The First Skyscraper(s) Steering Committee met at the CTBUH Offices on February 8: Front row, from left to right: Jason Barr, Professor of Economics, Rutgers University - Newark; Gail Fenske, Professor, School of Architecture, Art & Historic Preservation, Roger Williams University; Antony Wood, Chief Executive Officer, CTBUH; Pauline Saliga, Executive Director, Society of Architectural Historians; Mir Ali, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Michael Wood, Executive Director, Chicago Architecture Center. Back row, from left to right: Thomas Leslie, Morrill Professor in Architecture, Iowa State University; Lee Gray, Associate Dean, College of Arts & Architecture, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Donald Friedman, President, Old Structures Engineering; Robert Bruegmann, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History, Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Illinois at Chicago; Daniel Safarik, CTBUH Editor; Richard Pulling, Vice President of Sales, Global Major Projects, Otis Elevator Co.; John Zukowksy, Museum Consultant, Curator of Architecture 1978-2004, Art Institute of Chicago. .


February 8, 2019

CHICAGO – The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) hosted the initial meeting of the Steering Committee for the “First Skyscrapers: Skyscraper Firsts” Symposium, a one-day event to be held in conjunction with the 10th World Congress on Oct. 31, 2019.

The purpose of the Symposium is to identify the ground-breaking achievements in the formative years of the skyscraper, and to demystify the confusion that pervades around the question, “what was the first skyscraper?” The reality is that the skyscraper developed through an evolutionary process across numerous projects, which makes pinpointing a single building as “first” very difficult. The main aim of this Symposium, then, is to discuss and debate the differing criteria that could influence designations of “first”, and to determine workable criteria to recognize “firsts” in a number of specific categories (e.g. “First Skyscraper with an All-Iron Frame”). This will possibly lead to designation of a “World’s First Skyscraper,” if a set of explicit criteria from the consideration of sub-categories appears dominant.

The meeting was attended by some the world’s most renowned experts on skyscraper history. Avoiding the temptation to “dive right in” to the debate itself, attendees were focused on narrowing the agenda for the upcoming Symposium, for maximum impact for presenters, attendees, CTBUH generally, and the general public. The group determined that the best way forward would be to issue a Call for Abstracts to all scholars of history to answer the prompt, “What skyscraper could be considered a ‘first’ in a particular technological field?”

Abstracts will be reviewed by the Symposium Steering Committee, comprised of leading experts in skyscraper history. Selected abstracts will be developed into full papers and presented at the First Skyscrapers: Skyscraper Firsts Symposium on Thursday 31 October, which will also be included in a subsequent CTBUH & SAH publication. Because of the nature of the subject and the organizations behind it, this event, and its consequential outputs, will receive worldwide press and interest.

The symposium is kindly being sponsored by Otis Elevator Company.

See more information here [LINK].
The next meeting of the Steering Committee will be after March 26th, when the abstracts are due.


Person Company
Pauline Saliga, Chair Society of Architectural Historians
Antony Wood, Chair Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat
Mir Ali University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jason Barr Rutgers University – Newark
Robert Bruegmann University of Illinois at Chicago
Gail Fenske Roger Williams University
Don Friedman Old Structures Engineering
Lee Gray University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Thomas Leslie Iowa State University
Richard Pulling Otis Elevator Company
Michael Wood Chicago Architecture Center
John Zukowsky Architecture and Design Historian