Re-framing the Debate Over the “First Skyscrapers” Tall Building Construction in New York vs. Chicago, 1883-1900

Fri, Mar 10, 2017

The second session featured two experts on the history of architecture and engineering who have researched and published extensively on the beginnings of metal-frame construction in New York and Chicago. New Yorker Donald Friedman, a structural engineer and author of Historical Building Construction, and architect and historian Thomas Leslie, author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934, reviewed the introduction and adoption of early steel skeletons in the 19th century’s two leading skyscraper cities.


Donald Friedman, a structural engineer, is the president of Old Structures Engineering and author of several books, including Historical Building Construction (1995, rev. 2010). His 2014 study, “Structure in Skyscrapers: History and Preservation” was the inspiration for the exhibition,“TEN & TALLER, 1874-1900.”

Thomas Leslie is the Morrill Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture at Iowa State University, where he researches the integration of building sciences and arts both historically and in contemporary practice. He is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013), among other books. A winner of the 2013 Booth Family Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome, he is at work on a study of the buildings of the Italian engineer and architect Pier Luigi Nervi.