Memory Palace podcast: renegade architect Bradford Gilbert

 Gon 1889 Tower Building Nyc Museum Of The City Of Ny 21.5 Ft Wide Nate Dimeo's latest episode of the excellent Memory Palace podcast is about renegade architect Bradford Gilbert, designer of what's considered to be New York City's first skyscraper, the Tower Building. When it was completed in 1889, the Tower Building was the first steel-framed curtain wall skyscraper and, as such, raised concerns that it would topple over in the wind. The controversy led to Gilbert climbing the building during a hurricane to prove everyone wrong... "Memory Palace Episode 38: A Stretch"


  1. For the record: The Cooper Union’s Foundation Building was the first building in the world to be constructed of what were–at the time–called I-Beams (now called W sections); while not a “skyscraper,” per se, it was steel frame construction and an obvious forerunner–appearing 35 years ahead of the Tower Building. It actually was built with a round elevator shaft before elevators had been invented[!]; it eventually got a round elevator in 1975 when John Hejduk oversaw rehabilitation of the building. I’m just sayin’.

  2. Further for the record, the only one’s who think the Tower Building was the first steel framed curtain wall high rise are New York’s Tourism bureau (perhaps they mean first in New York? which also is debatable). All academic nuances relating to technical elements of the steel frame aside, look to Chicago and and St. Louis for the origin of the modern american sky scraper. The Foundation Building correctly noted by FMB laid some early foundations so to speak. Generally it is accepted that the shift from load bearing masonry to the steel frame (of various types) marks the birth of the high rise. Not to take anything away from the Tower Building, but then Tourism New York and Nate should be clear as to what they are implying, so as to not take anything away from others. My Arch History prof would give them a D. Wikipedia has what is the generally agreed history of tall buildings, marketing aside.

  3. “The controversy led to Gilbert climbing the building during a hurricane to prove everyone wrong”

    this quote reminded me of the architectual community not being ready for FL Wright’s cantilevered levels over Falling Water (which is the same tech we’re talking about here, just horizontal.) The story goes that when the representatives were present at the site, Wright walked out to the furthest edge of the cantilevered deck over the falls, then started vigorously jumping up and down. Gotta love those iconoclasts.

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