THE SKYSCRAPER by Paul Goldberger

THE SKYSCRAPER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A reappraisal of the skyscraper aesthetic in the spirit of the Eighties--with an eye cocked toward the controversial buildings going up. Goldberger, the New York Times architecture critic, puts in a bid for New York's ""flamboyant, eclectic"" skyscraper as the equal (almost) of Chicago's ""more intellectually rigorous"" models. He writes appreciatively (and at uncommon, well-illustrated length) of the Twenties merger of structuralism and theatricalism--all told, ""the richest era in skyscraper design since the early years in Chicago."" He's attentive, meanwhile, to the urban matrix, to urbanistic values: in Lower Manhattan's crooked lanes, ""skyscrapers seemed to compete""; on Chicago's even, neat blocks, to ""cooperate."" Some of his subthemes challenge orthodoxy too--viz., his remarks on the relative merits of the entries in the famous Chicago Tribune design competition. (Is the second-prize, ""most influential"" Eliel Saarinen design really superior to the winner? Or to other entries, modernist and historicist alike?) He also takes on Lewis Mumford: perhaps ""the lack of integration between decoration and structure"" is a valid distinction between purposes. Come the Thirties, he focuses on ""the craze for height""--and the return of doubts: ""Did it make sense""--aesthetically, economically, socially--""to build so tall?"" And in response he cites architect Raymond Hood's prescient suggestion ""that the vitality of the city might be a result of its physical density and disorder."" The rest of the book is less noteworthy: the Fifties-Sixties triumph of the glass box; the unconventional, sometimes ""contorted"" shapes of the Seventies; the very various skyscrapers under construction--some computer-abstract, some flagrantly eclectic. It's not an addition to the basic bookshelf (Goldberger's highly provisional judgments on the unfinished structures alone will date it); but anyone interested in today's skyline action will want to check it out.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf