Crafting sustainability in iconic skyscrapers: a system of building professions in transition?

  • Kathryn B. Janda University of Oxford


This paper focuses on coordination, fragmentation, and the potential for transition in the system of building professions in the American construction industry. The paper relies mainly on local press coverage of three iconic New York skyscrapers—the Empire State Building (completed in 1931), the U.N. Secretariat (completed in 1952) and One World Trade Center (completed in 2014)— to compare how the roles of different building professionals are seen by and portrayed to the public eye over time. The historic cases show how different professional groups—builders in the 1930s, architects in the 1950s, and engineers in the 2010s—imbued each project with “sustainable” qualities appropriate for its time. Using a system of professions (Abbott 1988[r]) approach, the paper describes and discusses the implications of changes in societal interest from doing to designing in American skyscrapers. The paper concludes by arguing that greater coordination between doers and designers in the construction industry, of the kind exhibited in the early days of skyscrapers, would enable the social production of sustainable buildings. For this to happen, however, society would need to place a higher value on tangible outcomes compared to lofty goals..



Editorial. 1931. Nearly three times as high as St. Paul’s. Architectural
Review 79 (December):179-180.

Abbott, A. 1988. The System of Professions. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.

Banham, R. 1960. Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Second
ed. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Banham, R. 1969. The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environ-
ment. London: The Architectural Press.

Banks, N. 2001. Socio-technical networks and the sad case of the
condensing boiler. In Energy efficiency in household appliances
and lighting, edited by P. Bertoldi, A. Ricci and A. de Almeida,
141-155. Berlin: Springer.

Barrett, G. 1948. U.N. Breaks Ground for Home Tuesday. New York
Times, September 12, 21:1.

Barrett, G. 1950. Too Few Windows, U.N. Staff Cries. New York
Times, October 5, 15:1.

Beer, T. 2017. Refugium WA: crafting connection through plant-re-
lating arts-science experiences of urban ecology. Nordic

Journal of Science and Technology Studies 5(2).
Brock, H.I. 1931. From Flat Roofs to Towers and Slats. New York
Times, April 19, V, 6, 7, 16.

Bureau, S., and J. Suquet. 2009. A professionalization framework
to understand the structuring of work. European Management
Journal 27 (6):467-475.

Campbell, J. 1968. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Second ed.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Charney, I. 2014. Transforming a tower: how did the One World
Trade Center eclipse the Freedom Tower? Area 46 (3):249-255.

Clark, W. C., and J. L. Kingston. 1930. The Skyscraper: A Study in
the Economic Height of Modern Office Buildings. New York:
American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc.

CTBUH. 2017. 100 Tallest Completed Buildings in the World by
Height to Architectural Top. Council on Tall Buildings and
Urban Habitat (CTBUH). [cited 8 November 2017]. Available

Dunlap, D. W. 2004. Libeskind Sues Silverstein for design fee. New
York Times, July 14, 2014. [cited 20 August 2017]. Available from

Earthcam. 2015. Official 11 Year Time-Lapse Movie of One World
Trade Center. YouTube. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from

Edenhofer, O., Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E Farahani, S Kadner,
K Seyboth, A Adler, I Baum, S Brunner, and P Eickemeier.
2014. Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change,
Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment
Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC). Switzerland: IPCC.

Edwards, J. L. 1930. The Empire State Building: The Structural
Frame. The Architectural Forum 52 (8):241-246.

Elkington, J. 1997. Cannibals with forks—the triple bottom line of
the 21st century. Oxford: Capstone Publishing.

Ellis, B. 1950. A Great Debate. The Architectural Forum November,

Empire State Realty. 2017a. Empire State Building Guide App. New
York: Empire State Realty. [cited 11 November 2017]. Available


Empire State Realty. 2017b. Empire State Building: Sustainability &
Energy Efficiency. Empire State Realty. [cited 11 November 2017].
Available from

Empire State Realty. 2017c. Empire State Building: Sustainability:
Process. Empire State Realty. [cited 11 November 2017] Available

Evetts, J. 2006. Short Note: The Sociology of Professional Groups:
New Directions. Current Sociology 54 (1):133-143. http://doi.

Fitch, J. M. 1973. American Building: The Historical Forces That
Shaped It. Second ed. New York: Schoken Books.

Freund, M. 1931. Heating and Air conditioning Must Be Carefully
Considered in Design of Buildings. Heating, Piping, and Air
Conditioning 3 (4):288-291.

Fyhn, H. and R. Søraa. 2017. Craftsmanship in the Machine – sus-
tainability through new roles in the crafts of building. Nordic

Journal of Science and Technology Studies 5 (2).
Glanz, J. 2014. High Anxiety: Designing the Safest Building in History
for the Scariest Address on Earth. New York Times, Mar 14,

Goldhagen, S. W. 2015. Symbol in the skyline. Architectural Record
203 (1):70-77.

