PRINT December 1990


THE LATEST, PERHAPS THE LAST of them, are still being erected grindingly in our cities. Despite their historical pedigree and kinship with old towers of every sort, particularly the grandfather of them all, the imagined Tower of Babel, we look upon the skyscrapers as our own: as the preeminent form Americans have contributed to building. Even decades ago, a place could hardly rate itself a city without them, and their symbolic cargo. Whether European or rural American, first-time visitors to the early skyscraper clusters in Chicago and New York were struck by an urban verticality that seemed to launch a sheer confidence in the material future.

These upthrust structures, however, were funded in cycles that repeatedly suggest a certain social pattern in America: conceived in moments of buoyant speculation, the skyscrapers were often actually realized in periods of economic weakness or even

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