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Chicago Architecture Foundation (Chicago, IL 60604-2505)
Jean Linsner (Project Director: March 2011 to October 2012)
Jennifer Masengarb (Project Director: October 2012 to April 2016)
The American Skyscraper: Transforming Chicago and the Nation

Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers on the origins of the skyscraper in Chicago and its relationship to urbanization.

"The American Skyscraper: Transforming Chicago and the Nation" consists of two one-week NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops held during summer 2012 for eighty school teachers on the development of the skyscraper in Chicago and the relationship of such buildings to urbanization. Between 1885 and 1895, as technological innovations (elevators, the steel frame, and fireproof building materials, among others) made tall buildings both physically possible and commercially feasible, Chicago experienced a skyscraper boom. This workshop hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) focuses on the central question: How does the rise of the skyscraper stimulate and reflect change in American life? Participants examine the city's geographical features, as well as the interplay of cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic influences that marked the evolution of Chicago's built landscape from the 1880s through the present. Teachers visit several landmark buildings and architectural firms throughout Chicago's "Loop." Lecture/discussion sessions with historian Henry Binford (Northwestern University) and architectural historians Katherine Solomonson (University of Minnesota) and Joanna Merwood-Salisbury (Parsons The New School for Design), as well as with practicing architects, advance exploration of the complexities of the tall building boom. Readings include selections from (among other works) William Cronan, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West; Donald Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America; Daniel Bluestone, Constructing Chicago; and Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems. Participants receive CAF's Schoolyards to Skylines: Teaching with Chicago's Amazing Architecture.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Landmarks of American History and Culture

Education Programs

$177,523 (approved)
$177,463 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2011 – 12/31/2012