterior and interior ornamental schemes. The skyscrapers of the 1950s, by contrast, crystallized the “international style” in a society economically prosperous, consumer-oriented, and dominated by corporate enterprise, as superbly represented in the Lever House, New York. During the late 1960s and 1970s, technological optimism and ambition spurred the innovative and supertall Sears (Willis) Tower and the World Trade Center, which redefined the skylines of Chicago and New York, respectively, utilizing the structurally unprecedented braced tube technology to achieve new heights. The World Trade Center’s large-scale reconfiguration of the city’s fabric exemplified the day’s urban renewal schemes. Recent skyscrapers, including the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, now vigorously compete for height while participating in a global system of signification, in which they gesture toward sustainability, but above all else advertise modernity and economic vitality.

General Overviews of the Skyscraper

General overviews of the skyscraper are mostly chronological surveys that examine the building type as an American phenomenon, with a strong emphasis on New York and Chicago. Mujica 1929 is the first and still an excellent survey of the skyscraper in American cities through the 1920s; it illustrates the building type throughout North America and includes short histories of individual skyscrapers. Goldberger 1981 is an accessible overview that shows in many illustrations the full breadth of architectural solutions for the skyscraper. Van Leeuwen 1986 is unique in its thematic emphasis on the skyscraper as a phenomenon; it explores the archetypal origins of the skyscraper, and draws on examples from ancient history to the Middle Ages, as well as the 1870s through the 1920s. Douglas 1996 is intended for the general reader, and documents the skyscraper through the 1980s, highlighting human themes and relating the building type to popular culture. An important study of New York and Chicago is Willis 1995, which analyzes the skyscraper as a vernacular particular to each city, along with its role in shaping the skylines of each city, although the focus is on the 1920s. Useful anthologies include Moudry 2005 (cited under Anthologies), a valuable collection of essays on all aspects of the skyscraper as a cultural phenomenon that is recommended for advanced students, and Shepherd 2003 (cited under Anthologies), a selection of articles from the professional journal Architectural Record, 1891-1941. Reference Works, including Nash 2010 and Saliga and Zukowsky 1990, documentindividual skyscrapers in New York and Chicago. Digital Resources that focus on contemporary skyscrapers are useful complements to the book-length surveys.

  • Douglas, George H. Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A historical overview of landmark skyscrapers and their relation to cities, especially their impact on skyline views, oriented toward the general reader. Highlights the process of construction; technologies such as the elevator, plumbing, and electricity; and the human experience of the skyscraper, from observation decks to daredevil acrobatics.

    Find this resource:

  • Fenske, Gail. “A Brief History of the Twentieth-Century Skyscraper.” In The Tall Buildings Reference Book. Edited by Dave Parker and Antony Wood, 13–32. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A short, concise overview of the most influential designs for tall buildings, dating from the mid-19th century to the early 21st, emphasizing at the outset Chicago and New York, and from the 1990s, structures around the world. Illustrates the recent shift from the singular focus on height to a new set of competitive criteria: enhancing the spatial, environmental, and aesthetic experience of the skyscraper in the city.

    Find this resource:

  • Goldberger, Paul. The Skyscraper. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lavishly illustrated overview of designs for major landmark skyscrapers from the origins of the skyscraper through the postmodern period, highlighting architectural thought, technology, materials, and style in the context of changing cities. Accessible to the general reader.

    Find this resource:

  • Mujica, Francisco. History of the Skyscraper. Paris: Archaeology and Architecture Press, 1929.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First history of the modern skyscraper and a classic work. Defines the invention and evolution of the skyscraper with great clarity, emphasizing the elevator, steel skeleton construction, and electricity, and noting the Masonic Temple, Chicago (1890–1891) as the first true skyscraper. Emphasizes New York and Chicago, but also includes skyscrapers in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, among other cities. Highlights the relationship between the ancient architecture of Mesoamerica and New York’s 1920s skyline, and thusadvocates a neo-American architecture of the skyscraper.

    Find this resource:

  • van Leeuwen, Thomas A. P. The Skyward Trend of Thought: The Metaphysics of the American Skyscraper. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An assessment of the American skyscraper as an architectural and urban phenomenon, from its origins through the 1920s, linking the human impulse to build tall with a deeper mythological past, highlighting the Tower of Babel as the paradigmatic tower. Written from a European perspective, views the skyscraper in relation to characteristic American cultural tendencies, among them “Manifest Destiny,” democracy, grid planning, and the paradoxical relationship between capitalistic and spiritual values.

    Find this resource:

  • Willis, Carol. Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An incisive architectural and urban history of the skyscraper in New York and Chicago, from the type’s origins through the postwar period, noting prominent landmarks but emphasizing vernacular structures. Notes the differences in urban topography between the two cities, particularly in patterns of commercial land use, and argues for the determining influence of real estate finance as well as zoning and height restrictions in shaping their distinctive skylines.

    Find this resource:

Reference Works

For Chicago, Saliga and Zukowsky 1990 is the first and best history of the city’s individual skyscrapers, and for New York, Nash 2010 is a useful resource on the city’s key skyscrapers.

  • Nash, Eric. Manhattan Skyscrapers. Photographs by Norman McGrath; introduction by Carol Willis. 3d ed. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A book of fine full-page contemporary photographs, accompanied by short building histories and period photographs documenting Manhattan’s most important existing skyscrapers. Organized by date of completion, from the 1890s to the present. Missing a scholarly apparatus, but includes a short bibliography. Short introduction by Carol Willis defines the city’s three major eras of construction.

    Find this resource:

  • Saliga, Pauline, and John Zukowsky. The Sky’s the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New York: Rizzoli International, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A solidly researched reference work with a short introduction on the history of the Chicago skyscraper and highly informative histories of individual buildings, arranged chronologically, and accompanied by period photographs. Includes profiles of key Chicago architectural firms.

    Find this resource:

Anthologies

Moudry 2005 is the best resource for understanding the cultural complexity of the skyscraper as a building type in history, with an emphasis on New York and Chicago. Shepherd 2003, by contrast, is very useful for the insight it provides on contemporary critics’ assessment of the skyscraper during the 1890s, 1910s, and 1920s. Includes essays by Montgomery Schuyler and other noted critics.

  • Moudry, Roberta, ed. The American Skyscraper: Cultural Histories. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on New York and Chicago from the 1880s to the 1950s. Includes chapters by a diversity of disciplinary specialists in architecture, construction, city planning and zoning, gender relations, labor history, the visual arts, and American studies. Especially recommended are the essays by Keith D. Revell on skyscraper regulation, including New York’s 1916 zoning ordinance; Roberta Moudry on New York’s Metropolitan Life Insurance Building; and Edward W. Wolner on Chicago’s Fraternity Temples.

    Find this resource:

  • Shepherd, Roger, ed. Skyscraper: The Search for an American Style, 1891–1941: Annotated Extracts from the First 50 Years of Architectural Record. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A selection of articles reprinted from Architectural Record, including original photographs and graphics, thematically and chronologically organized in sections. Each is introduced by the editor, and complemented by excerpts of articles from the same journal. Incorporates explanatory notes and illustrations in sidebars. Emphasizes skyscrapers considered the most significant by the journal’s writers over a period of fifty years, from the Wainwright Building to Rockefeller Center.

    Find this resource:

Digital Resources

There are excellent resources on the skyscraper as both a contemporary and historic architectural and urban phenomenon. The Skyscraper Museum emphasizes New York City, whereas the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat documents the newest skyscrapers worldwide.

The Early Skyscraper

The earliest history of the skyscraper, Mujica 1929 (cited under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), is distinguished by its geographic coverage, featuring skyscrapers in New York and Chicago as well as other key American cities in the Midwest, South, and Far West. Beginning in the early 1930s, scholarship on the skyscraper emphasized Chicago, particularly after the Museum of Modern Art’s International Style Exhibition of 1932, which, in calling attention to the 1920s European avant-garde, inspired interest in the “Chicago school” as a precedent for the avant-garde’s creative energy and boldness of experimentation, and more generally for the modern movement in architecture. Condit 1964 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago), first published in 1952, firmly established the importance of the “Chicago School” in the history of modern architecture, particularly William Le Baron Jenney’s Home Insurance Building (1883–1885), and during the same years joined Weisman 1953 and Webster 1959 (both under Origins and Definition of the Skyscraper), among others, in debating the origins and definition of the skyscraper as a building type. Not until the 1980s and 1990s did historians tackle in depth the more “traditional” early skyscrapers of New York, after the Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition on the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1975. The Ecole’s historicist orientation supported Landau and Condit 1996 (under Early Skyscraper: New York) in bringing a new richness to the scholarship on early New York skyscrapers, which, in its focus on individual buildings, complemented the broader view of both cities presented in Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper). More recently, scholars have shown a greater interest in the cultural complexities that illuminate the skyscraper as an architectural, technological, and urban phenomenon: for well-known skyscrapers, see Fenske 2008 (under Early Skyscraper: New York) on the Woolworth Building; Merwood-Salisbury 2009 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago) on the Monadnock, Masonic Temple, and Reliance Buildings; Alexiou 2010 (under Early Skyscraper: New York) on the Flatiron Building; and Lupkin 2018 (under Early Skyscraper: Other Cities) on the Guaranty Building. Similarly, Leslie 2013 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago) emphasizes Chicago’s technological developments as they relate to the city’s more expansive economic geography.

The Origins and Definition of the Skyscraper

Montgomery Schuyler, the noted architectural critic of his era, circa 1890–1915, took the first steps in defining the skyscraper as a new and unprecedented building type, emphasizing the importance of the elevator to attaining height, and thus the Tribune and Western Union Buildings, New York, as the first skyscrapers. During the 1950s, historians concentrated on Chicago as the site of origin for modern architecture, thus calling attention to the significance of metal skeleton construction, particularly as demonstrated in the Home Insurance Building. Still, notes Weisman 1953, New York had pioneered with height, so Weisman, Webster (see Webster 1959), and others continued to debate the origins and definition of the skyscraper, a complex discussion emphasizing the relative significance of height (New York) or skeleton construction (Chicago), summed up in Bletter 1987.

  • Bletter, Rosemarie Haag. “The Invention of the Skyscraper: Notes on Its Diverse Histories.” Assemblage 2 (February 1987): 110–117.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sums up the arguments over defining the first skyscraper made by Weisman, Webster, and others. Notes that while many historians emphasize technology, and thus Chicago, and others formal criteria, and consequently New York, in actuality many complex factors contributed to the definition of the skyscraper. Suggests the possibilities of an “archetypal image” for defining the skyscraper, to which specific skyscrapers containing most, but not necessarily all, of the characterizing features would conform.

    Find this resource:

  • Schuyler, Montgomery. “The ‘Skyscraper’ Up-to-Date.” Architectural Record 8 (January-March 1899): 231–257.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The day’s most noted architectural critic explains the skyscraper as having developed in two phases, with the first dating 1875–1890, beginning with the Western Union and Tribune Buildings, when the elevator and “real walls” doubled the height of the office building, and the second dating from 1890 onward, when steel-framed skeleton construction came in to support the elevator, doubling the skyscraper’s height yet again.

    Find this resource:

  • Schuyler, Montgomery. “The Evolution of the Skyscraper.” Scribner’s Magazine 46 (September 1909): 257–271.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes three phases in the evolution of the skyscraper, starting with “elevator buildings,” which feature occupiable cells in newly tall construction, progressing to taller masonry-walled buildings, and maturing with skyscrapers containing a core of metal embedded in masonry, followed by steel skeleton construction. Argues for the virtues of “expressiveness” in the tall masonry-walled buildings.

    Find this resource:

  • Webster, J. Carson. “The Skyscraper: Logical and Historical Considerations.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 18 (December 1959): 126–139.

    DOI: 10.2307/987902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concisely defines the skyscraper, seeking a “useful conception of the type.” Such a definition would incorporate economic, social, psychological, and aesthetic criteria in addition to technological and material criteria. Argues for the significance of height and notes that steel skeletal construction separates true skyscrapers (the Masonic Temple, 1890–1891) from proto-skyscrapers.

    Find this resource:

  • Weisman, Winston. “New York and the Problem of the First Skyscraper.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 12 (March 1953): 13–21.

    DOI: 10.2307/987622Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that New York produced the first skyscrapers, and that the chief criterion for defining the skyscraper is height, as opposed to the technology of the metal frame, identifying the Western Union (1873–1875) and Tribune (1873–1875) Buildings as the first examples of the type.

    Find this resource:

  • Weisman, Winston. “A New View of Skyscraper History.” In The Rise of American Architecture. Edited by Edgar Kaufmann Jr., 113–160. New York: Praeger, 1970.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Continues to argue that New York produced the first skyscrapers, but revises account of 1953 to define the earlier Equitable Building (1868–1870) as the first skyscraper.

    Find this resource:

Chicago

Mumford 1931 and Morrison 1935 (cited under Louis Sullivan), followed by Condit 1964, are currently out of date, but still useful for their documentation and for the insight they provide on the skyscrapers of their respective eras, the 1930s and 1950s, which emphasized organic-functionalist theories in American and modern architecture. Van Zanten 1984 is a short but useful contextualization of the city during the late 1880s and early 1890s, a particularly challenging environment for architects who designed skyscrapers. Jordy 1972, Hoffmann 1973, and later Siry 1996 (cited under Louis Sullivan) examine the work of Burnham & Root and Sullivan in depth, with Siry achieving unrivaled clarity in investigating Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in relation to the architect’s philosophy of organic architecture. For Bruegmann 1997, the skyscraper constituted one, but still the most important, building type in Holabird & Roche’s expansive program of design for Chicago. Merwood-Salisbury 2009 similarly examines individual skyscrapers within Chicago’s broader context, showing how their architects and others invested the designs with meanings particular to the environment of the city. Leslie 2013 renews the emphasis on Chicago’s technologies of the skyscraper, with particular emphasis on new materials and systems as related to local and regional economies.

