BUSINESS BUILDINGS: Thinking about Corporate vs. Commercial Skyscrapers

Over the fall of 2020 during Covid restrictions, The Skyscraper Museum will present a series of webinar sessions designed as a free online course on the early development of the skyscraper as a distinct building type. The long description below covers the topics and contributing scholars. The virtual format for these talks will allow these professors from a wide array of institutions to come together for evolving discussion. Skyscraper Museum members can sign up for the entire course of lectures. Non-members must sign up for each individual program. All lectures are streamed live via the platform GoToWebinar. The sessions are capped at 150 attendees.

Rewriting Skyscraper History: Looking Back from the 21st Century

Week 3: BUSINESS BUILDINGS: Thinking about Corporate vs. Commercial Skyscrapers

Monday, 10/12 at 6 pm and Wednesday, 10/14 at 6 pm

Gail Fenske, Kathryn Holliday, and Carol Willis

For Week 3, three scholars of the skyscraper, Gail Fenske, Kathryn Holliday, and Carol Willis will address an opposition that has long characterized the framework for understanding the history of tall buildings – corporate vs. commercial – and ask: “What do those words mean, and how do they apply to skyscraper history?”

This week focuses on use, which architects generally call “program.” Office, residential, manufacturing, and commercial (meaning rental) are the terms that generally describe the different uses of high-rise buildings. Yet, one can argue that the most basic commonality in the vast majority of skyscrapers is that they are buildings erected to produce space for rent: i.e., all these uses are urban commercial architecture.

The idea of “corporate architecture” as applied to skyscrapers needs new scrutiny, especially in the early age of the rise of the corporation in the U.S. and especially in New York City in the last decades of the 19th century. Certainly, corporate headquarters, “branding,” and competition played a role in the inspiration and investment in early skyscrapers, as Holliday and Fenske will illustrate. But, as Willis will argue, most “corporate” buildings included a significant portion of rental space, and from the 1890s, speculative real estate drove both the height and volume of high-rise construction. Discussion will ensue!

This discussion builds on several past lectures at The Skyscraper Museum by each speaker: the videos of these previous talks are highly recommended as background.

12 October to 14 October 2020
Online Event
The Skyscraper Museum
Rewriting Skyscraper History