Gail Fenske
Professor of Architecture
Roger Williams University, Bristol

This presentation examines the various candidates put forward as the “first skyscraper” within history of modern architecture, along with the reasons for their selection by historians, from the origins of the skyscraper down to the present day.

Critical to the choice of “first” is the definition of “skyscraper.” Consequently, the presentation explores historians’ methods of defining the skyscraper through the writings of Francisco Mujica, Carl Condit, Winston Weisman, J. Carson Webster, Rosemarie Haag Bletter, and others. Second, the presentation examines each historian’s choice or choices of the “first skyscraper” and the arguments for their selection. Finally, the presentation contextualizes the definitions and choices within the larger trajectories of modern and postmodern architecture. In doing so, the aim is to provide a historical context for the nominations of a “first skyscraper” or a “skyscraper first” presented by the participants in the symposium.