  • Bruegmann, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche of Chicago, 1880–1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226076966.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the skyscrapers of Holabird & Roche while illustrating the operations of the firm within the development of the city. Assesses the Tacoma Building (1886–1889) as the first example of skeleton construction, or a steel frame encased with terra cladding, and as the first to be built by a general contractor, the George A. Fuller Company. The Marquette Building (1892–1895) defined the firm’s commercial style, and along with other works infused the city with the firm’s hallmarks of dignity, grace, and decorum.

    Find this resource:

  • Condit, Carl W. The Chicago School of Architecture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revises and expands the author’s earlier Rise of the Skyscraper (1952). Elucidates Chicago innovations in “structural art” for skyscrapers, which are viewed as key works of modern architecture. Organized according to the work of major firms: William Le Baron Jenney, Burnham & Root, D. H. Burnham & Company, Holabird & Root, and Adler & Sullivan. Emphasizes the exploration of new structural techniques to the end of creating an organic, functional solution for the skyscraper, highlighting Jenney’s Home Insurance Building (1883–1885) as a “proto-skyscraper.”

    Find this resource:

  • Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first history to document the works of John Wellborn Root in Chicago and other cites, noted among them the Rookery (1885–1886) and the Monadnock (1889–1892) Buildings, to which the author devotes considerable attention in individual chapters. Root’s designs are examined in the context of the city, in relation to his own theories, and as fulfilling his clients’ objectives, among them Peter Brooks of Boston.

    Find this resource:

  • Jordy, William H. “Masonry Block and Metal Skeleton: Chicago and the ‘Commercial Style.’” In American Buildings and Their Architects. Vol. 3, Progressive and Academic Ideals at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. By William H. Jordy, 1–82. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains Chicago’s earliest skyscrapers, noting the Home Insurance Building (1883–1885) as the first skyscraper, given its metal-frame technology, but also arguing for New York as the skyscraper’s birthplace insofar as the elevator was utilized for the first time to attain height. Emphasis is given to the Monadnock Building (1889–1892), an elemental block, and the Reliance Building (1894), a glass and metal skeleton, as prophetic of 20th-century modern architecture.

    Find this resource:

  • Larson, Gerald R., and Roula Mouroudellis Geraniotis. “Towards a Better Understanding of the Evolution of the Iron Skeleton Frame in Chicago.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 46 (March 1987): 39–48.

    DOI: 10.2307/990144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines William Le Baron Jenney’s original design for the Home Insurance Building (1884) in light of an earlier essay by Frederick Baumann of the same year, arguing that Baumann’s concept of the completely iron-framed building influenced the design, which, contrary to existing assumptions, did not employ such a frame independently, but rather for only a portion of the design’s masonry enclosure.

    Find this resource:

  • Leslie, Thomas. Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871–1934. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037542.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the technology and construction of Chicago skyscrapers as related to the city’s high-pressure real-estate market, tight geographic confines, poor soil, and broader geographic access to materials, resources, and investment capital. Documents and analyzes evolving technical solutions. Explains the refinement and fabrication of materials and systems in iron and steel, brick, terra cotta, plate glass, and concrete. Exceptional for its analytical drawings, among them axonometric reconstructions, and for historic construction views.

    Find this resource:

  • Merwood-Salisbury, Joanna. Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Utilizes Inland Architect and News Record as a key primary source to situate the skyscraper in its time and place, Chicago as a frontier city and industrial capital. Shows architects and critics debating the skyscraper’s design as a modern, organic type, along with its impact on the city, a scene of congestion, smoke, disease, and labor conflict. Focuses on the Monadnock Building (1889–1892), Masonic Temple (1890–1891), and Reliance Building (1894) as “solutions” to difficult urban problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Mumford, Lewis. The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865–1895. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1931.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The third chapter examines the skyscrapers of John Wellborn Root and Louis Sullivan within the larger context of art, literature, architecture, and landscape in America following the Civil War, emphasizing their contributions to defining a modern, organic American architecture. Reprint, New York, Dover Publications, 1971.

    Find this resource:

  • Van Zanten, David. “The Nineteenth Century: The Projecting of Chicago as a Commercial City and the Rationalization of Design and Construction.” In Chicago and New York: Architectural Interactions. Edited by John Zukowsky, 40–42. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Catalogue of a 1984 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Analyzes the architect in relation to the building industry and the professional client during Chicago’s boom of 1889–1893. Describes the “commercial style” of the city’s skyscrapers as a matter of economic principle. Explains the emergence of the large-scale general contractor in the person of George A. Fuller and the building manager in Owen Aldis. Argues that architects, notably Louis Sullivan, found themselves squeezed between contractor and the client (represented by Aldis), with merely a thin slice of responsibility for their designs as finally built.

    Find this resource:

Louis Sullivan

Within the scholarship on the early skyscraper, a significant body of work is devoted to Louis Sullivan, the first architect to endow the type with important cultural significance. Lupkin 2018 (under Early Skyscraper: Other Cities), and Siry 1996 are definitive analyses of Sullivan’s two most important skyscrapers, the Wainwright Building and the Guaranty Building, respectively, whereas Jordy 1986 situates those works in a complete catalogue of the many varied designs that Sullivan produced for the skyscraper.

  • Jordy, William H. “The Tall Buildings.” In Louis Sullivan: The Function of Ornament. Edited by Wim de Wit, 86–100. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of Sullivan’s twenty-one designs for tall buildings, classified in five groups, viewing the Wainwright Building (1891) as a turning point, indebted to H. H. Richardson’s Marshall Field Wholesale Store (1885), and the Guaranty Building (1895–96) as a breakthrough design, given that it is completely sheathed with geometrically organized ornament in baked clay. Situates Sullivan’s works within the contexts of commercial construction in Chicago and New York, the teachings of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Victorian theories of ornament, clients, and preservation issues.

    Find this resource:

  • Morrison, Hugh. Louis Sullivan: Prophet of Modern Architecture. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1935.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first comprehensive and critical biography of the architect; includes a chapter assessing Sullivan’s designs for skyscrapers in light of his organic theories.

    Find this resource:

  • Siry, Joseph. “Adler and Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in Buffalo.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 55 (March 1996): 6–37.

    DOI: 10.2307/991053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An in-depth study of Sullivan’s ideal of organic architecture as revealed in all aspects of the Guaranty Building’s (1895–1896) design, including the spatial dimensions of the plan, the structural order of columns and beams, and the ornamental cladding, all based on a unit of subdivision governing proportional relationships in three dimensions, bringing a fully integrated and organic unity to the design.

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Theoretical Writings

Root 1967 and Sullivan 1979 define with great clarity the new architectural problem of the skyscraper as well as its meanings within contemporary American society, culture, and civilization.

  • Root, John Wellborn. “A Great Architectural Problem.” In The Meanings of Architecture: Buildings and Writings of John Wellborn Root. Edited by Donald Hoffmann, 130–142. New York: Horizon Press, 1967.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defines the problem of the office building as without precedent and wholly unique in American civilization. Provides a detailed, specific accounting of the type’s practical features, including floor planning dictated by natural daylight, the height of stories, elevators, and a structure both fireproof and wind-braced. The exterior in simplest form should “convey in some large elemental sense an idea of the great, stable, conserving forces of modern civilization.” Originally published in Inland Architect and News Record 15 (June 1890): 66–71.

    Find this resource:

  • Sullivan, Louis H. “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.” In Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings. By Louis H. Sullivan, 202–213. New York: Dover, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sullivan defines with clarity his theory on the design of the skyscraper, a social manifestation that must be accepted as “fact.” Outlines the type’s characterizing features, “the essence of the problem,” arguing that these suggest a particular formal solution. Emphasizes that an inspired solution will poetically express height. Proposes his theory of functionalism as a “final comprehensive formula.” Extols the significance of the skyscraper to a modern, democratic art. Article originally published in Lippincott’s Magazine 57 (March 1896): 403–409. Volume first published 1947.

    Find this resource:

New York

While the earliest histories of the skyscraper, among them Mujica 1929 (cited under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), call attention to the first important structures in New York, only in the 1980s and 1990s did those skyscrapers receive in-depth study within the scholarship, in Fenske and Holdsworth 1992, Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), and Landau and Condit 1996, all of which examined the building type in the context of the city. Fenske and Holdsworth focus on corporate headquarters, Willis prioritizes the skyscraper as an urban vernacular, and Landau and Condit achieve an unprecedented depth of detail in documenting individual skyscrapers. Bacon 1986, Balmori 1987, Fenske 2008, and Alexiou 2010 bring deserved emphasis to specific monumental skyscrapers: the Western Union, Flatiron, Singer, and Woolworth Buildings, all of which attracted considerable attention at the time of construction. Kwolek-Folland 1994 emphasizes the Metropolitan Life Building’s interior as a gendered environment for office work.

  • Alexiou, Alice Sparberg. The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City that Arose with It. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An account of the Flatiron Building (1901–1903) in the context of New York around 1900, oriented toward the general reader. Illuminates the skyscraper’s design, engineering, and construction, with an emphasis on labor issues. Considerable attention is given to its tenants as related to the life of the city, and its reception by artists and critics.

    Find this resource:

  • Bacon, Mardges. Ernest Flagg: Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer. New York: Architectural History Foundation, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a chapter on the history of the Singer Tower (1904–1906), briefly the tallest in the world, as a lavish, immensely popular corporate symbol and trademark. Highlights the design’s role in Flagg’s effort to reform the skyscraper in New York around 1900. Flagg’s “tower solution,” which he also envisioned extending to a “city of towers,” significantly influenced the city’s zoning resolution of 1916.

    Find this resource:

  • Balmori, Diana. “George B. Post: The Process of Design and the New American Architectural Office (1868–1913).” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 46 (December 1987): 342–355.

    DOI: 10.2307/990273Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the Western Union Telegraph Building project (1873–1875) as instrumental to the organization of work and the development of new methods of design within Post’s architectural practice.

    Find this resource:

  • Fenske, Gail. The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first in-depth history of the Woolworth Building (1910–1913), a New York landmark, noted for its synthesis of bold steel-framed engineering with fanciful Gothic detail. Examines Cass Gilbert’s design in light of the contradictions of modernity, also evident in New York’s dynamic urban culture around 1900. Illuminates the process of designing, financing, engineering, and constructing skyscrapers, including the mass phenomena of marketing, news media, and urban spectatorship that surround them.

    Find this resource:

  • Fenske, Gail, and Deryck Holdsworth. “Corporate Identity and the New York Office Building, 1895–1915.” In The Landscape of Modernity: Essays on New York City, 1900–1940. Edited by David Ward and Olivier Zunz, 129–159. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the distinction between New York skyscrapers built by corporations as monumental landmark headquarters and those built strictly for investment purposes. Argues that the corporate builders of landmarks depended upon a diversity of minor tenants to finance towers of unprecedented height and ornamental richness, legitimizing their newly powerful role in the nation’s economy. Reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

    Find this resource:

  • Kwolek-Folland, Angel. Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870–1930. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines identities of race and gender, both masculine and feminine, in financial industry offices, 1870–1930, with an emphasis on the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, as a key case study. Includes analysis of gender-segregated facilities, Taylorization and spatial organization, and the corporation’s purpose in creating an aristocratic residential setting for its headquarters.

    Find this resource:

  • Landau, Sarah Bradford, and Carl Condit. Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865–1913. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A complete history of the early skyscraper in New York, emphasizing the office skyscraper, but also including warehouses, hotels, and apartment houses. Comprehensive in scope, it analyzes the type’s architectural as well as engineering history, including mechanical utilities such as elevator transportation, central heating and ventilation, and lighting. Devotes considerable attention to the skyscraper’s impact on the urban scene, from architectural criticism to debates over height restrictions.

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Theoretical Writings

In Gilbert 1900, Cass Gilbert, one of the day’s most noted designers of skyscrapers, describes the disparity between the dictates of speculative real estate finance and his own Beaux-Arts precepts of design.

  • Gilbert, Cass. “Building Skyscrapers—Described by Cass Gilbert.” Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide 65 (23 June 1900): 1089–1091.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Emphasizes that the skyscraper’s modular dimensions, which strongly influenced architectural composition, were not the prerogative of the architect, but instead determined by “business expediency” and “profitable investment.” Characterizes the architect’s contribution to such projects as a mere “measure of beauty,” for “the machine that makes the land pay.” Also published as “The Financial Importance of Rapid Building,” Engineering News Record 41 (30 June 1900): 624.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

In the Midwestern cities of Minneapolis and St. Louis, two important early skyscrapers have received in-depth study. Christison 1944 and Tselos 1944 examine the Minneapolis architect Leroy Buffington’s notorious claim to have invented the “first skyscraper” in advance of William Le Baron Jenney’s design for the Home Insurance Building, Chicago. In a wholly different vein, Lupkin 2018 investigates the Wainwright Building’s relationship to its specific place and time, St. Louis during the 1890s, showing for the first time that Louis Sullivan’s organic ornament, long a subject of discussion (see, e.g., Mumford 1931 [cited under Early Skyscraper: Chicago], Morrison 1935, and Jordy 1986 [both under Early Skyscraper: Chicago: Louis Sullivan], and others), derived not only from his own theories of organicism, but also from the objectives of his client, Ellis Wainwright.

