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Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark Paperback – April 15, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When the 1250-foot Empire State Building opened in the Depression year of 1931, it was the world's tallest building. Today, though it ranks only fourth in the world, it retains a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers. Tauranac tells of the "odd couple" responsible for the ESB: millionaire John J. Raskob and his troubleshooter, Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York. Both had come from humble backgrounds and were progressive Irish Catholic Democrats who were pro-business and anti-prohibition. We are shown the frantic "race" for height with the neighboring Chrysler Building, also under construction, and how the ESB finally won out. Among the facts cited here about the ESB: it sits on the site of the original Waldorf Astoria hotel; its mast was designed to moor dirigibles; it has appeared in about 90 movies, including King Kong; it was only 50% rented until WWII; in heavy fog in 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into it, killing 14; it has its own post office; and, virtually unique in Manhattan, its 13th floor is appropriately numbered. Tauranac (Essential New York) has written an informative and exciting biography of Manhattan's most famous building. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Surprisingly enough, the Empire State Building, "the world's greatest skyscraper" and formerly the world's tallest until the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and Chicago's Sear's Tower took that distinction away, has never before received book-length treatment. Tauranac is a native of New York City and an accomplished architectural historian. He is the author of two previous books on the city's architecture, Essential New York (LJ 10/1/79. o.p.) and Elegant New York (Abbeville, 1985. o.p.). He has researched his subject thoroughly, even in the famous Avery Library Archive. His book covers almost all aspects of the great monument, from planning and conception through design and construction to the unfolding of its subsequent reputation. Anyone interested in architecture will find this book entertaining and informative. It is a welcome addition to book collections on skyscrapers, New York City, and Art Deco architecture.?Peter Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312148240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312148249
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,500,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an excellent work that details the history of the Empire State Building. I was a bit surprised to find how much the author managed to pack into my paperback. Everything from skyscraper height restrictions to land leases and modern restructuring of ownership for tax purposes (and all the "interesting" stuff in between). If you buy this book and you're not from New York, do yourself a favor and get a map of the area. So you can follow along in the early chapters.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fairly well written book, that can be roughly divided into three parts. The author knows and loves NY, and he loves its' history and buildings and other landmarks.
The first third includes a well-researched overview of the advent of skyscrapers in general, with emphasis on New York buildings. The economic factors at work and the arcana of NYC zoning laws are explained, but not tediously so. The author sets the stage well, and shows us his characters and what motivates them.
The second third describes the mechanics of constructing the building. Plenty of detail, good explanations.
The last third covers the history of the building from its' opening down to the present-day.
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By A Customer on March 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is the best book I've read on the building. It is very informative, and has many good pictures. There have been some quite well written books on the Empire State Building, but no other comes as close as John Tauranac's The Empire State Building, The making of a landmark.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a coffee table book of glossy color photographs of this most striking building. Nor is it a dry recitation of architectural, engineering and construction quantities, concepts and terms. Rather, it is a seriously researched and entertainingly written history of the time, events and personalities leading to the conception and creation of the world's most famous skyscraper. Tauranac successfully tackles the challenge of explaining how this mere assemblage of steel and stone has attained such mystical status and continues, 70 years later, to attract admirers. This is a "must read" for the serious ESB fan, or for anyone interested in how this architectural icon was created.
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Format: Paperback
Well, they didn't, but it's a classic anyway.

This is a terrific book for anyone who wants to learn how great projects are visualized, actualized, and pressed through extremely challenging environmental circumstances. It's a source of inspiration for the dreamers and the practical alike.

If you want to read about architecture and engineering, you get only a small dose here. It's more about the capitalization, visioning and building. But that story is magnetic and wonderful.

Only thing they left out: that it was to this (then half-empty) building that Annhaeuser-Busch delivered the "first" case of legal beer to Al Smith at the end of Prohibition. Smith, the "wet" and the eternal optimist, exemplifies what this building was conceived to be: a vibrant and living testimony to the human spirit.

So, it stands to reason that it survives now as New York's essential symbol.
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Format: Paperback
From the outset, the Empire State Building seemed to have had everything going against it. Although conceived during the 1920s boom years, most of the construction went on during the earliest years of the Depression, thereby putting the idea of high occupancy in the severest doubt. Its location wasn't ideal either. It was three miles north of the Wall Street district and a mile south of the center of the midtown business center. And it was ten blocks south of Grand Central Station and three avenues east of old Pennsylvania Station. The idea of mooring dirigibles was quickly scrapped after failed attempts. And sure enough, although the Empire State Building did get built, the tenants did not come. King Kong did, but he didn't pay rent.
John Tauranac describes all this and more in his exhaustive book, THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: THE MAKING OF A LANDMARK. Written in an engaging style, Tauranac's book is as elegant and interesting as the subject itself, while his wit is as colorful as the characters surrounding the Empire State Building's creation. The book covers the idea for the building, Raskob's and Smith's supervision, the monumental task of the construction workers, and, most importantly, the survival of the building to become THE emblem of America's cultural and economic reach while become THE identifying symbol of New York City. The generous amount of photographs add to the understanding and enjoyment of the book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a superb book -- an extremely readable account of the building of America's greatest skyscraper. The only flaw in the book is that in an otherwise crystal-clear book, Tauranac uses too many terms from architecture and construction without explaining them. The book is still perfectly appropriate for a lay audience, but it would have been even better if I had the context that understanding these terms would provide.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was expecting a book along the lines of Skyscraper: The Making of a Building by Karl Sabbagh. It tells the story of the construction of Worldwide Plaza. However, there is really very little in Tauranac's book about actually building, with only one chapter devoted to the actual construction. A shame, really, as some of the techniques used were pioneering at the time.

This is not to say that this is not a good book. It does give an overall history of the development of the urban landscape in Manhattan during this period. If you're looking for a book about the era that produced a landmark building, then this is the book to get. However, if you're looking for something about the Empire State Building detailing its actual construction, then you won't find it here.
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