The Skyscraper Museum
Book Talks 2010
The Skyscraper Museum

The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.


JANUARY 2010 | An International Conference in Hong Kong
The Skyscraper Museum, The Hong Kong | New York Urban Exchange Group, and AIA Hong Kong present the second of an ongoing exchange between the world's great vertical cities. VERTICAL DENSITY: THE PUBLIC DIMENSION will be held in Hong Kong over January 21 and 22. Click here to read more about the event and to RSVP see


In conjunction with its exhibition CHINA PROPHECY, The Skyscraper Museum will present a lecture series that explores in depth--and height--the sensational growth of Shanghai's skyline over the past three decades.
Click here for additional information and the video archive.


January 12: Judith Stonehill Book Talk
February 23: Andrew Dolkart Book Talk
March 24: Donna Goodman Book Talk

Book talks are held at The Skyscraper Museum from 6:30-8 pm. The gallery and exhibition, CHINA PROPHECY: SHANGHAI, are open for viewing from 6 pm. All events are free of charge. Please RSVP to [email protected] with the name of the program you would like to attend.
Please be aware that reservation priority is given to Members of The Skyscraper Museum. Not a member? Become a Museum member today!
Click here for our Programs Archive Video Index!

JANUARY 12 | 6:30-8 pm
Judith Stonehill
(Universe Publishing 2009)


New York’s Unique & Unexpected Places is written for adventurers who want to explore the city’s uncommon, yet fascinating, less familiar sites. This beguiling book will intrigue urban enthusiasts, New Yorkers, and the countless tourists determined to discover—and sometimes rediscover—these fifty memorable destinations. Visit an innovative center for architecture, a Dutch farmhouse surprisingly perched on Broadway, the sublime chapel designed by Louise Nevelson, idiosyncratic museums dedicated to finance and firefighting and subway cars, the historic home of Louis Armstrong, a spectacular garden overlooking the Hudson, and the one-and-only Skyscraper Museum!

Judith Stonehill is the author of Greenwich Village and Brooklyn. She was the co-owner of New York Bound Bookshop and vice president of the South Street Seaport Museum.

FEBRUARY 23 | 6:30-8 pm
Andrew Dolkart
Architecture and Neighborhoods in New York City, 1908-1929
(The Johns Hopkins University Press 2009)


In the decades just before and after World War I, a group of architects, homeowners, and developers pioneered innovative and affordable housing alternatives. They converted the deteriorated and bleak row houses of old New York neighborhoods into modern and stylish dwellings. This movement -- an early example of what has become known as "gentrification" -- dramatically changed the physical character of these neighborhoods. It also profoundly altered their social makeup as change priced poor and largely immigrant households out of the area.

In The Row House Reborn, Dolkart traces this aesthetic movement from its inception in 1908 with architect Frederick Sterner's complete redesign of his home near Gramercy Park to a wave of projects for the wealthy on the East Side to the faux artist's studios for young professionals in Greenwich Village. This significant development in the history of housing and neighborhoods in New York has never before been investigated. The Row House Reborn will interest architectural and urban historians, as well as general readers curious about New York City architecture and neighborhood development.

Andrew S. Dolkart is the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. He has written extensively about the architecture and development of New York, including the award-winning Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture and Development and the Guide to New York City Landmarks. He has curated numerous exhibitions and is well-known for his walking tours of New York City neighborhoods.

MARCH 24 | 6:30-8 pm
Donna Goodman
(The Monacelli Press 2008)


The political, social, and economic upheaval of the early twentieth century generated an extraordinary range of proposals for the future as successive generations grappled with issues of organizing vast urban systems and humanizing dense industrial environments. As conceptual design became the vehicle for exploring ideas and presenting new movements, a dialogue between technology and design began to emerge.

A History of the Future explores the impact of modern technology on design and planning, beginning with Renaissance concepts that laid the foundations for modern visionary work and concluding with emerging projects in sustainable design. It also includes relevant projects in related fields, such as film, photography, and industrial design. Profusely illustrated, A History of the Future is a visual survey of the heroic, utopian, and occasionally misguided visions of the twentieth century.

Donna Goodman has taught architecture and urban planning for more than twenty years at prestigious design schools including Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design at the New School, Rhode Island School of Design, and New York University. Her architectural practice focuses on sustainable design. The author lives in New York.