  • Christison, Muriel. “How Buffington Staked His Claim: An Analysis of His Memories and Skyscraper Drawings.” Art Bulletin 26 (March 1944): 13–34.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how the Minneapolis architect Leroy Buffington falsified the date on his patent (as 1882 instead of 1888) for a 28-story skyscraper project, and also manipulated dates in his Memories as well as drawings to claim primacy for the invention of the skyscraper over William Le Baron Jenney, who designed the Home Insurance Building (1883–1885). Publicizes his design and succeeds in bringing attention to the new method of skeleton construction.

    Find this resource:

  • Lupkin, Paula. “The Wainwright Building: Monument of St. Louis’s Lager Landscape.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 77 (December 2018): 428–447.

    DOI: 10.1525/jsah.2018.77.4.428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent analysis of the Wainwright Building (1890–1891), St. Louis, in the context of Ellis Wainwright’s lager beer enterprise. Shows how the design’s massing referenced the industry’s stock and warehouse structures. More important, Sullivan’s exuberant ornament incorporated the twining hop plant, the key ingredient in the production of beer, adding the individuality of character to which he aspired in his developing philosophy of ornament while bringing form and definition to Wainwright’s enterprise.

    Find this resource:

  • Tselos, Dimitri. “The Enigma of Buffington’s Skyscraper.” Art Bulletin 26 (March 1944): 3–12.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Buffington did not invent the skyscraper as he claimed, based on his patent of May 1888, but more important, based on drawings he postdated 1881 and 1882. He had the dates changed to precede the May 1883 design of William Le Baron’s Home Insurance Building, and thus to support his argument for “invention” as represented by his patent, even though he knew little about skeleton construction prior to 1885.

    Find this resource:

The 1920s and 1930s

Most of the scholarship on the skyscrapers of the 1920s and 1930s is focused on New York City, with a secondary emphasis on Chicago, and a few works on other American urban centers, chief among them San Francisco. During the 1920s, New York City achieved world renown as the quintessential modern skyscraper metropolis, which Hugh Ferriss celebrated in masterful drawings of the city that also critiqued the day’s tendencies toward overbuilding and suggested possibilities for the future (see Ferriss 1986, cited under 1920s and 1930s: New York). The earliest scholarship on New York’s major landmark skyscrapers emphasized Art Deco skyscrapers, among them the Barclay-Vesey, RCA Victor (later GE), Chrysler, and Empire State Buildings, along with Rockefeller Center, as shown in Bletter and Robinson 1975 (cited under 1920s and 1930s: New York) and Krinsky 1978 (under Rockefeller Center). Only later did the scholarship show a stronger emphasis on the skyscraper as related to the city, particularly Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), which examines the significance of the skyscraper to the structure and form of the city, as powerfully influenced by financial formulas and zoning restrictions, highlighting the Empire State Building. Tauranac 1995 (under 1920s and 1930s: New York) situates the latter within a broader social and economic context. The city’s two distinctive clusters of skyscrapers, in the Financial District and the Garment District, are investigated in Abramson 2001 and Dolkart 2011 (both under 1920s and 1930s: New York). In Chicago, the two noted landmark skyscrapers of the early 1920s, the Wrigley and Tribune Buildings, receive in-depth study in Chappell 1992 and Solomonson 2001 (both under 1920s and 1930s: Chicago), with Chappell also featuring the Civic Opera, Field Building, and Straus Building, among other skyscrapers. Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), explains the influence of the new 1923 zoning law on the city’s unique towered composition. Leslie 2013 (under 1920s and 1930s: Chicago) continues the author’s earlier study of the city’s culture of construction, emphasizing the technologies and methods that produced its towered skyline, as associated with the era’s economic boom. Bruegmann 2018 (under 1920s and 1930s: Chicago) documents and analyzes the city’s distinctive version of Art Deco, while Poletti 2008 (under 1920s and 1930s: Other Cities) looks at this aspect in the work of Pflueger in San Francisco. Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt National Life Insurance Company project of 1924–1925, an implicit critique of the era’s masonry-clad skyscrapers, is documented and analyzed in Hoffmann 1998 (under 1920s and 1930s: Chicago) and Alofsin 2005 (under Postwar Skyscraper: Other Cities). Beyond New York and Chicago, the “skyscraper Gothic” achieved a special importance in cities such as Atlanta and Pittsburgh, as shown in Murphy and Reilly 2017 (under 1920s and 1930s: Other Cities).

General

Bossom 1934 is the only text that documents and illustrates the 1920s and 1930s skyscrapers of New York and Chicago as well as in cities across the United States and in Canada.

  • Bossom, Alfred. Building to the Skies: The Romance of the Skyscraper. London and New York: Dover, 1934.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful for its comparison of building practices in London with those in New York and other American cities. The author, an English architect, sees the skyscraper as an intrinsically American phenomenon. Contains factual errors, but still insightful. Extols the benefits of rationalized construction utilizing a process of assembly in accordance with a strict timetable. Highlights the skyscraper’s value for publicity, indicating that every town in America aspires to build one.

    Find this resource:

New York

For an overview of the city during the 1920s and 1930s, Willis 1995 (cited under General Overviews of the Skyscraper) is a good place to start, given its examination of how the era’s setback skyscrapers structured the form of the city, followed by Abramson 2001 and Dolkart 2011, each of which explains the city’s two most important clusters of skyscrapers, in the Financial District and the Garment District, respectively, with emphasis on their owners, builders, and architects. Rockefeller Center, a carefully orchestrated group of magnificent skyscrapers that in turn just as magnificently structured the public spaces of the city, is explained in Krinsky 1978 (under Rockefeller Center). For an analysis of Art Deco as the city’s predominant skyscraper style, see Bletter and Robinson 1975. Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, two of the era’s most important architects, produced profoundly illuminating critiques of the city’s urbanism, each of which inspired their own visions for the future of the city, the latter investigated thoroughly in Bacon 2001. By contrast, Hugh Ferriss, explained further by Willis in afterword, Ferriss 1986 and Morshed 2015, viewed the city and its clusters of skyscrapers as an imaginative springboard for his Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929), which rather than rejecting the city, reformed it through the wide spacing of pyramidally massed tower buildings. The iconic skyscraper of the era, the Empire State Building, is explored in context by Tauranac 1995, which also analyzes its reception down to the 1990s. Stern, et al. 1987 provides photographic documentation and detailed histories of many diverse and lesser-known skyscrapers in addition to major skyscrapers covered in other works.

  • Abramson, Daniel M. Skyscraper Rivals. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the landmark Cities Service, Irving Trust, City Bank Farmer’s Trust, and 40 Wall Street towers, all constructed from 1928 to 1932, along with the plainer skyscrapers anchoring lower Manhattan’s financial district. Special attention is devoted to the clients and their architects; interior planning, from clerical departments to corporate suites; technologies, including elevators; and the iconic skyline. Accessible to a general audience and useful for specialists.

    Find this resource:

  • Bacon, Mardges. Le Corbusier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timid. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authoritative account of Le Corbusier’s visit to New York City in 1935. Includes chapters analyzing his critical view of the skyscraper and the congested urbanism it engendered, especially as documented in his polemical Quand les cathédrales étaient blanche. Argues that the architect viewed New York as the counterpoint to his own urban visions, in particular his Radiant City (1930), and notes his esteem for Rockefeller Center, especially the RCA Building.

    Find this resource:

  • Bletter, Rosemarie Haag, and Cervin Robinson. Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first book to document and analyze New York’s Art Deco skyscrapers, beginning with the Barclay-Vesey (1923–1925) and ending with the Empire State (1929–1931) and RCA (1931–1935) Buildings. Richly illustrated with an emphasis on exterior and interior decorative details. Examines sources for the skyscrapers’ setback massing, tapestries of brick, and sumptuous ornament, among them the 1925 Paris Exposition, along with cubism, expressionism, the Gothic, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Find this resource:

  • Dolkart, Andrew S. “The Fabric of New York’s Garment District: Architecture and Development in an Urban Cultural Landscape.” Buildings and Landscapes 18 (Spring 2011): 14–42.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Valuable study of the previously little-known Garment District skyscrapers, centered on Seventh Avenue between 35th and 41st Streets, built for manufacturing, design, and display at the industry’s height in the production of women’s ready-to-wear clothing.

    Find this resource:

  • Ferriss, Hugh. Metropolis of Tomorrow. Reprint, with afterword by Carol Willis. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published 1929. Architectural delineator Hugh Ferriss envisions an ideal metropolis featuring widely spaced tower buildings, based on his fifteen-year study of the 1916 zoning ordinance and a critical but imaginative analysis of recent tendencies toward height, density, and stratified systems of circulation in New York. Drawings are strongly nocturnal in character. Afterword by Carol Willis provides authoritative account of Ferriss’s life, work, sources of inspiration, and process of conceiving and drawing Metropolis.

    Find this resource:

  • Morshed, Adnan. Impossible Heights: Skyscrapers, Flight, and the Master Builder. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816673186.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how the skyscraper and the airplane, both of which provided a new way of seeing the world from above, engendered a new consciousness that permeated American visual culture during the interwar period, bringing together the architecture and planning of Hugh Ferriss, Buckminster Fuller, and Norman Bel Geddes with the popular culture of aviation, science fiction, and film. As master builders, each surveyed the landscape to envision a utopian future.

    Find this resource:

  • Stern, Robert A. M., Gregory Gilmartin, and Thomas Mellins. New York 1930. New York: Rizzoli International, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The section “City of Towers” includes four chapters on major projects for skyscrapers in 1920s New York, both built and unbuilt. Highlights the day’s race for height and associated publicity, including the legendary competition for height between William van Alen and H. Craig Severance illustrated in the Chrysler (1928–1930) and Manhattan Company (1928–1930) Buildings. Good source for the noted skyscrapers of Ralph Walker, Raymond Hood, and Ely Jacques Kahn.

    Find this resource:

  • Tauranac, John. The Empire State: The Making of a Landmark. New York: Scribner, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A biography of the Empire State Building (1929–1931), from its conception in the minds of Alfred E. Smith and John J. Raskob to its design, construction, completion, and reception by contemporaries and later generations. Intended for the general reader. Recommended for its analysis of the landmark skyscraper within its broader urban, political, and especially economic context, the booming construction economy of the 1920s. Explains the skyscraper’s enduring appeal as a symbol of the city.

    Find this resource:

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is New York City’s single most important urban project of the era, in which a splendid array of skyscrapers is integrated with the city’s streets, transportation systems, and artfully designed public spaces. Jordy 1972 is a highly recommended appreciation and analysis, and Krinsky 1978 an archivally based, in-depth study of all aspects of the project, including the first as well as later stages of its planning and design.

  • Jordy, William. “Rockefeller Center and Corporate Urbanism.” In American Buildings and Their Architects. Vol. 5, The Impact of European Modernism in the Mid-Twentieth Century. By William Jordy, 1–85. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Documents and analyzes the design process for Rockefeller Center (1927–1935) and critically assesses its contribution to the public life of New York City, including a comparison with noted public spaces such as City Hall Park, Bryant Park, and Times Square. Argues that the project’s axial Beaux-Arts composition, with the RCA Building (1931–1935) as a salient urban marker, wide spacing of surrounding slab-like skyscrapers, separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and terraced gardens, collectively embody the modern urban ideals of the period.

    Find this resource:

  • Krinsky, Carol Herselle. Rockefeller Center. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first definitive account of the financing, planning, design, and construction of Rockefeller Center (1927–1935), a complex of twenty-one buildings with art-embellished public open spaces, an underground pedestrian system, and access to public transportation. Also provides a history of zoning legislation and real estate operations within the city and their impact on the project. Views the design as a focal point for Manhattan and an important influence over postwar urban renewal projects.

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Theoretical Writings and Criticism

Wright 2008 (first published 1931) is a critique of New York City’s urbanism the year that Wright began work on Broadacre City, his design for a decentralized utopia, in which he aimed to liberate citizens from the congestion of the city via electricity and the automobile. Le Corbusier 1964 (first published 1937) is a similarly perceptive critique of the city’s dense urbanism as well as American culture; the architect had previously designed his Contemporary City in 1922 and Radiant City in 1930, both of which featured widely spaced skyscrapers of concrete and glass amid swaths of greenery.

  • Le Corbusier. When the Cathedrals Were White. Translated by Francis E. Hyslop Jr. Reprint. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Translation of Quand les cathédrales étaiant blanche (1937), first published in 1947. The 20th century’s most important French architect visited New York City for the first time in 1935. With this book he earned a reputation as an incisive critic of the modern American city, and especially the skyscraper in New York, which he appreciates in “tower” form, but also denounces as a facilitator of congestion and emblem of America’s excessive individualism, decadent consumer culture, and the corruptions of capitalism.

    Find this resource:

  • Wright, Frank Lloyd. “The Tyranny of the Skyscraper.” In Modern Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930. By Frank Lloyd Wright, 83–98. Reprint. Introduction by Neil Levine. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published 1931. The fifth of six lectures that Frank Lloyd Wright delivered at Princeton in 1930, and his first theoretical statement about the architecture and urbanism of the skyscraper. Incisive critique of the skyscraper in New York City as a “commercial expedient” and advertising tool that exercises tyranny over the city, causing traffic problems, congestion, and “super-concentration.” Argues for spacing out skyscrapers and multi-level streets and walkways, but ultimately for rejecting the city.

    Find this resource:

Chicago

For an understanding of how the city’s major skyscrapers contributed to its unique towered composition of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly as influenced by the 1923 zoning law, see Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), along with Chappell 1987, Chappell 1992, and Bruegmann 2018. Solomonson 2001 deeply contextualizes the Tribune Building, one of the era’s most important skyscrapers, within the culture of the city and the nation. Hoffmann 1998 analyzes Frank Lloyd Wright’s National Life Insurance Company project as related to the city’s earlier skyscrapers of the 1880s and 1890s. Leslie 2013 highlights the city’s technological breakthroughs, which facilitated construction of towers to previously unprecedented heights.

