Solomonson, Katherine M.
SOLOMONSON, Katherine M.
PERSONAL: Female. Education: Stanford University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Architecture, University of Minnesota, Room 145F Arch 0811, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Stanford University, professor; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, associate professor of architecture.
MEMBER: Society of Architectural Historians.
Assistant editor of Buildings of the United States (Society of Architectural Historians book series).
SIDELIGHTS: Katherine M. Solomonson is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota. In The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition: Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s, she provides an in-depth look at the 1922 Chicago Tribune-sponsored competition to design "the most beautiful skyscraper in the world," according to Richard Longstreth in American Studies International. Of the 1,800 original participants, only 263 architects actually submitted drawings, and the entries were widely discussed in the architectural press in the United States and other countries. At the time, the Chicago Tribune published a book that provided illustrations of all the entries, and according to Longstreth, the competition was "probably the most famous staged for the design of a building ever conducted in the United States," with the exception of the 1792 competition to design the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
At the time of the contest, skyscrapers were entering a new development phase, undergoing changes in image, scale, and form. Many competition entries reveal that architects had still not grasped the concepts of skyscraper design. On the other hand, some entrants, notably those from northern Europe, came up with innovative designs. Notably, the winning design had little influence on future architecture, while the second-place entry provided a template for American skyscrapers for the next ten years.
In addition to discussing the entries and the architecture of the time, Solomonson also considers such issues as city planning, urban design, community, the relationship between corporate symbolism and individual artistic integrity, and historicity versus modernity. She also examines the role of the Chicago Tribune in striking a balance between aesthetics and mass appeal. Longstreth praised Solomonson for her discussion of broader issues, as well as her "range of material presented in a rigorous and engaging narrative." In Choice, P. Kaufman commented that the book contains "the most complete scholarly coverage" of both the contest and the resulting building itself, while David Soltesz in Library Journal noted the work is "the first well-rounded examination of this important episode in the development of the urban skyline." Witold Rybczynski wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that Solomonson "understands the issues and writes engagingly not only about the competition itself, but about the architectural and commercial culture—both European and American—that formed its backdrop."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Studies International, October, 2001, Richard Longstreth, review of The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition: Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s, p. 88.
Choice, October, 2001, P. Kaufman, review of The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition, p. 300.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, David Soltesz, review of The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition, p. 118.
Times Literary Supplement, November 2, 2001, Witold Rybczynski, review of The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition, p. 13.*