David Owen
Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability
(Riverhead Books 2009)

In a persuasive and provocative challenge to established environmental thinking, David Owen’s GREEN METROPOLIS challenges much of the conventional wisdom about being green and shows how the greenest place in the United States isn’t Portland, Oregon, or Snowmass, Colorado, but New York, New York. Owen states that while most Americans view congested cities as environmental calamities, with their pollution, garbage, and gridlock, residents of dense urban environments individually drive, pollute, consume, and throw away less than other Americans. Residents of New York City—the most densely populated community in the U.S.—consume less electricity than the average inhabitants of any other part of the country, generate greenhouse gases at a level far below the national average, and rank last in gasoline consumption and first in use of public transportation.

David Owen’s GREEN METROPOLIS redefines what it means to be green, and offers vital insights into how to make our way to a more sustainable future: instead of depending on the acquisition of fancy new "green" gadgetry or the advent of new energy-related technologies, we should look to the lo-fi solutions already at work in dense cities around the globe.

David Owen has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1991. Before joining The New Yorker, he was a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly, and prior to that, a senior writer at Harper’s and a frequent contributor to Esquire. He is also a contributing editor at Golf Digest and the author of several previous nonfiction books. He lives in northwest Connecticut with his wife, writer Ann Hodgman, and their two children.

Randall Mason
Historic Preservation and the Modern City
(University of Minnesota Press 2009)

The controversial 1963 demolition of Pennsylvania Station is generally cited as the event that gave birth to New York City’s historic preservation movement. But as historian Randall Mason reveals in The Once and Future New York, preservation has been a persistent force in the development of New York since the late nineteenth century, when the city’s leading politicians, planners, and architects first recognized the need to protect some measure of the past in the rapidly evolving city. Between 1890 and 1920, preservationists saved and restored buildings, parks, and monuments throughout the city. Mason argues that these efforts created a “memory infrastructure” that established a framework for New York’s collective memory and fused celebrations of the city’s past with optimism about its future.

Rich with archival research, The Once and Future New York focuses on three major projects—the restoration of City Hall Park, the ultimately failed attempt to save historic St. John’s Chapel, and the construction of the Bronx River Parkway. Challenging several myths about historic preservation, Mason asserts that preservationists were not simply antiquarians concerned only with architecturally significant buildings, but that many were social reformers interested in recovering the city’s collective history. He demonstrates that, rather than being fundamentally opposed to growth, historic preservation in this period was integral to modern urban development.

Randall Mason is associate professor in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania and coeditor of Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States.

Paul Goldberger
BUILDING UP AND TEARING DOWN: Reflections on the Age of Architecture (The Monacelli Press 2009) and
(Yale University Press 2009)


Paul Goldberger Building Up and Tearing Down
(The Monacelli Press 2009)

The prolific architectural critic and journalist Paul Goldberger will discuss highlights from two collections of his essays released this fall by Monacelli and Yale University Press. Building Up and Tearing Down brings together more than fifty essays, from Goldberger's writings for the New Yorker, Metropolis, The New York Times, and other publications that range across architectural and urban issues from Havana to Beijing to Bilbao, Chicago to Las Vegas, and beyond. Dissecting projects from skyscrapers by Norman Foster and museums by Tadao Ando to airports, monuments, suburban shopping malls, and white-brick apartment houses, these essays cover a comprehensive account of the best —and the worst— of the “age of architecture.”

Paul Goldberger
Why Architecture Matters
(Yale University Press 2009)
In Why Architecture Matters, Paul Goldberger examines "how things feel to us when we stand before them, with how architecture affects us emotionally as well as intellectually.” In examples ranging from a small Cape Cod cottage, the Prairie houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Lincoln Memorial, to Borromini's Church of Sant’Ivo in Rome, Goldberger raises the awareness of fundamentals–proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory –engaging the reader to learn a new way of seeing and experiencing the built world.

Paul Goldberger is the architecture critic for The New Yorker, where since 1997 he has written the magazine’s celebrated “Sky Line” column. He holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in Manhattan. He began his career at The New York Times, where in 1984, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism.

Anthony Flint
How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City
(Random House 2009)


To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. The activist, writer, and mother of three grew so fond of her bustling community that it became a touchstone for her landmark 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. But consummate power broker Robert Moses saw things differently: neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village were in need of “urban renewal.” Notorious for exacting enormous human costs, Moses’s plans had never before been halted–not by governors, mayors, or FDR himself, and certainly not by a housewife from Scranton.

