CHLOE FOUSSIANES | DATE 7/9/2015
The Future of the Skyscraper hopes to predict just that.
Small in scale—only 4.25 by 7 inches—the book is a pocket guide to the tallest structures ever erected. Its eight essays are designed to be short and accessible; it aims to provoke thought rather than provide exhaustive, encyclopedic analysis. This volume reveals the manifold implications of the skyscraper, which reach many otherwise distinct discourses (engineering, psychology, art history, and more).
ABOVE: Yuri Avvakumov, "Catapultower" (1982, reconstructed 2007), reproduced from Michael Govan's text, "Yuri Avvakumov's House of Cards.
Each writer draws on his or her own area of expertise: noted science fiction writer and critic Bruce Sterling dreams up four distinct, hypothetical futures; journalist and author Tom Vanderbilt examines the psychological effects of living in high-rises; public policy writer Matthew Yglesias shines light on the sociological implications of restricting building height in Washington, D.C.; urban studies and architecture writer Diana Lind highlights the drawbacks of horizontal urban planning; prominent journalist and novelist Will Self probes the function of the skyscraper in cultural memory; urban policy journalist Emily Badger elucidates the physiological implications of high-rise living; Dickson Despommier, professor at Columbia University and director of the Vertical Farm Project, argues for the necessity of an environmentally sustainable city; LACMA Director Michael Govan discusses the work of artist Yuri Avvakumov.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the architectural firm behind the volume, is itself a force in skyscraper innovation. The firm has designed “supertalls” as famous as One World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa—the latter is currently the tallest building in the world. In publishing this book, SOM hopes to foster a larger public conversation about future skyscrapers, as design for a whole society “can never be successful if conducted in isolation.”
The Future of the Skyscraper is the inaugural volume of the SOM Thinkers series, a new partnership between SOM’s publishing arm and Metropolis Books. Each subsequent volume promises to examine a different topic integral to future architectural practice (forthcoming titles in the series include The Future of Transportation, The Future of Public Space, and The Future of Environmental Issues).
As architecture critic Philip Nobel writes in his Introduction, "Questions are at the center of this book, what is intended to be the first in a series that aims to look beyond the field of architecture and its familiar cadres to solicit the thoughts and opinions of those outside what is all-too-often an isolated subculture. Other volumes will address other types of buildings, or works of infrastructure, or urban settings. But they will employ a similar method to get at their respective 'futures.' The writing here is not oracular but practical—not false certainties but true takes by observers free of the assumptions made by those directly involved in conceiving and realizing the spaces in which we live. Architecture, even as it sprawls between the domains of art and mind, technology and financial power, touching all the hot buttons and levers in each, has had, historically, a tendency to turn inward, to self-analysis rather than frank exploration when it faces big issues of cultural churn and change. This is not always a responsible strategy for a profession charged with no less than the construction of the arenas of life in an interdependent and increasingly trans-disciplinary world, and it is a great credit to SOM, in initiating and sponsoring this project, to have recognized that fact."
Pbk, 4.25 x 7 in. / 144 pgs / 7 color.