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The Future of the Skyscraper

Metropolis Books
Artists' Books
4.3 × 7 in
144 pages
Essays, Architecture, History

Edited by Philip Nobel.
Text by Bruce Sterling, Tom Vanderbilt, Matthew Yglesias, Diana Lind, Will Self, Emily Badger, & Dickson Despommier. Illustrations selected by Michael Govan.

Engines of industry, expressions of ego or will, tall towers are nonetheless, when they pierce the shared skies, intensely public. We may ask of them artistic questions: what do we make of these things we make? What do these forms mean? But also, because architecture is forever tied to real life, we may ask of them questions of a political, economic and technological nature—as well as those, touching on the body and the mind and the soul, that we may simply call human. In this volume, Bruce Sterling describes four possible futures that might shape future towers, presenting a choose-your-own-adventure of potential futures for architecture, some of them terrifying in their nearness. We peer up at skyscrapers old and new, visit their highest floors, turn them this way and that to see them clearly through the psychology (Tom Vanderbilt) and physiology (Emily Badger) of living and working on high, and through the lens of policy in the low-rise counterexample of Washington, DC (Matthew Yglesias). Diana Lind tests the idea of tall against the more sprawling needs of those spatially mundane but transformative new economy industries that may well be the supertall clients of the future. Will Self looks back in literature, film and recent urban history to write forward toward a new understanding of the tower in the popular imagination. Dickson Despommier shares a comprehensive vision of an ecological future, in which towers, perhaps supertalls, would necessarily play a crucial role.

Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, a short story collection that helped to define the cyberpunk genre.

Tom Vanderbilt is an American journalist whose articles have appeared in Wired, The London Review of Books, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, Cabinet, Metropolis and Popular Science.

Matthew Yglesias is the Executive Editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

Diana Lind is the Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Next City, a non-profit quarterly magazine with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities.

Will Self writes a column for The Guardian and appears regularly on BBC radio and television. His ninth and latest novel, Umbrella, was a finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize.

Emily Badger is a reporter for the Washington Post; she previously served as a staff writer for the online journal, The Atlantic Cities.

Dickson Despommier is emeritus Professor of Microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University and the author of The Vertical Farm.

Michael Govan is the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Govan previously served as the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York.

Philip Nobel is a New York–based architecture critic who writes for Metropolis, Artforum, The New York Times and Architectural Digest, and is the author of Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero. He also serves as the editorial director for SHoP architects.

  1. the future of the skyscraper

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