Manhattan Skyscapers - Eric P. Nash

This is perhaps the best coffee-table book in the world. A souvenir from our trip to New York which we picked up at the Skyscraper Museum, it's a lushly photographic history of the skyscraper. From the early days of high-rise buildings trying to get to grips with the concepts that would be necessary, through the halcyon days of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings through to Internationalist slabs and post-modern, well, er, very complicated and varied shapes, it provides great insight into the developments. The entire book is basically case studies, with a couple of pages devoted to each of the major skyscrapers.

An unexpected bonus for what could essentially be a picture book is the level of scholarship. The accompanying text gives insight not only into skyscraper design, but also the trends and trials of architecture in general, which is surprisingly interesting for a building design philistine like me. There's even a glossary at the back for those obscure architectural terms! The writing pleasantly mixes background, detail and personal opinion to make the book extremely readable.

Posted 2006-05-04.