The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark

Overview

The Empire State Building is the landmark book on one of the world’s most notable landmarks. Since its publication in 1995, John Tauranac’s book, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure. Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell edition, Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance...

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The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark

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Overview

The Empire State Building is the landmark book on one of the world’s most notable landmarks. Since its publication in 1995, John Tauranac’s book, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure. Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell edition, Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance and influence of the Empire State Building in the rapidly changing post-9/11 cityscape.

For the millions who throng annually to this great architectural wonder, the Empire State Building not only epitomizes the skyscraper, it defines New York--just as its original architect and promoters intended. Tauranac shows how the Empire State Building emerged from the culture and politics of New York in the 1920s, and provides the first full-scale history of it. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Although the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest building in the world (or even in New York City), it remains mythical, iconic. This entrancing book is at once an appreciation of the structure as a practical work of art and an exploration of the building's role in the city and the world."—New Yorker

"Tauranac knows the architecture and buildings of New York as few do. He takes us through the story of the skyscraper as a form, the zoning that emerged to control the tall buildings, the real-estate boom of the twenties, the history of the site, the careers of John J. Raskob and Al Smith and the architects and builders who designed and erected the building, and the building's subsequent career."—New York Times Book Review

"When the 1250-foot Empire State Building opened in the Depression year of 1931, it was the world's tallest building. Today, it retains a special place in the heart of New Yorkers. Tauranac has written an informative and exciting biography of Manhattan’s most famous building."—Publishers Weekly

"A building that is a movie star unto itself deserves a writer of such contagious enthusiasm as Tauranac. This book is a fascinating, self-propelling, and definitive history of the building."—Booklist

"The Empire State Building is a methodically researched, richly informative account of the raising of the world's most famous skyscraper."—Chicago Tribune

"Tauranac combines fine scholarship with a storyteller's gift for entertainment. The Empire State Building is a basic reference on twentieth-century architecture and urban development."—Journal of American History

"Tauranac's book is a vivid characterization of the skyscraper as romantic phenomenon. As such it demonstrates unfailingly why the Empire State Building has yet to relinquish its grip on the imagination."—Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

"The Empire State Building is enduringly essential—like the building itself."—Mike Wallace, coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

The New Yorker
"Although the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest building in the world (or even in New York City), it remains mythical, iconic. This entrancing book is at once an appreciation of the structure as a practical work of art and an exploration of the building's role in the city and the world." --The New Yorker, January 8, 1996
The New York Chronicle
"John Tauranac's Essential New York and marvelous Elegant New York were overtures to this masterpiece of architectural and city history. Like a great novel, The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark is a complex and fascinating tale of men inspired by titanic visions of planning, financing, designing, and erecting this icon of New York." --The New York Chronicle, Spring, 1996
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the 1250-foot Empire State Building opened in the Depression year of 1931, it was the world's tallest building. Today, though it ranks only fourth in the world, it retains a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers. Tauranac tells of the ``odd couple'' responsible for the ESB: millionaire John J. Raskob and his troubleshooter, Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York. Both had come from humble backgrounds and were progressive Irish Catholic Democrats who were pro-business and anti-prohibition. We are shown the frantic ``race'' for height with the neighboring Chrysler Building, also under construction, and how the ESB finally won out. Among the facts cited here about the ESB: it sits on the site of the original Waldorf Astoria hotel; its mast was designed to moor dirigibles; it has appeared in about 90 movies, including King Kong; it was only 50% rented until WWII; in heavy fog in 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into it, killing 14; it has its own post office; and, virtually unique in Manhattan, its 13th floor is appropriately numbered. Tauranac (Essential New York) has written an informative and exciting biography of Manhattan's most famous building. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Surprisingly enough, the Empire State Building, "the world's greatest skyscraper" and formerly the world's tallest until the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and Chicago's Sear's Tower took that distinction away, has never before received book-length treatment. Tauranac is a native of New York City and an accomplished architectural historian. He is the author of two previous books on the city's architecture, Essential New York (LJ 10/1/79. o.p.) and Elegant New York (Abbeville, 1985. o.p.). He has researched his subject thoroughly, even in the famous Avery Library Archive. His book covers almost all aspects of the great monument, from planning and conception through design and construction to the unfolding of its subsequent reputation. Anyone interested in architecture will find this book entertaining and informative. It is a welcome addition to book collections on skyscrapers, New York City, and Art Deco architecture.-Peter Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.
Booknews
The Empire State Building is still the heart of Manhattan, skyscraper of skyscrapers, and the favorite meeting place for Hollywood's eclectic romantic liaisons from King Kong to Sleepless in Seattle. Tauranac is faithful to the myth while surgically dissecting the design and construction of the famous building, showing how technological developments allowed the structure to rise in the midst of the Depression, and detailing its iconic emergence from the lowly dubbed "Empty State Building" due to low occupancy rates in the 1930s to its contemporary symbolic status appearing on everything from tee shirts to theater programs. Includes photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801479397
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Edition number: 1
  • Sales rank: 191,088
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Tauranac writes on New York's architectural history, he teaches and lectures on the subject, he gives tours of the city, and he is a mapmaker. In 1997, he was the guest curator of A Dream Well Planned: The Empire State Building at the Museum of the City of New York. His books include New York from the Air, Elegant New York, Essential New York, and Seeing New York. He has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer, New York Newsday, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Seaport, Avenue Magazine, and other publications. Tauranac is an adjunct associate professor at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

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Table of Contents

1. The Building
2. The Skyscraper
3. Zoning the City
4. The Boom of the Twenties
5. The Odd Couple
6. The Firm
7. The Site
8. The Style
9. The Design
10. The Contractors
11. The Mooring Mast
12. Building the Building
13. The Opening
14. The Staff and the Tenants
15. The Bust of the Thirties
16. The War
17. Since the War
Epilogue: After 9/11

Bibliography
Index

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