First Skyscrapers | Skyscraper Firsts

The tall commercial building, commonly known as a “skyscraper,” developed through an evolutionary process across numerous projects and technologies. From the very beginning, the prominence of these buildings on the skyline have made them potent corporate symbols of power, wealth and permanence. It has always been important to their proprietors to make superlative claims about the novelty of their technologies, their creature comforts, their height, and of course, their provenance. This laudatory inclination is reflected in the persistent claims of many buildings to have been the “first” of a particular type, long after their original developers—and in many cases, the buildings themselves—have disappeared. 

First Skyscrapers | Skyscraper Firsts assembles the leading architectural and real-estate historians of our time to clarify the definitions and parameters of skyscraper historical scholarship. It considers the many candidates for “first skyscraper,” depending on differing criteria or categories of innovation, as well as numerous “skyscraper firsts,” technological innovations that propelled successive generations of buildings skyward, with greater safety, efficiency, and height. Rather than settle the issue of “what was the first skyscraper?” once and for all, it instead provides a rich account of the history of the typology through seminal developments over more than 100 years.

First Skyscrapers | Skyscraper Firsts is a product of the Tall Building History Committee of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and reflects the joint work between CTBUH and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), including a First Skyscrapers | Skyscraper Firsts Symposium held in conjunction with the Council’s 10th World Congress and 50th Anniversary in Chicago, 2019. It is a seminal work of historical scholarship that will be of great use to future scholars, as well as of great interest to the general public.

Editors: Lee Gray, Antony Wood & Daniel Safarik
Layout: Annan Shehadi
Publisher: CTBUH, Chicago, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-939493-75-3
Soft cover, 248 pages, 7"W 11"H

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