  • Bruegmann, Robert, ed. Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America. Chicago: Chicago Art Deco Society, 2018.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authoritative source for Art Deco within the broader visual culture of Chicago, 1910–1950. Encompasses buildings, objects, and graphics, and prominently features the city’s skyscrapers. Highlights Chicago’s role as an industrial center serving a mass consumer marketplace. Lavishly illustrated in color with five thematic scholarly essays and a catalog of 101 key designs, each comprising a short essay and bibliography. Maps identify locations of key buildings in the loop and beyond. Published in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum, distributed by Yale University Press.

    Find this resource:

  • Chappell, Sally A. Kitt. “As If the Lights Were Always Shining: Graham, Anderson, Probst and White’s Wrigley Building at the Boulevard Link.” In Chicago Architecture, 1872–1922: Birth of a Metropolis. Edited by John Zukowsky, 291–301. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brief history of the Wrigley Building, with an emphasis on the client William Wrigley Jr.’s civic aspirations, siting on Michigan Avenue at the Chicago River, and design by Charles G. Beersman. Notable for its tower, inspired by the Greek Monument of Lysicrates and the Giralda Tower, Seville, sparkling white exterior, and nighttime illumination. Published in association with the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Find this resource:

  • Chappell, Sally A. Kitt. Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 1912–1936: Transforming Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authoritative overview of the firm, with an emphasis on its transformation of traditional architectural vocabularies to accommodate large-scale modern design problems, among them the skyscraper. Examines noteworthy skyscrapers, many of which are landmarks in their respective cities, among them the Wrigley Building (1919–1924), Pittsfield Building (1926–1927), and Field Building (1929–1934) in Chicago; the Equitable Building (1912–1915) and Chase Manhattan Bank (1926–1928) in New York; and the Terminal Tower (1917–1930) in Cleveland.

    Find this resource:

  • Hoffmann, Donald. Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and the Skyscraper. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exploration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quest for light in his National Life Insurance Company (1924–1925) and St. Mark’s Tower projects (1928–1929). Views the designs as both a continuation and critique of Louis Sullivan’s earlier and more massive skyscrapers, notably the Wainwright Building (1891), and compares them with Chicago’s earlier skeletal glass and terra-cotta-clad Tacoma (1886–1889) and Reliance (1894) Buildings.

    Find this resource:

  • Leslie, Thomas. Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871–1934. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037542.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Continues the exploration of the Chicago skyscraper, already covered by the author through the early 1910s (under The Early Skyscraper: Chicago), to highlight the real estate boom of the 1920s. Builders achieve new heights, supported by the electric gearless traction elevator, caisson foundations, pneumatic power for faster riveting, and further rationalized construction. The new setback ordinance of 1923 replaces the earlier flat limit on height, permitting towers. The Wrigley Building (1919–1921) and Chicago Tribune Tower (1923–1925) exploit the skyscraper as an urban object.

    Find this resource:

  • Solomonson, Katherine. The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition: Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the Chicago Tribune Tower’s design and associated competition within the context of 1920s consumer society, rising nationalism in the wake of World War I, and Chicago’s history of urban design. Assesses the Tribune Tower Competition critically as related to the company’s objectives for garnering publicity and creating a landmark that represented an idealized civic community. In-depth analysis of the competition’s international entries in the contexts of architectural theory and criticism as well as advertising.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

Poletti 2008 investigates a regional variant of Art Deco in San Francisco, in which Timothy Pflueger, the city’s noted architect of the era, inflected locally known Asian and Mesoamerican themes in his designs for skyscrapers. Van Zanten 1982 and Murphy and Reilly 2017 examine the architectural modernity and cultural complexities of the “skyscraper Gothic,” which along with Art Deco served as the dominant style for skyscrapers during the 1920s.

  • Murphy, Kevin, and Lisa Reilly, eds. Skyscraper Gothic: Medieval Style and Modernist Buildings. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Eight essays explore the artistic, philosophical, and cultural meanings of “skyscraper Gothic.” Historically important for associations with Christianity, medieval mercantile capitalism, and the communal ideal of craftsmanship, the Gothic around 1900 had associations with anti-modernism, romanticism, and mysticism. It also provided the modern architect with a theoretically rational method of design. The style’s energetic verticality and potential for the picturesque contributed to its popularity as an urban style.

    Find this resource:

  • Poletti, Therese. Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a chapter on Pflueger’s 1920’s setback skyscrapers in San Francisco, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building (1923–1925), the tallest in the city when completed, and 450 Sutter (1927–1929) in the context of the firm’s work. Pflueger’s motion picture theaters, designed as exotic, ornate, escapist venues, influenced his skyscrapers, for which he employed Asian and Mesoamerican themes.

    Find this resource:

  • Van Zanten, David. “Twenties Gothic.” New Mexico Studies in the Fine Arts 7 (1982): 19–23.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how the 1920s “Beaux-Arts Gothic” designs of James Gamble Rogers, including the Sterling Library at Yale, and Howells & Hood, known for the Chicago Tribune Tower, systemized the Gothic by splitting imagery from function. Architects freely manipulated the imagery to the end of visual appeal on the skylines of American cities, making their designs competitive with print advertising while adding brightness to the industrial city.

    Find this resource:

The Postwar Skyscraper

The scholarship on the skyscraper during the 1950s is revealing of a unique decade in which general prosperity and the newly dominant corporate order achieved through architecture a greater visibility on the American urban scene. The office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), America’s leading architectural firm, was known for its partnership organization and offices in several cities serving corporate clients even while under the design direction of Gordon Bunshaft. The architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright developed highly individual solutions to the skyscraper, the Seagram Building and the Price Tower, respectively, each of which served as landmarks in the architects’ respective careers, while also creating a powerful identity for the corporate clients who commissioned them. Little scholarship exists on the urbanism of the postwar skyscraper, other than Weisman 1950 (cited under Postwar Skyscraper: New York: Contemporary Theoretical Writings and Criticism) and Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper), which note the prismatic character of the contemporary office building as an object in urban space, featuring glass curtain walls and deep, open-plan interiors. Jordy 1972 and Lambert 2013 (both under Postwar Skyscraper: New York) devote considerable attention to the Seagram Building’s plaza, an integral feature of great importance to the architect’s original concept for the project.

General

Joedicke 1962 provides an excellent overview of the era, insofar as it illustrates the architectural commonalities of 1950s office buildings, many of which architects such as Skidmore, Ownings & Merill (SOM) designed for corporations, through the full documentation of exemplary designs in America and abroad. Adams 2006 looks inside the office of SOM to examine the firm’s partnership organizational model and production, emphasizing key designs also illustrated in Joedicke 1962.

  • Adams, Nicholas. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill: SOM since 1936. Milan: Electa Architecture, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An introduction and overview that analyzes the “partnership practice” of SOM, founded by Louis Skidmore and Nathanial Owings in 1936, across four generations, highlighting the contributions of key designers, among them Gordon Bunshaft. The firm aspires to bring together the discipline of modern architecture with rational organizational methods. Documents twenty-seven key works, including Lever House (1950–1952), New York, and the Inland Steel Headquarters (1955–1958), Chicago.

    Find this resource:

  • Joedicke, Jürgen. Office Buildings. Translated by C. V. Amerongen. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authoritative survey of office building design in the 1950s, originally published in 1959 as Buröbauten, featuring key examples in America, Europe, and Asia. Outstanding for photographic documentation and precise line drawings illustrating plans and sections; structural, mechanical, and lighting configurations; and an array of construction details.

    Find this resource:

New York

In New York, the scholarship on the postwar skyscraper is focused on the Seagram Building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the Lever House, designed by Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill, under the artistic direction of Gordon Bunshaft—both of which established a new relationship between the skyscraper and the city. Jordy 1972 explains the elements of Mies van der Rohe’s formal language for the Seagram Building, initially developed for 860 Lakeshore Drive, and Lambert 2013 examines all aspects of the commission in depth. Scott 2011 is a nuanced exploration of the project’s reception, particularly by the Museum of Modern Art. Schulze 1985 provides informative context for Mies’s skyscrapers through a critical evaluation of the architect’s philosophy and career. Adams 2019 and Krinsky 1988 devote considerable attention to Bunshaft’s designs for the Lever House and other skyscrapers in New York, including One Chase Manhattan Plaza (Chase Manhattan Bank). Weisman 1950 (under Postwar Skyscraper: New York: Contemporary Theoretical Writings and Criticism) explains the new architectural character of the postwar skyscraper within the context of the city and its history.

  • Adams, Nicholas. Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An insightful biography that illuminates the man and his buildings, drawing on thorough research of remaining archival records. With the Lever House (1950–1952), New York, and its immediate critical acclaim, Bunshaft established himself as an artistic genius working within the collaborative framework of SOM. Shows SOM as deeply imbricated with the corporate structure it serves, and thus strongly identified with the glass and steel corporate modernism of the 1950s.

    Find this resource:

  • Jordy, William H. “The Laconic Splendor of the Metal Frame: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 860 Lake Shore Drive Apartments and His Seagram Building.” In American Buildings and Their Architects. Vol. 5, The Impact of European Modernism in the Mid-Twentieth Century. By William H. Jordy, 211–277. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In-depth analysis of Mies van der Rohe’s formal solutions for his two important American skyscrapers, 860 Lakeshore Drive (1948–1951), Chicago, and the Seagram Building (1954–1958), New York, for the latter including his concept for the plaza as integral to the design. Explains the architect’s indebtedness to Hellenistic models and craftsman’s pragmatic directness about structure, which combine to create in reticulated designs of metal and glass an idealistic “universal language” of modern architecture.

    Find this resource:

  • Krinsky, Carol Herselle. Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. New York: Architectural History Foundation, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first and standard work on Gordon Bunshaft and his artistic contribution to SOM as the firm’s leading designer. Illuminates the match between such a large-scale architectural firm and the needs of corporate clients who commission comparably large, complicated projects, including the Seagram Company. Appendix lists key members of Bunshaft’s project teams. Excellent documentation of individual projects, including multiple photographic views of exteriors, interiors, and details, most by Ezra Stoller.

    Find this resource:

  • Lambert, Phyllis. Building Seagram. Foreword by Barry Bergdoll. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Definitive study of the New York landmark and masterwork of Mies van der Rohe’s career, from the design’s genesis through its afterlife, highlighting zoning, taxation, and preservation. Author’s access to archives and direct experience with the project support an in-depth account of its many facets, particularly the process of design. Strong emphasis on the importance of sustaining architectural culture within the commercial marketplace.

    Find this resource:

  • Schulze, Franz. Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Definitive biography of Mies van der Rohe, based on in-depth archival research. Explores Mies’s life, work, and philosophical orientation within the social and political context of the 1920s Weimar Republic and 1950s postwar urban America. Mies’s skyscrapers, from the Friedrichstrasse competition project (1921) to the Seagram Building (1954–1958), crystallize the spirit of the times: structure, reduced to its essence, expresses the aspiration toward universality Mies associates with the modern sensibility.

    Find this resource:

  • Scott, Felicity. “An Army of Soldiers or a Meadow: The Seagram Building and the “Art of Modern Architecture.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 70 (September 2011): 330–353.

    DOI: 10.1525/jsah.2011.70.3.330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the reception of Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building during the postwar era, with an emphasis on Arthur Drexler’s representation of the design at the Museum of Modern Art. Mies aimed to crystallize in the Seagram project the immanent forces of his time, but others cheapened his vocabulary to make it a lingua franca for commercial architecture, thus flattening the original into a mere image, creating a wallpaper-like urban vernacular that echoed the day’s media environment.

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Theoretical Writings and Criticism

Weisman 1950 defines the unique relationship of the 1950s postwar skyscraper to the city, especially by contrast to the towering setback skyscrapers of the 1920s.

  • Weisman, Winston. “The Skyscraper: Return to Earth.” Architectural Review 107 (March 1950): 197–202.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the plans and volumetric proportions of recent skyscrapers, among them the United Nations Secretariat, and compares them with the towering setback skyscrapers of the 1920s, including the urban prophecies of Hugh Ferriss, Norman Bel Geddes, and Francisco Mujica. Argues that given the demands of office planning and the challenges of assembling parcels for large sites, builders will never again achieve the heights of the 1920s city. Thus, the “skyscraper age” has ended.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

Beyond New York, one of the era’s most noted skyscrapers was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the earlier version of which, as St. Mark’s Tower, appeared in his drawings and model for the Broadacre City project of the early 1930s. Wright 1956 and Alofsin 2005 explain the uniqueness of the Price Tower by comparison to the work of the architect’s contemporaries, showing how its organic and geometrically complex design responded to the ambitions of a small corporate client located in remote Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

  • Alofsin, Anthony, ed. Prairie Skyscraper: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower. New York: Rizzoli, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Four scholarly essays present new research on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower (1952–1957). Along with a catalogue of drawings and designs, accompanied an exhibition of 2006. Situates Wright’s innovative skyscraper within the context of his own designs, notably St. Mark’s Tower (1927–1929), and theoretical writings about the skyscraper and the city; his relationship with his client Harold C. Price and Bartlesville; and postwar criticism of architecture and planning.

    Find this resource:

  • Wright, Frank Lloyd. The Story of the Tower: The Tree that Escaped the Crowded Forest. New York: Horizon Press, 1956.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The architect’s own account of the history of the H.C. Price Company Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, beginning with its original design as St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie, New York, 1929. Includes a complete record of the project’s construction in drawings and photographs.

