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Skyscrapers: An American urban art form

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The skyscrapers evolution.
    1. Initial look of skyscraper's - strictly utilitarian.
    2. The post-war boom of the 1920s.
    3. Neo-Gothic style.
    4. The product of eclecticism.
    5. How far a building could be abstracted.
  3. The beauty of these structures.
  4. The design of a building to be a work of art.
  5. Libeskind's original design.
  6. Conclusion.

It isn't often that we think of buildings as works of art. We have a word to describe the art of designing buildings and structures ? architecture ? but to most of us, buildings are things of purpose, not things to be admired. We pass in and out of them, conducting our business, and never give a thought to the structures themselves. This is especially true of the skyscraper. These massive objects are imposing, dominating and at times, almost oppressive. Their size, especially in larger cities, is often overwhelming. Skyscrapers have come to represent the artificial nature of the city, confining and cutting us off from the natural world by taking up large areas of the city with their footprints and blocking out the sky with their scale.

[...] The post-war boom of the 1920s saw an increase in the construction of skyscrapers. As more and more buildings went up, designers started to look at ways to dress the exterior more. Nothing touched off this change more than the Chicago Tribune tower contest. City-goers were no longer excited by the simple, utilitarian buildings of what had become known as the Chicago School. (Solomonson 154) Americans began to turn to Europe, taking back home what they had seen while at war and reinvigorating the aesthetics of architecture. [...]

[...] These towers, imbued with an idealized vision of the Middle Ages as an era of community and social unity, were meant as a model post-war America. (Solomonson 184) It is this vision that influenced the decision of the newspaper's leaders in selecting a winner: the new tower was to be a symbol of the triumph of the modern west, of a masculine heroism that would restore what enemy' had destroyed and remake the world in its image. The resulting building, designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, looks as much like a fortress as it does a cathedral tower. [...]

[...] Some buildings, such as the Republic Bank Center in Houston, evoke the emphasis on the vertical that prevailed in the 1920s, while the building at 333 Wacker Drive in Chicago has a form more like that of an aircraft wing than any sort of building before it. Key to postmodern architecture is that anything goes, so long as there is a market for it. Which brings us to one of the great questions of architecture as a form of art. [...]

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