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AD Classics: Empire State Building / Shreve, Lamb and Harmon

This article was originally published on December 5, 2016. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Even in Manhattan—a sea of skyscrapers—the Empire State Building towers over its neighbours. Since its completion in 1931 it has been one of the most iconic architectural landmarks in the United States, standing as the tallest structure in the world until the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were constructed in Downtown Manhattan four decades later. Its construction in the early years of the Great Depression, employing thousands of workers and requiring vast material resources, was driven by more than commercial interest: the Empire State Building was to be a monument to the audacity of the United States of America, “a land which reached for the sky with its feet on the ground.”[1]

Image via Wikimedia (Public Domain). ImageLaying of the tower's foundationsThe pinnacle of the tower. Image © Wikimedia user David Corby (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)Image via Wikimedia (Public Domain). ImageUnder constructionImage via Wikimedia (Public Domain). ImageUnder construction+ 6

AD Classics: Bullocks Wilshire / John and Donald Parkinson

With its iconic copper-clad tower looming over Wilshire Boulevard, the Bullock’s Wilshire has been a celebrated element of the Los Angeles cityscape since its opening in 1929. Known for its lavish Art Deco aesthetic, the department store made its mark as a prime shopping destination in a city filled with celebrities. But the Bullock’s Wilshire was more than a glamorous retail space; with a design centered around the automobile, it was to set a new standard for how businesses adapted to a rapidly changing urban environment.

Courtesy of Balcony PressThe Bauhaus-inspired elevators in the grand foyer. ImageCourtesy of Balcony PressDetail drawing of gate. ImageCourtesy of Balcony PressA 1946 postcard with the Bullock’s Wilshire in the background. Imagevia digitalpostercollection.com+ 14

AD Classics: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes / Various Architects

The end of the First World War did not mark the end of struggle in Europe. France, as the primary location of the conflict’s Western Front, suffered heavy losses in both manpower and industrial productivity; the resulting economic instability would plague the country well into the 1920s.[1] It was in the midst of these uncertain times that the French would signal their intention to look not to their recent troubled past, but to a brighter and more optimistic future. This signal came in the form of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries) of 1925 – a landmark exhibition which both gave rise to a new international style and, ultimately, provided its name: Art Deco.

Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Horta’s Belgian Pavilion was a radical departure from his typically curvilinear Art Nouveau style. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)+ 14