    Find this resource:

The 1960s and 1970s: The Renewed Quest for Height

The skyscrapers of the 1960s and 1970s are distinguished by their taller size and larger sites within cities, with the aim of revitalizing their downtowns, particularly New York, Chicago, and Boston. Certain skyscrapers, such as the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago, continued to be designed as office buildings, in this case the highest in the world at the time, at 1,451 feet (surpassed by the Petronas Towers in 1998), but more frequently such skyscrapers served as an integral part of larger complexes of buildings housing multiple uses, ranging from apartments to shopping, and typically incorporating automobile parking, as shown by the Pan Am Building and World Trade Center in New York, Marina City in Chicago, and the Prudential Center in Boston, with the latter creating a new “midtown” for the city. The Hancock Center in Chicago functioned internally as a small city in its own right. Architects and builders integrated the new large-scale projects within the fabric of the city through spacious plazas and links to the transportation infrastructure, but in disrupting the traditional scale of their surroundings, they incited architectural criticism.

General

More than the work of any other architect or firm, the skyscrapers and office buildings of Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill (SOM) defined the era. Although reputed for their tallest skyscrapers, the Hancock Center and the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago, and One Chase Manhattan Plaza (Chase Manhattan Bank) and the Union Carbide Building in New York, the firm also produced numerous additional projects in Chicago, New York, and other cities, related suburban locations, and outside the United States.

  • Adams, Nicholas. Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill: SOM since 1936. Milan: Electa Architecture, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A complete overview of SOM that in addition to the 1950s (see Adams 2006 cited under Postwar Skyscraper: General) also covers the most dynamic period of the firm’s history, the 1960s and 1970s, including its many projects for skyscrapers and office buildings. The firm established offices in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, in addition to Chicago and New York. Collaboration between Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan in designing the Hancock Center (1965–1970) and Sears Tower (1968–1974), inspired by Myron Goldsmith and the computer analysis of complex structural systems, marked Chicago as the firm’s center of practice.

    Find this resource:

New York

The scholarship on skyscrapers in New York is focused on the era’s two largest projects for the city, the Pan Am Building and the World Trade Center. Clausen 2005 highlights the massive scale and the ambitious engineering of the Pan Am Building, for this reason the subject of severe architectural criticism, and Gillespie 2002 and Ruchelman 1977 assess the design and urban impact of the World Trade Center. Ruchelman details the project’s complexity of planning and urban restructuring, advocating stronger government policies to guide such ambitious, large-scale works, and Gillespie explores the twin towers’ design, construction, and meanings from the project’s origins down to 2002.

  • Clausen, Meredith. The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Extensive documentation of the criticism incited by the Pan Am Building (1958–1963), a massive 59-story speculative skyscraper built as an engineering marvel over two layers of subterranean tracks directly adjacent to Grand Central Station. Ada Louis Huxtable, Douglas Haskell, and others strongly voice the project’s architectural and urban compromises and negative impact on the city. Emphasizes the adverse consequences of the skyscraper for Pan American Airways as well as the careers of Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi.

    Find this resource:

  • Gillespie, Angus Kress. Twin Towers: The Life of New York City’s World Trade Center. 2d rev. ed. New York: New American Library, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Biography and cultural study of the World Trade Center complex (1962–1976) from the project’s origins in the Port Authority, through design, completion, occupancy, and changing reception, the latter shifting from 1960s optimism and expansiveness of vision to the 1970s disillusionment with bigness and conspicuous waste. Informative diagrams illustrate key features, including the basement slurry wall, exoskeletal structure, floor and ceiling systems, and elevators. Explores the project’s meanings as a global symbol of American capitalism. Originally published in 1999 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).

    Find this resource:

  • Ruchelman, Leonard. The World Trade Center: Politics and Policies of Skyscraper Development. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assessment of the World Trade Center’s (1962–1973) impact on New York City. Shows how the project’s sixteen-acre site, unprecedented height, infrastructural requirements (including water, sewerage, and transportation networks), along with police and fire protection, placed a severe strain on the urban environment. Questions whether such a large-scale development can serve public needs, arguing for the role of government in overseeing such projects through a strong policy of public-private decision-making.

    Find this resource:

  • Stern, Robert A. M., Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman. New York 1960. New York: Monacelli Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Skyscrapers number among a wide array of building types and urban projects, built and unbuilt, in this expansive documentary history of postwar New York City, with landmarks such as the United Nations Headquarters (1947–1952), Seagram Building (1954–1958), and the World Trade Center (1962–1973) situated among the more typical development projects by Emery Roth & Sons and others. Useful for understanding how a new modern setback vernacular transformed Manhattan, and for its completeness in illustrating the New York built environment.

    Find this resource:

Chicago

With their bold structural innovations in steel, the Hancock Center and Sears Tower, the latter the world’s tallest skyscraper until 1998, reshaped the skyline of Chicago, but Marina City also made a distinctive contribution to the identity of the city in featuring prominent and memorable towers constructed in concrete. The builders of the Hancock Center and Marina City aimed to revitalize the city with multi-use designs, reflecting the aspirations of urban renewal planning.

  • Marjanović, Igor, and Katerina Rüedi Ray. Marina City: Bertrand Goldberg’s Urban Vision. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concise account of the Marina City complex’s (1959–1967) origins, design, construction, and afterlife as a “city within a city” incorporating two cylindrical concrete residential towers, the day’s tallest in concrete, with a commercial plaza, office building, auditorium, and marina. Includes substantial chapter on Bertram Goldberg. Insightful analyses of the project’s reception within the local, architectural, and popular media. Period illustrations throughout.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

Minorou Yamasaki achieved renown for the World Trade Center in New York, but he also designed skyscrapers in other cities, as explained in Gyure 2017, the most noted among them the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company Headquarters in Detroit. Boston’s Prudential Center, nearly as ambitious as the World Trade Center, illustrates in many dimensions the day’s urban renewal paradigm, as thoroughly explained in Rubin 2012, which deeply contextualizes the project within the city’s political and economic history.

  • Gyure, Dale Allen. Minoru Yamasaki. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a chapter examining Yamasaki’s designs for tall buildings, noted among them the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company Headquarters (1958–1963), Detroit, and the World Trade Center (1962–1976), New York City. Explains Yamasaki’s structurally innovative and “humanist” philosophy of design, which incorporated a nuanced sense of scale and delicacy of detail. Shows how that philosophy was severely challenged by the World Trade Center towers’ specified height of 110 stories high.

    Find this resource:

  • Rubin, Elihu. Insuring the City: The Prudential Center and the Postwar Urban Landscape. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent for placing the Prudential Center (1957–1964), a large-scale “city within a city” designed by the architect Charles Luckman, within the context of its time and place. In working with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Prudential functioned as a quasi-public redevelopment company. With its boxy, 750-foot tower and connection to an extended Massachusetts Turnpike, providing anew infrastructure for the automobile, the urban renewal project dramatically reshaped the Boston urban landscape.

    Find this resource:

The Contemporary Skyscraper: 1980s to Present

The scholarship on contemporary skyscrapers highlights two tendencies: global competition in Asia, and the quest for sustainability. Within this context, Paul Rudolph, Ken Yeang, and Cesar Pelli produced especially imaginative solutions to the problem of the skyscraper in Asia, among them Rudolph’s Wisma Dharmala Tower (1983–1988) in Jakarta; Yeang’s Menara Mesiniaga for IBM (1989–1992) in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; and Pelli’s Petronas Towers (1991–1998) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Gissen 2002 (cited under Contemporary Skyscraper: 1980s to Present: General) explains the new generation of sustainable skyscrapers, including a catalogue of recent projects around the world. Hamzah and Yeang 1994 (under The Contemporary Skyscraper: 1980s to Present: Other Cities) demonstrates the architect’s originality of thought for the design of skyscrapers in light of the local environment. The implications of Yeang’s ideas for a sustainable urbanism of the skyscraper are outlined in Yeang 2002 (under Contemporary Skyscraper: 1980s to Present: General), which advocates emphasizing the urban ecosystem over style or height. Equally significant in the scholarship is the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site in the wake of September 11, 2001.

General

For a broad survey of construction activity around the world circa 2000, see Zukowsky and Thorne 2000, and for sustainable skyscrapers, see Gissen 2002. King 1996 argues that builders of contemporary skyscrapers have participated in a global system of signification, which demands the construction of ever taller, more visible, and more stylistically flamboyant skyscrapers. In this light, Paul Rudolph’s skyscrapers, as explained in Rohan 2014, stand out for their architect’s sustained commitment to reimagining the type in light of local cultural circumstances. Yeang 2002 extends the author’s original idea of the “bioclimatic skyscraper,” which had powerful implications locally in Malaysia, into a more generalized program for building cities of sustainable skyscrapers in climatically supportive environments around the world. Mitchell 1997 argues that the digital revolution precludes the corporations’ construction of supertall skyscrapers for the purpose of advertising.

  • Gissen, David. Big and Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Briefly defines “sustainability” in architecture and urbanism, highlighting the new generation of environmentally sensitive big buildings, including skyscrapers. Touches on the passive systems in late-19th-century skyscrapers, the later mechanical environments of postwar office interiors, and the impact of the 1970s environmental movement. Includes a catalogue of fifty buildings with an itemized list of their sustainable features, among them the Menara Mesiniaga (1989–1992), Selangor, Malaysia, and Foster & Partner’s Swiss Re Headquarters (1997–2004), London.

    Find this resource:

  • King, Anthony. “Worlds in a City: Manhattan Transfer and the Ascendance of Spectacular Space.” Planning Perspectives 11 (1996): 97–114.

    DOI: 10.1080/02665439608559398Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the architectural giantism represented by the world’s tallest buildings is bound up with a global system of signification: newly emerging cities and corporations flaunt among competitors their economic virility and power. Traces the origins of the phenomenon to the late-19th-century Manhattan skyline. Notes that recently Americans have displaced the skyscraper as a sign of modernity with suburban greenery. The competition has intensified, however, in Asia and cities around the world.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitchell, William J. “Do We Still Need Skyscrapers?” Scientific American 277 (December 1997): 112–113.

    DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1297-112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the original skyscraper fulfilled industrial capitalism’s requirement of bringing office workers together for interaction face-to-face within the city. The digital revolution, however, reduces this need, as does the advertising advantage of great height, the latter better served by a company’s web pages on the internet. Certain companies and individuals will continue to build skyscrapers without economic justification, however, to demonstrate position and power.

    Find this resource:

  • Rohan, Timothy M. The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Definitive monograph on Paul Rudolph. Analyzes designs for skyscrapers within the context of the architect’s career, among them his unbuilt Trailer Tower project (1954), Sarasota; a foray into suspended prefabricated units, his Crawford Manor (1962–1966), New Haven, which features a dramatic urban silhouette; and, most important, his 1980s Asian skyscrapers, distinctive among them the Wisma Dharmala Tower (1983–1988), Jakarta, a mixed-use “vertical village” evoking the pitched-roof local vernacular in pronounced overhangs.

    Find this resource:

  • Yeang, Ken. Reinventing the Skyscraper: A Vertical Theory of Urban Design. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Academy, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Yeang extends his principles of bioclimatic design for individual skyscrapers into an urban context, creating a sustainable “city in the sky.” Argues for habitability over style or height. Views the skyscraper as an urban ecosystem and setting for public life, aiming to remedy the alienating experience of high-rise existence. Projects incorporate vertical landscaping in multi-level interconnected parks, high-rise neighborhoods, viewing platforms at multiple heights, and reconfigured transportation systems within and among tall structures.

    Find this resource:

  • Zukowsky, John, and Martha Thorne, eds. Skyscrapers: The New Millennium. Munich and Chicago: Prestel, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Global survey of contemporary designs for skyscrapers, circa 2000, with brief introduction relating the projects to the recent construction economy, from the 1980s speculative boom to late 1990s “value engineering.” Catalogue features spectacular unbuilt designs, among them Norman Foster’s 2,600-foot-high Millennium Tower (1990), Tokyo, alongside important built works such as Norman Foster’s Swiss Re Headquarters (1998–2001), London, and Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Towers (1991–1998), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Find this resource:

New York

The skyline of New York City is currently undergoing rapid change, with the construction of super-slender skyscrapers. The existing scholarship on the contemporary skyscraper in the city, however, has focused on the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and on the rebuilding of the site in the wake of the disaster; it also includes a thoughtful critical assessment of Lord Norman Foster’s more recent Hearst Tower.

  • Rustow, Stephen. “Scenography and Structural Theatrics: Urban, Foster, and the Hearst Tower.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 66 (June 2007): 154–159.

    DOI: 10.1525/jsah.2007.66.2.154Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Lord Norman Foster’s addition of the Hearst Tower (2002–2006) to the earlier Hearst International Magazine Building (1926–1929), conceived by the theatrical designer Joseph Urban in New York. Explains Foster’s characteristic incorporation of historical architecture with designs of great technological novelty. In completing Urban’s design, Foster reduced that design’s exterior to a shell while adding a 46-story glass tower supported by a structurally geometric “diagrid,” further fulfilling the original aim of theater, but with an awkwardness that fell short of architecture’s obligation to the public realm.

    Find this resource:

World Trade Center Site

Sorkin and Zukin 2002 outline and assess the dilemma surrounding the World Trade Center in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, including the responses of historians and critics, and Sagalyn 2016 documents and analyzes in depth the process of rebuilding the site.

  • Sagalyn, Lynne B. Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Definitive account of one of the world’s most significant and visible development projects: the World Trade Center’s sixteen-acre site following the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001. In-depth analysis of key stakeholders’ conflicting interests in rebuilding. Emphasizes the politics of reconciling the project’s master plan (incorporating a memorial, commercial towers, cultural buildings, and transportation center) with competing external demands: the complexities of symbolism and the dictates of real estate finance.