Wrestling with Moses is the tale of a local battle with far-ranging significance. By confronting Moses and his vision, Jacobs forever changed the way Americans understood the city, and inspired citizens across the country to protest destructive projects in their own communities.

Anthony Flint is author of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City, and director of public affairs for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge. He has been a journalist for over 20 years, primarily at The Boston Globe, where he covered development, urban design, housing, and transportation. His first book, This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press. He has been a visiting scholar and Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, and a policy adviser in Massachusetts state government, and is a Citistates Associate. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Ann Buttenwieser
GOVERNORS ISLAND: The Jewel of New York Harbor
(Syracuse University Press 2009)



Governors Island today blends a sense of nostalgia with 21st-century amenities. The pristine setting showcases the island’s rich history, including the vital role it played in the country’s armed forces. From its early days as the site of a British fort in the 1700s and its longstanding role as a station for the U.S. Army and the Coast Guard, to its function as a venue for political events, the island has hosted a dazzling parade of the brave and the dignified. Governors Island encompasses more than military history–it offers a vivid reflection of historic events in New York City and the world at large.

Records from Castle Williams reveal an evolving national penal system, while those from the hospital tell the story of worldwide contagion and local sanitation. Accounts of the lives of the island’s female residents offer insight into ethnic assimilation and the changing roles of women in the military, and a compendium of military and civilian recreational life on the island illuminates the changing meanings of open space and recreation over time. Ann L. Buttenwieser brings this rich legacy to life, creating a striking portrait of the island through never-before-published photographs, blueprints, architectural plans, and interviews with former residents.

Ann L. Buttenwieser is an urban planner and waterfront historian and the author of Manhattan Water-Bound: Manhattan’s Waterfront from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. She serves on The Skyscraper Museum Board of Directors.

Jane King Hession and Debra Pickrel
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT IN NEW YORK: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959
(Gibbs Smith 2007)


Andrew Dolkart, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
A recipient of the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards' Gold Medal in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959, examines the momentous five-year period when one of the world's greatest architects and one of the world's greatest cities dynamically coexisted. Authors Jane Hession and Debra Pickrel explore the fascinating contradiction between Wright's often-voiced disdain of New York and his pride and pleasure in living in one of the city's great landmarks: the Plaza Hotel. From his suite, or "Taliesin the Third," as it became known, Wright supervised construction of the Guggenheim, sparred with the New York press, and received many famous visitors such as Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.

Jane King Hession, a native of Nyack, New York, received her M.Arch. from the University of Minnesota.  An architectural writer and historian with interests in Frank Lloyd Wright and mid-century modernism, she is the coauthor of Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design.  Hession resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

Debra Pickrel is a New York journalist who has written on architecture and design for Architectural Record, House Beautiful, Metropolis, and Preservation.  She is also the author of A Day in Turtle Bay, a walking tour of her Manhattan neighborhood with a foreword by Walter Cronkite.  A former board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, Pickrel is a journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received her M.A. in Historic Preservation from Goucher College.  She is a native of Richmond, Virginia.

Loretta Lorance
(The MIT press 2009)

Andrew Dolkart, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
Buckminster Fuller's fame reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, when his visionary experiments struck a chord with the counterculture and his charismatic personality provided the media with a good story—that of a genius who could play the role of artist, scientist, and entrepreneur all at once. In Becoming Bucky Fuller, Loretta Lorance shows that Fuller's career did not begin with the lofty goals hailed by his admirers and that, in fact, Fuller's image as guru and prophet was as carefully constructed as a geodesic dome.

Drawing on a close reading of Fuller's personal papers (in particular, the multivolume scrapbook, Chronofile), Lorance looks at Fuller's first independent project, the Dymaxion House, and finds that what really happened differs from the authorized version. According to Fuller himself and most secondary sources, after a series of personal crises in the 1920s—including the death of his young daughter, thoughts of suicide, and a "year of silence" during which he pondered his purpose in life—Fuller resolved to devote himself to the betterment of society by offering the public economical, efficient, and modern manufactured housing. But the private papers tell a different story; one of his initial motivations for designing the Dymaxion House was simply to make money from its manufacture. When that didn't work, Fuller began to emphasize its possibilities rather than its practicalities. By the mid-1930s, Lorance shows, Fuller the public figure had gone from being an entrepreneur with a product to being a visionary with an idea. He had become Bucky Fuller.

