I’m something of an architecture and city fan, to put it mildly, so one of my favorite things I do in a new city is wander around looking at the buildings. As a result, I’ve seen countless incredible buildings over the years that have been inspiring, mind-bending, or just plain beautiful.
It’d be difficult for me to choose my favorite buildings of all time, but here are a few skyscrapers that would certainly make the list.
The Woolworth Building
The Woolworth Building is the first skyscraper I really loved.
The building was finished in 1913, and remained the tallest in the world until 1930. Architect Cass Gilbert used a neo-Gothic style, which earned the building the nickname the “Cathedral of Commerce.”
The Woolworth Building was later surpassed by other, taller buildings — many done in the Art Deco style — but it remains a striking amalgam of soaring New World architecture and Old World style.
The Eastern Columbia Building
Downtown Los Angeles is unappreciated as an architectural center, at least outside the region. In fact, the bustling neighborhood is filled with impressive buildings, and chief among them (at least in my mind) is the Eastern Columbia Building.
This building was finished in 1930, stands 13 stories tall, and is well known for the clocks on each side of its tower. It has been praised as one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture both in Los Angeles and anywhere. The building — which is now condos — is clad in green terra cotta and is as striking at the ground level as it is at the top:
The Walker Center
For about a year and a half, I lived in a condo that looked out over downtown Salt Lake City. In downtown Salt Lake, the Walker Center — which opened in 1912 — is not the biggest or even the flashiest tall building. But what makes it notable is the tower on top, which forecasts the weather: if it’s lit up in solid blue, there will be clear skies; flashing blue means clouds; solid red means rain; and flashing red indicates snow.
While there’s not a lot of practical need for this signal now, when everyone has the weather on their phone, it’s a delightful reminder of a time when the easiest way to get the forecast was to look at a distant skyscraper.
Carbide and Carbon Building
The Carbide and Carbon Building is located in Chicago’s loop and is a magnificent example of Art Deco. Construction on the 37-floor building finished in 1929, and there is a myth that it was designed to look like a champaign bottle with gold foil at the top.
The lower part of the building is covered in black granite, and the upper part in green terra cotta. The design was meant to reference the origins or carbon, which of course come from ancient organic matter.
It was originally the home of Union Carbide and Carbon Co., but today houses a hotel.
Marina City loses points for having terrible street engagement — the area around its base feels like a bunch of driveways — but it’s a striking building nonetheless. It’s actually a pair of circular, concrete skyscrapers that sit right on the Chicago River.
Marina City was finished in 1964, and was designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg. At the time they were finished, the towers were the tallest residential buildings in the world and the tallest reinforced concrete buildings in the world. They began as kind of a self contained mini city, housing a theater, a radio station, stores and restaurants, and of course a marina.
They were converted to condos in 1977.
— Jim Dalrymple II