    Find this resource:

  • Sorkin, Michael, and Sharon Zukin, eds. After the World Trade Center. New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, disaster, urban historians and critics reflect on the city’s past as well as critically examine its future, noting the conflicting forces around shaping that future already at work, underscoring the importance of rebuilding the skyline as well as appropriately mourning those who lost their lives.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

Ford 2001 examines the regional competition among skyscrapers in Asia, while De Alba 2003 and Rohan 2014 (cited under Contemporary Skyscraper: 1980s to Present: General) analyze and document Paul Rudolph’s skyscrapers in Asia, among the most important projects of his career, showing their responsiveness in site planning and architectural details to the region’s distinctive local cultural and urban contexts, a theme also developed in Pelli and Crosbie 2001, with particular attention to the Malaysia-inspired features of the Petronas Towers. For Hamzah and Yeang 1994, the Asian skyscraper’s most important features should connect it with the particularities of the local natural environment, especially the climate, making it distinctive to its place, as opposed to relating it to the system of competitive construction around the globe. In a similar vein, Clausen 2014 points to the problem of over-emphasis on style and media impact in the postmodern Portland Building, to the neglect of the local esteem for the city’s public life.

  • Clausen, Meredith. “Michael Graves’s Portland Building: Power, Politics, and Postmodernism.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 73 (June 2014): 248–269.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes and explains the contradictions in the reception of the Portland Building (1980–1982), Oregon, which in the mind of contemporaries crystallized the postmodern movement in architecture. As an instant architectural media sensation, the unbuilt competition design launched Michael Graves’s career. In the city of Portland, however, it provoked extended controversy among architects and citizens, and when built it was widely noted for failing to fulfill its functional as well as public roles within the community.

    Find this resource:

  • De Alba, Roberto. Paul Rudolph: The Late Work. Introduction by Robert Bruegmann. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes Rudolph’s skyscrapers in Southeast Asia, the most important works of his late career, in which the architect realized his most dramatic formal ideas. Projects include the Colonnade (1980–1986), Singapore; the Dharmala Building (1983–1988), Jakarta; the Bond Centre (1984–1988), Hong Kong; and the two-phase Concourse, Singapore, completed in the mid-1990s. All incorporated generous sweeps of stairs, multi-story atria, and elevated walkways, balconies, and terraces, as illustrated in the architect’s colorful conceptual pencil sketches.

    Find this resource:

  • Ford, Larry R. “Skyscraper Competition in Asia.” In Imaging the City. Edited by Lawrence J. Vale and Sam Bass Warner Jr. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Urban Policy Research, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the recent construction of skyscrapers in the Asian financial centers of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta, showing that it reflects a vigorous spirit of competition among the region’s cities while also advertising their participation in the global economy. Argues that while each city projects the singular image of a gleaming tower or towers to the world, the images of the skyscrapers held by locals vary according to specific cultural notions about public space, street life, and preservation.

    Find this resource:

  • Pelli, Cesar, and Michael Crosbie. Petronas Towers: The Architecture of High Construction. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Academy, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Documents the competition entry for the Petronas Towers (1991–1998), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the tallest skyscraper in the world, at 1,482 feet and 88 stories when completed. Includes short essay by Pelli and color sketches in plan, section, and elevation; construction photographs; and detailed design development drawings. Illustrates Pelli’s effort to create a “Malaysian image,” inspired by Islamic geometries, representative of the country’s cultural traditions and climate.

    Find this resource:

  • Hamzah, T. R., and Ken Yeang. Bioclimatic Skyscrapers. 2d ed. With essays by Alan Balfour and Ivor Richards. London: Ellipsis London, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First book to outline Yeang’s theories and practice of ecological design. Yeang responds to Malaysia’s dual aspiration to fulfill the economic ambitions of a new nation while also seeking a regional cultural identity. Explains the architect’s research program; importantly, his aim is to achieve energy reduction through designing buildings as open systems, and thus to integrate structure with nature. Catalogue of built projects includes the noted Menara Mesiniaga for IBM (1989–1992).

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Theoretical Writings and Criticism

Cesar Pelli, a noted architect of skyscrapers, among them the Petronas Towers (1991–1998), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, emphasizes in Pelli 1982 the architect’s civic responsibility in constructing large structures such as skyscrapers, which are highly visible within their urban surroundings.

  • Pelli, Cesar. “Skyscrapers.” Perspecta 18 (1982): 134–151.

    DOI: 10.2307/1567040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the formal and ideological distinctions between the “high-rise building” and the “skyscraper.” The first “true skyscrapers” were towers such as the Woolworth Building, “not of the ground but of the sky.” Architects designed the later Chrysler and Empire State Buildings in the same spirit. Argues that the architect of the contemporary skyscraper should invest the building type with the form of a tower, given that as it rises upwards in the sky, it becomes “a public architectural element with civic responsibilities.”

    Find this resource:

The Skyscraper in Urban History

Most of the scholarship on the urban history of the skyscraper concentrates on Chicago and New York between the 1880s and the 1920s. Prior to World War I, both cities functioned as sites of innovation in technology and construction, with Chicago pioneering in the skyscraper’s building technologies, particularly foundation, steel frame, and cladding technologies, and New York in the construction of the expansive system of infrastructural transportation required to support the skyscrapers of the financial district at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. During the economic boom of the 1920s, both cities created the skylines for which they continue to be renowned, each in turn powerfully shaped by New York’s zoning ordinance of 1916 and Chicago’s of 1923. For this reason, the skyscraper’s architectural history cannot be separated entirely from its urban history, as very effectively demonstrated in Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper) and Bruegmann 1997 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago). Beyond New York and Chicago, the study of the skyscraper as an integral part of urban history is still a work in progress. Ford 1994 (under Skyscraper in Urban History: General), however, which examines the central business districts of a number of secondary cities, is a good place to start.

General

The scholarship on the urban history of the skyscraper includes many cities, although it emphasizes Chicago and New York. Cohen 1995 illuminates the significance of the skyscraper to European architects and planners’ fascination with American modernity, whereas Shultz and Simmons 1959 and Ford 1994 broadly survey the American scene, considering urban developments related to the skyscraper in secondary centers as well.

  • Cohen, Jean-Louis. Scenes of the World to Come: European Architecture and the American Challenge, 1893–1960. Paris: Flammarion, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies the skyscraper and its associated mechanized infrastructure with “Americanism.” Emphasizes the importance of both to the European modern architects and city planners whose interest was directed initially toward Chicago, then after World War I toward New York. Highlights the Friedrichstrasse and Chicago Tribune Tower competitions; the visionary projects of Antonio Sant’Elia, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Hilberseimer, and the Soviet avant-garde; and later Stalin-era skyscrapers. Features a rich array of illustrations, from the popular press to architects’ conceptual sketches.

    Find this resource:

  • Ford, Larry R. “Downtown Buildings: The Role of the Skyscraper in Shaping the American Central Business District.” In Cities and Buildings: Skyscrapers, Skid Rows, and Suburbs. By Larry R. Ford, 10–63. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brings a historical urban geographer’s perspective to the survey of the skyscraper in the central business districts of cities across the United States, including New York and Chicago, as well as cities such as San Francisco and Houston. Defines the monumental skyscraper as a corporate symbol. Analyzes the influence of height and zoning restrictions along with systems of transportation on the construction of skyscrapers and the shaping of downtowns.

    Find this resource:

  • Shultz, Earle, and Walter Simmons. Offices in the Sky. Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An engaging historical account of the office building industry from the 1870s through the 1950s, written from the perspective of the building manager, and intended for the general reader. Part history of construction, it also emphasizes the rental market for office space in the context of the urban economy and associated topics such as efficient office planning, elevator service, and human comfort, along with insurance and taxation, all of which impact profitability.

    Find this resource:

Chicago

For Chicago, Mayer and Wade 1969 provides the best overview of the city, including the development of the central business district (the “Loop”) and its skyscrapers, with thorough documentation of the city’s rebuilding in the wake of the fire of 1871 through the 1890s. Hines 1979 and Bluestone 1991 focus on the same years, with attention to the richness and diversity of designs for individual skyscrapers as related to the city. Bruegmann 1997 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago) examines skyscrapers amid the wide array of building types produced by Holabird & Roche for Chicago, and in doing so, documents and analyzes the city’s history as well. Merwood-Salisbury 2009 (under Early Skyscraper: Chicago) critically analyzes three prominent skyscrapers as “solutions” to the city’s urban problems around 1890.

  • Bluestone, Daniel. Constructing Chicago. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a chapter analyzing the early Chicago skyscraper, 1880–1895. Emphasis is given to the city builders’ desire to infuse the Chicago urban landscape, from parks to churches, civic buildings, and skyscrapers, with their aspirations for a cultivated urban life. Skyscrapers, rather than simply technological triumphs or crude manifestations of capitalism, feature monumental entrances, artistically embellished lobbies, and well-lit, well-serviced settings for white-collar work.

    Find this resource:

  • Hines, Thomas S. Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As originally published in 1974, briefly assesses Burnham’s key projects for skyscrapers within the larger context of his career as an architect and city planner. Emphasizes the modern aesthetic virtues of the Rookery, Monadnock, and Reliance Buildings over the picturesque profiles of the Masonic Temple and Woman’s Temple and the classical Railway Exchange and Flatiron Buildings, even while exploring the full range of the architect’s design and administrative contributions as a city planner.

    Find this resource:

  • Mayer, Harold M., and Richard C. Wade. Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The chapter “The Second City” situates the Chicago skyscraper in the context of rebuilding the city in the wake of the fire of 1871. Highlights the skyscraper’s relation to the structure of the city, including systems of transportation. Augmented by a wealth of period photographs and maps with detailed captions.

    Find this resource:

New York

The scholarship on New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is advanced, with Hall 1998 elucidating the expansiveness of the city’s growth through construction both vertically and horizontally, in which skyscrapers and associated transportation networks assumed the dominant role. Domosh 1996 analyzes the ambitious skyscrapers of the city’s newspaper and insurance industries, and Blake 2006 assesses the skyscraper’s importance to the city’s tourism industry. Flowers 2009 analyzes the three most important skyscrapers of 20th-century New York—the Empire State Building, the Seagram Building, and the World Trade Center—in light of the city and the world’s broader political context. Willis 1995 (under General Overviews of the Skyscraper) and Fenske and Holdsworth 1992 (under Early Skyscraper: New York highly contextualize works of architecture within the city’s built environment, and so illuminate its urban history as well. A distinctive body of scholarship is dedicated to the history of zoning in New York City, best represented by Toll 1969 and Bressi 1993, along with Willis 1995 (cited under General Overviews of the Skyscraper) and Revell in Moudry 2005 (cited under Anthologies), which explains the impact on the city of the zoning ordinance of 1916, the nation’s first comprehensive ordinance, in addition to the revision of 1961 and later amendments to that revision.

  • Blake, Angela. How New York Became American, 1890–1924. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how New York’s first generation of skyscrapers, chief among them the World and Flatiron Buildings, along with the lower Manhattan skyline, played an essential role in creating the “American” brand identity valued by social reformers and especially by the tourist industry. Views of skyscrapers from the street level, observation deck, or from a distance in the skyline made the city’s urban identity available and knowable to tourists.

    Find this resource:

  • Bressi, Tod W., ed. Planning and Zoning in New York City: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes chapters by Carol Willis, Roy Strickland, and Norman Marcus explaining with clarity the zoning ordinance of 1916, which defined the original “sky exposure plane” extending upward from the street, determining the design of setback skyscrapers; the revision of 1961, which defined the new “floor area ratio” (FAR); and the subsequent amendments to the 1961 revision. All had a profound transformative effect on the shaping of the city in designs for skyscrapers as well as associated public spaces.

    Find this resource:

  • Domosh, Mona. Invented Cities: The Creation of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century New York and Boston. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Employs methods of urban historical geography and socioeconomic analysis to show how New York’s newspaper and insurance enterprises, notably the World and Metropolitan Life companies built skyscrapers based as much on a promotional impulse as real estate economics, locating the designs on prominent sites with high visibility. Illustrates the locational patterns of the city’s early skyscrapers, 366 of which were constructed by 1908.

    Find this resource:

  • Flowers, Benjamin Sitton. Skyscraper: The Politics and Power of Building New York City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the creation and reception of three major skyscrapers in New York City: the Empire State Building (1929–1931), Seagram Building (1954–1958), and World Trade Center (1962–1973). Each is considered a part of the city’s built fabric, but also the realization of their commissioners’ and designers’ aspirations, inextricable in turn from the contemporary politics in the city and the world: immigration and the Great Depression, the Cold War, and capitalist globalization.

    Find this resource:

  • Hall, Peter. “The Apotheosis of the Modern: New York 1880–1940.” In Cities in Civilization. By Peter Hall, 746–802. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Best short history of New York City between 1880 and 1940, as “the quintessence of the early twentieth-century metropolis.” The city thrived because of its mastery of congestion and movement. Its skyscrapers, built to house the world’s densest concentration of workplaces located on an island, along with associated networks of transportation, chief among them the IRT and BRT subway lines, represented the supreme material realization of its entrepreneurs’, engineers’, and builders’ imaginations.

    Find this resource:

  • Toll, Seymour I. Zoned American. New York: Grossman, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a national and city context for the zoning resolution of 1916, the nation’s first comprehensive zoning law. Shows how the height and density of skyscrapers in lower Manhattan reached a culminating point of criticism in the Equitable Building (1912–1914), and how Fifth Avenue merchants organized to stop the encroachment of garment industry loft buildings in the fashionable retail district.