Loretta Lorance is an architectural historian.  She teaches in the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Scott Johnson
TALL BUILDING: Imagining the Skyscraper
(Balcony Press 2008)


Andrew Dolkart, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
The skyscraper, whatever it may be as physical fact, looms large in our lives and as a figment of our imaginations carries with it ideas of wealth, ambition, and dominance. The image of the skyscraper has been made and remade in the news, in literature and film, and now in all forms of our now global media. Paradoxically, as the building type continues to become more complex and is designed to address fundamentally different cultural conditions, the image, that is to say, the idea, of the skyscraper in the public mind seems to become simpler, more omnipresent, and more consumable.

Scott Johnson is a partner of the distinguished Los Angeles architecture firm, Johnson/Fain, and is the newly appointed Director of the USC Graduate Architectural Program. A leader in the architectural discourse & issues of urban design in and outside of Los Angeles, he has worked on a wide range of projects including the MGM Tower, MET Lofts, and the Solano County Government Center. Johnson is also the author of Figure/Ground: A Design Conversation and The Big Idea: Criticality and Practice in Contemporary Architecture. In this book, he offers his approach to design development and neighborhood needs, his firm’s decision to office in Downtown Los Angeles, and an educator’s vision of architecture as culture.

MAY 19
Joanna Merwood-Salisbury

CHICAGO 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City
(University of Chicago Press 2009)


Andrew Dolkart, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
Chicago’s first skyscrapers are famous for projecting the city’s modernity around the world. But what did they mean at home, to the Chicagoans who designed and built them, worked inside their walls, and gazed up at their façades? Answering this multifaceted question, Chicago 1890 reveals that early skyscrapers offered hotly debated solutions to the city’s toughest problems and, in the process, fostered an urban culture that spread across the country.

An ambitious reinterpretation of the works of Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and John Wellborn Root, this volume uses their towering achievements as a lens through which to view late nineteenth-century urban history. Joanna Merwood-Salisbury sheds new light on many of Chicago’s defining events—including violent building trade strikes, the Haymarket bombing, the World’s Columbian Exposition, and Burnham’s Plan of Chicago—by situating the Masonic Temple, the Monadnock Building, and the Reliance Building at the center of the city’s cultural and political crosscurrents.

While architects and property owners saw these pioneering structures as manifestations of a robust American identity, immigrant laborers and social reformers viewed them as symbols of capitalism’s inequity. Illuminated by rich material from the period’s popular press and professional journals, Merwood-Salisbury’s chronicle of this contentious history reveals that the skyscraper’s vaunted status was never as inevitable as today’s skylines suggest.

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury is Director of Academic Affairs and an Assistant Professor in the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School for Design.

Andrew Dolkart

An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
(University of Virginia Press 2006)


Andrew Dolkart, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City: An Architectural History of 97 Orchard Street
"I trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower," writes Andrew S. Dolkart. "Not to the legendary ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but to the more prosaic tenement on the southeast corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street named the Mayflower, where my father was born in 1914 to Russian-Jewish immigrants." Architectural and urban historian Andrew S. Dolkart presents a precise and informative biography of a typical tenement house at 97 Orchard Street in New York City that in 1988 became the remarkable Lower East Side Tenement Museum. He documents and interprets the architectural and social history of the building beginning in the 1860s when it was erected, in to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the neighborhood started to change, and in the present as the building is reincarnated as the museum.

Andrew S. Dolkart is the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. He has written extensively about the architecture and development of New York, including the award-winning Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture and Development and the Guide to New York City Landmarks. He has curated numerous exhibitions and is well-known for his walking tours of New York City neighborhoods.

Jean Parker Phifer

(W.W. Norton 2009)


Jean Parker Phifer, Public Art New York
A guided tour of the best public art in all five boroughs of New York City, from outdoor sculpture in public plazas to murals and works of art in lobbies accessible to the public, to outstanding landscapes, and even a few examples of artistic sidewalks and creative lighting, this book focuses on how exemplary works of public art enrich urban public space. Organized by neighborhood, it covers Lower Manhattan, Soho to Lower Midtown, Midtown Manhattan, the Upper West Side, Central Park, the Upper East Side, Upper Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Illustrated with Francis Dzikowski's striking photos and colorful maps, it makes a perfect walking guide. in the words of Kent Barwick, this book is "an invitation to hit the streets." Sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, Public Art New York is organized by neighborhood, with maps suitable for walking tours.

