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proposition is that these Chicago skyscrapers have

loved – to some they were symbols of unfettered


set of twenty questions – spanning justification,

Amanda Reeser Lawrence questions whether

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, The University of

too often been seen retrospectively, as isolated

capitalist greed, to others their long shadows

(ed.) Kirk Wooller, AA Publications, 2011.

thematics, writing, institutions and culture within

these two ends of the architectural readership

Chicago Press, 2009. $84.00

precursors to modernism and the skyscraper

sheltered crime and encouraged unpleasant


architectural publishing – provides a framework

really are an either/or proposition: “We didn’t set

for the essays.

out to create a relationship between theory and

we know today. Merwood-Salisbury dug deeply

dampness. There were the unanticipated problems

Chicago underwent extreme change in the late

into the industry press of the time and paints

too: wind tunnels, dangerous elevators, and “leap

“Commissioning as an editor is a very opportunistic

To his credit, Wooller avoids any kind of laboured

1800s. Technological advances and growth of

a contemporary picture. Rather than ancestors

lust” – the urge of some to end it all from a great

exercise,” say Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper, the

conclusions and allows the essays to stand alone,

industry inspired violent reactions by anarchists

ahead of their time, these buildings become

height. Generally what impresses us architecturally

editors and publishers of Australia’s UME. “The

each personal, intriguing and challenging. And in

and workers left out of the spoils. In 1871, the Great

awkward adolescents trying to learn a lot at once.

about the surviving Monadnock and Reliance

trick is to see the connections.” And this approach,

their adjacency, themes emerge.

Chicago Fire destroyed ten square kilometres of the

The fire, industrialised building processes, labour

buildings was disparaged by critics at the time.

it appears, was shared by Wooller in drawing

ramshackle central city. This book looks at the birth

unrest, soggy ground, real estate formulae, smoke

The book has some washed-out greyscale

of the tall building in the midst of this confusion.

pollution and extreme hygiene concerns provided

images, and glossy pages that shine under lights,


proof of its existence.” The agency of the editor, too, comes to the fore – that shaping, manipulating and structuring

The relationship of architectural publishing

of content – that happens either obviously or

to both practice and academia twists and turns

subtly. For the team at the just-launched [Bracket]

of polemic architectural

through each entry. Beck and Cooper explain

magazine, it is “editor as influencer.” Arthur

together this neat collection of essays. Twenty

practice but rather to offer a place to publish the

The book zooms in on four of Daniel H.

the context. Burnham and Root rolled with it,

but the text shines too, in a good way. This is

publications dissect the practice of editing

their choice to publish for the people who make

Wortmann at Mark sees it more directly: the

Burnham and John Wellborn Root’s best-known

applying their organicist beliefs and designing

a book that should reward all interested in the

architecture. The publications cross continents,

the buildings. In contrast, Ross Jenner discusses

essential role of photography, image selection,

tall buildings, the Reliance, Monadnock, Masonic

a “natural” response for each building and its

development of nineteenth-century cities, in the

milieux, ages and publication types, from Delft-

Interstices’ careful mix of refereed content and

text and arrangement to help – or hinder –

Temple and Woman’s Temple. Her convincing

function. The early skyscrapers were not well-

tall building typology, or in Chicago. Peter Johns

based Footprint to Barcelona’s Actar. A loose

topical, opinion-based articles. Writing on Praxis,

communication of a project. Peter Davies


architecturenz 2.2011

2.2011 architecturenz



Peter Johns reviews Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City by Joanna Merwood-Salisbury; Peter Davies reviews 20/20: Editorial Take...

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