    Find this resource:

Other Cities

Attoe 1981 and Kostof 1991 explore the 20th-century American skyline as related to the city’s urban profile view through history. Both place a special emphasis on San Francisco, following the 1970s’ citizen activist debate over the “Manhattanization” of that skyline, as described in Brugmann and Sletteland 1971.

  • Attoe, Wayne. Skylines: Understanding and Molding Urban Silhouettes. Chichester, UK, and New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the history of the skyline as a “collective symbol,” including profile views of historic cities, as related to recent debates over the character and quality of the skyline in San Francisco. Defines ways in which a community can influence the shape of the skyline, among them invoking convention or tradition, legislation, and criticism. Notes the importance of the skyline image to advertising the identity of a city or town.

    Find this resource:

  • Brugmann, Bruce, and Greggar Sletteland, eds. The Ultimate Highrise: San Francisco’s Mad Rush toward the Sky. San Francisco: San Francisco Bay Guardian Books, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Published by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an independent newspaper founded in 1966, and described as an “ultimate anti-high-rise” handbook. Protests the “Manhattanization” of the city, given the thirty-one new skyscrapers built between 1966 and 1971 and the Urban Design Plan of 1971, which proposed new zones near the downtown for high-rise development. Argues that skyscrapers produce congestion and pollution, and pose safety hazards during earthquakes and fires.

    Find this resource:

  • Kostof, Spiro. “The Urban Skyline.” In The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings through History. By Spiro Kostof, 279–287. London: Thames & Hudson, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With reference to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and employing the German concept of “city portrait,” Kostof assesses the American 20th-century skyline. By contrast to earlier landmarks, skyscrapers are in fact monuments to individual or corporate business enterprise, and thus have little relation to the previously shared civic values. Still, when aestheticized in the glamour of the skyline, they are appreciated as signifiers of the 20th-century city.

    Find this resource:

The Technologies of the Skyscraper

The scholarship on the technologies of the skyscraper falls into four distinct areas: General Overviews, Structural Systems, Mechanical and Electrical Systems, and Construction and Materials. When silhouetted against the skyline, the skyscraper belies the complexities of its construction as well as its structural, mechanical, and electrical systems, all of which are necessary for withstanding the forces of nature (seismic and wind) as well as supporting patterns of human use and interaction. Starrett 1928 (under Builders’ Autobiographical Accounts of Construction) and Randall 1949 (under Construction and Materials) provide useful historical insight into the construction industry as related to the skyscraper, but otherwise the study of the skyscraper’s technologies and construction is a recent phenomenon, with Ascher 2011 providing the best overview.

General Overviews

Ascher 2011 provides a highly informative survey of the technologies essential to the construction of contemporary skyscrapers, whereas Elliott 1992 illuminates the historical development of those systems from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution through their employment in mid-20th-century office buildings. Salvadori 1980 provides a short introduction to the process of constructing supertall skyscrapers, including a conceptual analysis of their structural behavior. Wells 2005 documents and critically assesses several well-known contemporary skyscrapers with regard to the effectiveness of their structural systems and the durability of their cladding.

  • Ascher, Kate. The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper. New York: Penguin Books, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Intended for a general audience, provides an excellent introduction to the technologies, systems, and materials essential to the construction of the contemporary skyscraper, including topics such as foundations, structure, cladding or skin, and elevators, along with communications, life safety, and maintenance. Incisive introductory history highlights key technological breakthroughs. Explains the newest supertall, mixed-use skyscrapers in Asia and the Middle East as cities in their own right. Lavishly illustrated in color with informative three-dimensional diagrams.

    Find this resource:

  • Elliott, Cecil D. Technics and Architecture: The Development of Materials and Systems for Buildings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Detailed and illuminating survey of how new materials and systems impacted the world of architecture, many of which were significant to the development of the skyscraper, tracing origins to the late 18th and 19th centuries. Illustrated throughout with informative line drawings and photographs, including detailed explanatory captions. Each chapter covers a material (e.g., iron and steel, glass) or a system (e.g., lighting), and features timelines indicating dates of key inventions or breakthroughs.

    Find this resource:

  • Salvadori, Mario. “Skyscrapers.” In Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture. By Mario Salvadori, 107–125. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1980.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A short but substantial introduction to the technologies and construction of the skyscraper for the general reader and undergraduate students, with emphasis on the supertalls of the 1960s and 1970s. Outlines the era’s method of conceiving, designing, and building skyscrapers, including the production of designs, contract documents, shop drawings, and the fast-track method of construction. Explains the structural behavior of supertalls with clear diagrams, particularly under the lateral forces of wind.

    Find this resource:

  • Wells, Matthew. Skyscrapers: Structure and Design. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written by a practicing structural engineer, documents and critically analyzes recent skyscrapers and other vertical structures, built and unbuilt, designed by well-known architectural firms around the world. Brief introduction describes the phenomenon of building tall through time. For skyscrapers such as the London Bridge Tower, the Tour sans Fin in Paris, and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, features photographs and conceptual analytical diagrams with detailed assessments of key structural and cladding systems.

    Find this resource:

Structural Systems

The scholarship on the skyscraper’s structural systems focuses on the supertall skyscraper, and particularly on the engineering innovation identified with Fazlur Khan and Leslie Robertson; the framed tube system of construction, which made possible construction to record-breaking heights of Khan’s John Hancock Center and Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago, as well as Robertson’s World Trade Center. Saint 2007 illuminates the historical context for their breakthrough. Billington 1983 provides an especially clear and accessible description of Khan’s theories and designs, while Ali 2001 illuminates the larger social context of the engineer’s life and work. Robertson 2017 provides the author’s own account of parallel thinking about the framed tube system during his design for the World Trade Center. The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, also figure strongly in this scholarship, having surpassed the height of the Sears (Willis) Tower at the time of completion in 1998. Petroski 1997 very effectively explains the design of the Petronas Towers’ structural system, and Tamboli 2014 provides a useful account of that system for structural engineers and a broader readership, as one of six case studies of supertall structures around the world.

  • Ali, Mir M. Art of the Skyscraper: The Genius of Fazlur Kahn. New York: Rizzoli, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first and standard biography on the life and work of the structural engineer Fazlur Khan. Traces the evolution of Khan’s technological thinking while in practice with Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill and in teaching at IIT. Appropriately emphasizes his breakthrough projects: DeWitt Chestnut Apartments (1964–1965), the John Hancock Center (1965–1970), and the Sears (Willis) Tower (1968–1974). All are structurally supported by the braced tubular structural system, for which the engineer is renowned. Includes analysis of structural formulas and explanatory diagrams.

    Find this resource:

  • Billington, David. “New Towers, New Bridges.” In The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering. By David Billington, 233–265. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the collaborative process between Fazlur Khan and Bruce Graham in the design of the John Hancock Center (1965–1970) and the Sears Tower (1968–1974) in Chicago, the former a structurally efficient tubular structure with a few large diagonals, the latter a bundle of nine tubes, which retain their integrity of expression as the structure reaches higher. Notes that Khan exemplifies the “structural artist,” given that his designs express “real structure,” transcending mere fashion.

    Find this resource:

  • Petroski, Henry. “The Petronas Towers.” In Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering. By Henry Petroski, 203–212. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter on the Petronas Towers (1991–1998) highlights important engineering features, among them piles to bearing strata at minus 400 feet, a superstructure comprising a core and perimeter columns of extremely high strength concrete, a system of elevators with sky lobbies, and a skybridge with connections allowing horizontal and twisting movement. Malaysia’s new prime minister reinterpreted Islam to encourage pursuit of technical knowledge; the towers are part of plan to make the vision a reality.

    Find this resource:

  • Robertson, Leslie. The Structure of Design: An Engineer’s Extraordinary Life in Architecture. Edited by Janet Adams Strong. New York: Monacelli Press, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Personal autobiography of the engineer’s youth, education, and key projects, including the World Trade Center (1962–1973), New York; Bank of China Tower (1984–1990), Hong Kong; and the World Financial Center (1997–2008), Shanghai. Devotes considerable attention to the World Trade Center, including the process of design with Minoru Yamasaki. Recounts the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, including emotional response to the event. Is critical of the computer’s assault on the worlds of architecture and engineering.

    Find this resource:

  • Saint, Andrew. Architect and Engineer: A Study in Sibling Rivalry. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    See chapter 2, “Iron: America” (pp. 171–205); and chapter 5, “Reconciliation: America” (pp. 394–409). Within an extended analysis of the relationship between the architect and engineer, Saint delves deeply into the skyscraper with Chicago’s development of fireproofing, foundation, and skeleton frame technologies, and definition of new relationships between architects, steel fabricators, and the first consulting engineers and building contractors. Focuses on collaborations within Adler & Sullivan and, later, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, emphasizing Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan’s spectacular designs for the Hancock Center (1965–1970) and Sears (Willis) Tower (1968–1974).

    Find this resource:

  • Tamboli, Akbar, ed. Tall and Supertall Buildings: Planning and Design. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authoritative reference work on state-of-the-art in engineering in supertall landmark skyscrapers, among them the Sears (Willis) Tower (1968–1974), Chicago, the innovative braced tubular structure of which opened up the science of high-rise structural engineering to new horizons. Also features the Petronas Towers, Taipei 101, Shanghai Tower, Burj Khalifa, and the Kingdom Tower, along with chapters on structural design (incorporating wind engineering and foundation design), and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems.

    Find this resource:

Mechanical and Electrical Systems

For the skyscraper’s mechanical and electrical systems, Petroski 1996 provides a good introduction to the importance of those systems within the history of architecture, and particularly as related to the development of the skyscraper. Gray 2002 and Neumann 2002 focus on the skyscraper’s systems of elevator transportation and exterior illumination, respectively.

  • Gray, Lee E. A History of the Passenger Elevator in the 19th Century. Mobile, AL: Elevator World, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines all aspects of the development of the freight followed by passenger elevator in the 19th century, with an emphasis on the latter’s significance to the early skyscraper. Based on in-depth primary research, including the archives of the Otis Elevator Company, traces the development of elevators powered by steam, water balance, and then hydraulic systems, and electricity. Explores safety devices, elevator operation, and human comfort. Illustrated throughout with historical line engravings.

    Find this resource:

  • Neumann, Dietrich, ed. Architecture of the Night: The Illuminated Building. Munich: Prestel, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes essays on the lighting strategies developed for skyscrapers and on the nocturnal photography of the New York avant-garde. Features a substantial catalogue of individual skyscrapers, providing technically detailed accounts of their illumination schemes and reception, among them the Woolworth and Empire State Buildings, but also the Terminal Tower, Cleveland; Richfield Building, Los Angeles; and Kansas City Power & Light; as illustrated in photographs and colorful postcard views.

    Find this resource:

  • Petroski, Henry. “Buildings and Systems.” In Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing. By Henry Petroski, 188–216. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the historical importance of systems in buildings, including elevators, electrical power generation, air conditioning, plumbing systems, and, as structures reach higher, tuned mass dampers to counteract sway. In the modern skyscraper, the systems comprise many subsystems, the interactions among which must be anticipated by engineers. Charts the evolution of “systems thinking,” from the Crystal Palace (1851) to the Woolworth Building (1910–1913) and the Petronas Towers (1991–1998).

    Find this resource:

Construction and Materials

The construction of the skyscraper has received significant attention within the history of the building type. Randall 1949 serves as an exemplary historical survey of construction activity in Chicago from the fire of 1871 though the 1920s. Friedman 1995 brings a historical lens to the built fabric of New York, with attention to the structural design and material composition of individual buildings through time. More specific studies include Willis 1998, which focuses on the construction of the Empire State Building; Misa 1995 and Wermiel 2000, which explore aspects of early steel-framed and fire resistant construction; and Leslie, et al. 2018, which looks at the glass curtain wall of the 1950s. The subsection Builders’ Autobiographical Accounts of Construction includes works by Louis J. Horowitz and Boyden Sparkes, W. A. Starrett, and Paul Starrett, which provide spirited “can-do” accounts of building the 1920s New York skyline.

  • Friedman, Donald. Historical Building Construction: Design, Materials, and Technology. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written as a guide to the physical construction of buildings, 1840s to the present, in New York City. Useful for historians of architecture, engineering, and construction. Documents 1840s traditional construction in masonry, wood, and later iron, down to modern steel construction in the 1920s. Illustrated throughout with period photographs and precise drawings in plan and detail. Appendices include chronology of key buildings with a brief description of their systems of construction.

    Find this resource:

  • Leslie, Thomas, Saranya Panchaseelen, Shawn Barron, and Paolo Orlando. “Deep Space, Thin Walls: Environmental and Material Precursors to the Skyscraper,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 77 (March 2018): 77–96.

    DOI: 10.1525/jsah.2018.77.1.77Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the complex technological history behind the 1950s glass curtain wall skyscraper, best exemplified by the Inland Steel Building (1954–1958), Chicago, including the development of air conditioning, fluorescent lighting, and, most important, the glass skin itself, from the early production of handcrafted plate glass to industrialized, heat-absorbing glass. Given the halting process, solid curtain-walled buildings continued to be built, noted among them the Prudential Building (1952–1955), Chicago.

    Find this resource:

  • Misa, Thomas J. A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, 1865–1925. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a chapter showing how the Carnegie Company’s rolled steel I-beam facilitated the development of steel-framed skyscraper construction in Chicago during the 1880s and 1890s. Carnegie salesmen presented the new structural members to the city’s architects, coupled with didactically clear illustrations in handbooks, giving Carnegie the competitive edge over local steel producers. In New York, by contrast, conservative building codes hindered architects and engineers in structural design using steel.