Architect Jean Phifer specializes in planning, renovation and sustainable design projects for cultural institutions and has designed or restored over fifty distinguished buildings, public spaces, and landscapes, primarily in New York. She was president of the Art Commission of the City of New York, now the Public Design Commission, from 1998 to 2003. Ms. Phifer is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and teaches Environmental Design at New York University. She lives in Manhattan.

Francis Dzikowski is an architectural photographer based in New York City.

The evening's introduction will be given by Michele H. Bogart, author of Public Sculpture and the Civic Ideal in New York City, 1890-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 1989), which received the Smithsonian Institution/ Museum of American Art's Charles C. Eldredge Prize in 1991; and of The Politics of Urban Beauty: New York and Its Art Commission (University of Chicago Press, 2006). From 1998 through 2003 she served as a member of the Art Commission of the City of New York, the City's design review agency, and for four years was its Vice President. She is presently a member of the Art Commission's Conservation Advisory Group and of the Board of Directors of the Fine Arts Federation. Ms. Bogart is a Professor and the Graduate Program Director of the Art Department at Stony Brook University.

Michael Rockland

(Rutgers University Press 2008)


Michael Rockland, The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel
Intimate and engaging, Michael Rockland's rich narrative presents perspectives on the GWB that span history, architecture, engineering, transportation, design, the arts, politics, and the post-9/11 mentality. Stunning archival photos, from the bridge's construction in the late 1920s through the present, powerfully complement the account of competition between the GWB and the Brooklyn Bridge that parallels the rivalry between New Jersey and New York City. Rockland profiles the Swiss immigrant structural engineer Othmar Ammann and explains how the Depression dictated the iconic, uncovered steel beams of its towers so admired today. Tales of accidents, an airplane crash, and suicides off its span; the appearance of the bridge in media and the arts; and the author's own adventures scaling its massive towers on a cable animate the story of what Le Corbusier called "the most beautiful bridge in the world."

Michael Rockland founded the American Studies Department at Rutgers while serving as Assistant Dean of Douglass College (1969-1972). Earlier, he had another stint in academic administration when he served as Executive Assistant to the Chancellor of Higher Education, State of New Jersey (1968-1969). This followed his years in the United States diplomatic service as a cultural attache at our embassies in Argentina and Spain (1962-1967).

Max Page

THE CITY'S END: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction (Yale University Press 2008)

Max Page, The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction
Max Page examines the destruction fantasies created by American writers and imagemakers at various stages of New York's development. Seen in every medium from newspapers and films to novels, paintings, and computer software, such images, though disturbing, have been continuously popular. Page demonstrates with vivid examples and illustrations how each era's destruction genre has reflected the city's economic, political, racial, or physical tensions, and he also shows how the images have become forces in their own right, shaping Americans' perceptions of New York and of cities in general.


Gail Fenske

THE SKYSCRAPER AND THE CITY: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York (University of Chicago Press)


Gail Fenske, The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York Images: The Skyscraper Museum Collection

In the first history of this great urban landmark, The Skyscraper and the City:
The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York
(University of Chicago Press), author Gail Fenske illuminates how the Woolworth Building is a compelling lens through which to view the distinctive city culture of Progressive Era New York.



Super Slender Midtown Towers

"Hong Kong slender" describes a type of pencil-thin tower common in Asia's Manhattan and recently returned to New York real estate. In conjunction with its current exhibition, "Vertical Cities: Hong Kong | New York", The Skyscraper Museum examined the aesthetics, engineering, and economics of slenderness in a program highlighting three tall, super-slim residential towers recently reared in Midtown: Sky House, One Madison Park, and 785 Eighth Avenue. Team presentations by the architects, structural engineers, and developers explored the complex equation of twenty-first century slenderness.

Featured projects and building team presenters include:

Frank Lupo, Associate Principal, FXFOWLE Architects
Silvian Marcus, CEO, WSP Cantor Seinuk
Veronica Hackett, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Clarett Group

John Cetra, Principal Architect, CetraRuddy
Silvian Marcus, CEO, WSP Cantor Seinuk

Ismael Leyva, President, Ismael Leyva Architects
Ysrael A. Seinuk, CEO, Ysrael Seinuk, PC

The exhibitions and programs of The Skyscraper Museum are supported by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.