    Find this resource:

  • Randall, Frank A. History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Early and authoritative account of building practices in Chicago, including a history of the city and an analysis of key breakthroughs in construction. Includes short biographies of builders, among them architects and engineers; a chronological account of Chicago buildings, highlighting the innovative features of their construction; along with maps, views, and an appendix documenting the city’s annual volume of construction.

    Find this resource:

  • Wermiel, Sarah. The Fireproof Building. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the development of structural fire protection in America, showing how the steel-framed skyscraper represented a triumph when put to the test during the Baltimore conflagration of 1904. Earlier methods included masonry vaulting, iron and brick combinations, “slow burning” construction in heavy timber, and, finally, iron or steel combined with hollow clay tile, the latter of which became the standard, later with emergency egress, in urban building codes.

    Find this resource:

  • Willis, Carol, ed. Building the Empire State. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Documents and analyzes the architectural design, engineering, and construction of the Empire State Building, based on a previously unknown typescript manuscript, Notes on the Construction of the Empire State Building, produced by the project’s general contractor, Starrett Brothers & Eken. Stresses the significance of collaboration among the developer, architect, engineer, and builder. Explains the determining influence of real estate finance on projects for skyscrapers, and thus the significance of speed in construction.

    Find this resource:

Builders’ Autobiographical Accounts of Construction

Three books written by leaders of the construction industry in New York during the 1920s and 1930s explore the negotiations among owner, architect, and builder, along with the general contracting firm’s organizational methods and processes, as informing the construction of the city’s most noted skyscrapers. The accounts of Louis Horowitz and Paul Starrett are strongly autobiographical: the career of each builder is defined through the construction of the Woolworth Building and the Empire State Building, respectively. W. A. Starrett, by contrast, provides a detailed and authoritative account of all aspects of the construction industry as related to the 1920s skyscraper.

  • Horowitz, Louis J., and Boyden Sparkes. The Towers of New York: The Memoirs of a Master Builder. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1937.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Louis Horowitz describes his career as a builder and president of the Thompson-Starrett Company, which he joined in 1903. He calls the New York skyline a “three-dimensional memoir,” and recounts notable projects, among them the Woolworth Building, for which he provides a vivid account from the builder’s perspective. He recalls his beginnings in real estate, developing apartment building projects, and emphasizes his skills in finance and the negotiation of building contracts, especially for the price of steel.

    Find this resource:

  • Starrett, Paul. Changing the Skyline: An Autobiography. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1938.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As one of five Starrett brothers, all of whom built skyscrapers in New York, Paul recounts his early career with Daniel Burnham in Chicago, then his move to New York with the Fuller Company. As the company’s president, he built Pennsylvania Station, but lost the contract for Woolworth Building. After forming Starrett Brothers & Eken, he built several major New York skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building, which set a record for speed in construction as the world’s tallest and the “epitome” of all that preceded it.

    Find this resource:

  • Starrett, W. A. Skyscrapers and the Men Who Build Them. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains for the general reader the complexities of constructing a skyscraper during the 1920s, and especially the administration and functioning of the modern building organization. Describes in authoritative detail the entire process of construction, from demolition and excavation through the erection of steel, concluding with the plumbing and electrical work and the “architecture” of interiors. Covers all materials, their sources, and their fabrication. Notes the critical importance of the structural engineer’s calculations, especially for wind bracing, and the “science” of estimating costs.

    Find this resource:

The Skyscraper in Social History

Two sociologists consider the built environment as related to the two particular social groups on which they have previously produced substantial work. Each gives further definition to the group through their analysis of the skyscraper. Mills 2002 explores the world of “white collar work” in the typical office building of the early 1950s, whereas Sklair 2017 views the contemporary iconic skyscrapers advertising cities around the globe as inextricable from the ideological strategy he identifies with the “transnational capitalist class.”

  • Mills, C. Wright. “The Enormous File.” In White Collar: The American Middle Classes. Reprint, with an afterword by Russell Jacoby. By C. Wright. Mills, 189–212. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1953. Describes the pattern of work, hierarchies, and human relationships, including gender-related interactions, that characterized the office environment of the early 1950s. Equates the office building interior with an “enormous file.” Desks are organized to facilitate work flow in a rationalized production line aided by office machines. Sees white collar workers as emblematic of mass society, and the skyscraper as a “monument to office culture.”

    Find this resource:

  • Sklair, Leslie. The Icon Project: Architecture, Cities, and Capitalist Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Views the construction of iconic works of architecture around the globe, the most conspicuous of which are skyscrapers, as fulfilling the agenda of a new social group, the transnational capitalist class. Explores the dynamic between this class and construction in cities around the world, which they see as development opportunities and sites of corporate entertainment. Connects the iconic works with the hyperconsumerism and economic inequality that characterize the current era.

    Find this resource:

The Skyscraper in Economic History

Economists employ their field’s principles and theories in understanding the built environment, viewing parcels of land within cities as commodities within an urban marketplace in which individuals make rational decisions in assigning prices to the value to those parcels. Their analysis of the built environment parallels the evolution of the field. Hurd 1903 sees the skyscraper strictly as an instrument of profit; Clark and Kingston 1930 as a device for bringing order to the city, thus stabilizing land values; Hoyt 1933 as a manifestation of Chicago’s successive economic booms; and Barr 2016 as a product of multiple individual choices made within the context of Manhattan Island, which include other building types besides skyscrapers.

  • Barr, Jason. Building Manhattan’s Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199344369.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brings tools of economic analysis to the skyline, seeking to explain how decisions guiding a developer’s return on investment influenced the heights of buildings in lower Manhattan’s Financial District and Midtown, as opposed to the twice as densely populated Lower East Side and other locations. Statistical analyses illustrate how individual decisions based on “rational choice,” the economic context, and policy-related criteria have driven the heights of buildings in cycles of growth from 1890 to the present.

    Find this resource:

  • Clark, W. C., and J. L. Kingston. The Skyscraper: A Study in the Economic Height of Modern Office Buildings. New York: American Institute of Steel Construction, 1930.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An economist and an architect present a strictly economic analysis of the skyscraper to provide a firm basis for the array of arguments theny advanced against the type, among them that it does not make sense economically and that it blocks sunlight and the circulation of fresh air. They see tremendous public benefit latent in the skyscraper as an “economic device” for ordering the city. Determine that a height of sixty-three stories produces the maximum economic return.

    Find this resource:

  • Hoyt, Homer. One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago: The Relationship of the Growth of Chicago to the Rise in Its Land Values, 1830–1933. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The definitive study of Chicago land economics, from 1890 to 1933, based on methods of the Chicago school of sociology and the comprehensive analysis of thousands of documents, importantly records of sales. Describes five major cycles, each lasting about eighteen years, characterized in their upswings by rapid increases in population, feverish building activity, and an increase in land values by as much as tenfold, and in their downswings by the reduction of land values by 50 percent or more.

    Find this resource:

  • Hurd, Richard. Principles of City Land Values. New York: Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide, 1903.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hurd argues that the arrangement of commercial, residential, and industrial districts in a city depends on the profitability of a particular location and its convenience to systems of transportation. He surveys twenty cities to show that the skyscrapers of a central business district represent the logical outcome of the premise that land is sold to the highest bidder, and the bidder, through speculative construction and thus capitalization of the property’s net income, makes the land earn the maximum profit.

    Find this resource:

The Skyscraper in the History of Art, Photography, Film, and Literature

The scholarship relating the skyscraper to the visual and literary arts is for the most part focused on New York City. As a subject for American artists, the skyscraper has received study in Schleier 1990 and Chave 1991, and with an emphasis on photography in Trachtenberg 1984 and Wigoder 2002—all of which examine the building type as related to the experience of modernity. Chave highlights the perceptions of New York City within modern art. Stravitz 2002 and Albrecht 2005 focus on commercial photographers’ documentation of the skyscraper and the New York skyline during the 1920s and 1930s. Neumann 1996, Woods 2001, and Sanders 2001 illuminate the impact of New York’s skyscrapers on the work of avant-garde filmmakers as well as Hollywood studio productions, with Sanders emphasizing the latter. Examinations of the skyscraper in other spheres of cultural endeavor include Sharpe 2008, which focuses on the city at night, bringing together a study of poetry and fiction with the visual arts, and Lindner 2015, which along with the visual and literary arts engages architecture and city planning.

  • Albrecht, Donald. The Mythic City: Photographs of New York by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925–1940. New York: Museum of the City of New York, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An elegantly produced exhibition catalogue featuring the photographs of Samuel H. Gottscho. Situates Gottscho between commercial photography and art photography. Explains his emphasis on skyscrapers as “stars” in the drama of city life and his fascination with the city at night.

    Find this resource:

  • Chave, Anna C. “‘Who Will Paint New York?’: ‘The World’s New Art Center’ and the Skyscraper Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.” American Art 5 (Winter/Spring 1991): 86–107.

    DOI: 10.1086/424109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent analysis of O’Keeffe’s paintings of skyscrapers, of which she produced more than twenty between 1925 and 1930. Situates the paintings in the context of O’Keeffe’s life in the city, Stieglitz and the “291” gallery, and contemporary portrayals of the city by the European vanguard. Argues that while New York did not emerge as a center for modern art until the 1950s. The critics of the 1920s viewed the city’s skyscrapers as suggesting a new future for art.

    Find this resource:

  • Lindner, Christoph. Imagining New York City: Literature, Urbanism, and the Visual Arts, 1890–1940. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375145.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Inspired by Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre’s emphasis on the spatiality of city life, Lindner draws on a broad range of secondary literature to emphasize how two new forms of city space and structure—the skyline and the sidewalk (including its below-ground version in the subway)—were organized, experienced, and imagined by architects, planners, writers, and filmmakers.

    Find this resource:

  • Neumann, Dietrich, ed. Film Architecture: Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner. Munich: Prestel, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A catalogue of an exhibition held at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University. Provides a good introduction to the intersection of the imaginary worlds created by set designers for film, with an emphasis on Metropolis (1927) and Blade Runner (1982). Includes synopses of twenty-four films and biographies of set designers. The urbanistic visions of the films, prominently featuring skyscrapers, exemplify the social and political contradictions associated with the city and modernity.

    Find this resource:

  • Sanders, James. Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first book on the subject and the definitive account. Examines the reciprocity between the “real city” of New York with the “mythic city” represented in film. Brings together the history of film with the architectural and urban history of New York. Emphasizes the skyscraper and the skyline, including interiors of offices, apartments, and hotels, along with rooftop penthouses, observation decks, and nightclubs, as signifiers of the city.

    Find this resource:

  • Schleier, Merrill. The Skyscraper in American Art, 1890–1931. New York: Arno Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The best overview of the skyscraper in American art. Artists of the 1890s and early 1900s, among them Joseph Pennell and Alfred Stieglitz, veiled the skyscrapers’ disruption of the urban scene in the aesthetics of pictorialist photography. Certain artists of the 1920s, by contrast, including Charles Sheeler and Margaret Bourke-White, linked the era’s new setback skyscrapers to technological advance and prosperity, placing increasing emphasis on modern abstraction.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharpe, William Chapman. New York Nocturne: The City after Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography, 1850–1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines New York City at night, as interpreted by contemporary artists and writers from the gaslit city of the 1850s to the dazzling illuminated spectacle of the 1920s and 1930s. Views the skyscraper as a universal icon of the city’s nighttime appeal. The type’s modernity, human energy, and grandeur made it a “central feature” in the visual and literary arts.

    Find this resource:

  • Stravitz, David. The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon, Day by Day. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reproduces newly discovered photographs of the Chrysler Building’s construction, from the site’s excavation through the skyscraper’s completion, by the commercial photography firm Peyser & Patzig, who worked for the project’s contractor Frederick T. Ley. Photographs are ordered by date, with many annotated. Introduction by Christopher Gray situates Van Alen’s design within the context of contemporary and later architectural criticism.

    Find this resource:

  • Trachtenberg, Alan. “Image and Ideology: New York in the Photographer’s Eye.” Journal of Urban History 10 (August 1984): 453–464.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent source for understanding the meanings of modernity as related to the skyscraper and pictorialist photography. Argues that Alfred Stieglitz and the photographers of his circle engaged in a “principle of picturing,” making the city of the imagination a place of order and aestheticized experience in the face of its decomposing actuality under the forces of modernity. Sees the skyscraper as typifying the day’s entire process of social and technological change.

    Find this resource:

  • Wigoder, Meir. “The ‘Solar Eye’ of Vision: Emergence of the Skyscraper-Viewer in the Discourse on Heights in New York City, 1890–1920.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 61 (June 2002): 152–169.

    DOI: 10.2307/991837Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the particular social and urban circumstances that made it possible for the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn to stand on the observation deck of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower and create Octopus (1909), the first photograph to abstract the city from above. Notes the day’s related experiences in elevated roof gardens, social clubs, and theaters. Employs Michel de Certeau’s concept of the omnipotent “solar eye” to illuminate Coburn’s subjectivity of vision.

    Find this resource:

  • Woods, Mary N. “In the Camera’s Eye: The Woolworth Building and American Avant-Garde Photography and Film.” In Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain. Edited by Barbara S. Christen and Steven Flanders, 149–162. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines interpretations of the Woolworth Building by the avant-garde photographers in Alfred Stieglitz’s circle, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Karl Struss along with the filmmakers Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler (in Manhatta, 1920) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis, 1927) by contrast to the day’s commercial photographers. Shows how the avant-garde inscribed the Woolworth with faceted and paradoxical modern meanings.

    Find this resource:

back to top