Greenspan, E. 2013. Daniel Libeskind’s World Trade Center change
of heart. New Yorker, August 28, 2013.

Guy, S., and E. Shove. 2000. A Sociology of Energy, Buildings, and
the Environment. London: Routledge.

Harbison, R. 1991. The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable : in
Pursuit of Architectural Meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Heinteges & Associates. 2017. United Nations Headquarters
Campus Renovation of Facades. Docomomo US, Last Modified
April 27 2017. [cited 8 November 2017]. Available from

Hutchinson, R. 2017. Opinion piece: Sustainability and Craft. Nordic
Journal of Science and Technology Studies, 5(2).

Inhabitat. 2017. Sustainable Skyscrapers. Last Modified April 12,
2017. [cited 8 November 2017]. Available from https://inhabitat.

Janda, K. B. 1998a. Building Change: Characteristics of Design Firms and
Their Effect on Energy Efficiency Adoption. 1998 ACEEE Summer
Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Washington DC.

Janda, K. B. 1998b. Building Change: Effects of Professional Culture
and Organizational Context on Energy Efficiency Adoption in
Buildings. Dissertation, Energy and Resources Group, University
of California at Berkeley.

Janda, K. B. 1999. Re-Inscribing Design Work: Architects, Engineers,
and Efficiency Advocates. ECEEE Summer Study, Mandelieu,
France, June 1-6, 1999.

Janda, K. B., and G. Killip. 2013. Building Expertise: Renovation as
Professional Innovation. In Constructing Green: The Social
Structures of Sustainability, edited by A. J. Hoffman and R.
Henn, 35-55. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

Janda, K. B., G. Killip, and T. Fawcett. 2014. Reducing Carbon from the
‘Middle-Out’: The Role of Builders in Domestic Refurbishment.
Buildings 4 (4):911-936.

Janda, K. B., and Y. Parag. 2013. A Middle-Out Approach for
Improving Energy Performance in Buildings. Building Research
& Information 41 (1):39-50.

Janda, K. B., and M. Topouzi. 2015. Telling tales: using stories to
remake energy policy. Building Research & Information 43

JBB. 2017. Home. Jaros Baum & Bolles. [cited 31 August 2017].
Available from

Killip, G. 2013. Products, practices and processes: exploring the
innovation potential for low-carbon housing refurbishment
among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK
construction industry. Energy Policy 62 (November):522-530.

Korman, R. 2010. Why Daniel Tishman Sold to AECOM. ENR New
York, July 22, 2010.

Lamb, W. F. 1931. The Empire State Building: The General Structure.
The Architectural Forum 54 (1):1-8.

Le Corbusier. 1947. U.N. Headquarters. New York: Reinhold Publish-
ing Corporation.

Le Corbusier. 1983. Palais des Nations Unies and other buildings and
projects, 1946-1948, Buildings and Projects. New York, Paris:
Garland Publishing; Fondation Le Corbusier.

LERA. 2017. Leslie E. Roberston Associates. [cited 31 August 2017]. Avail-
able from

Levy, B. 2015. What is the significance of the Empire State Building
to New York City’s history?. Quora, Last Modified February 8,
2015, [cited 11 November 2017]. Available from https://www.

MacFarquhar, N. 2008. Renovating the U.N., With Hints of Green.
New York Times, Nov. 21 2008. [cited 8 November 2017].
Available from

Mayer, H. C. 1930. Heating and Ventilating the Empire State
Building. Heating and Ventilating Engineer and Journal of Air
Conditioning 27 (10):62-65, 97.

MCRE. 2017. Inventive solutions. Mueser Rutledge Consulting
Engineer. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from

Morgan, A. 1934. The Story of Skyscrapers. New York: Farrarr &
Rinehart, Inc.

National Geographic. 2017. International Organization. National Geo-
graphic Society [cited 8 November 2017]. Available from https://www.

NYT. 1930a. Architects Foster Regional Planning. New York Times,
September 21, 1930, 2:6, XII. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1930b. Survey Progress of Architecture. New York Times,
September 21, 1930, 10:3, XIII. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1930c. Urges Our Artists To Paint in America. New York Times,
September 21, 1930. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1931. Empire State Tower, Tallest in the World, Is Opened
by Hoover. New York Times, May 2, 1931, 1:6, 7:1-8. Accessed

NYT. 1932. Foresees New Era for Architecture. New York Times,
December 25, 1932, 1:1, XI & XI. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1947a. U.N. Scours World for 10 Architects. New York Times,
January 12 1947, 43: 1, 2. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1947b. U.N. Selects 5 Architects. New York Times, February 14,
1947, 5:1. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1948a. Le Corbusier Irked at U.N. New York Times, December
8, 1948, 24:2. Accessed microfiche.

NYT. 1948b. Shadows Chased by U.N. Architects. New York Times,
November 19, 1948, 10:5. Accessed microfiche.

OED. 2012. Oxford English Dictionary (online). [cited 8 November
2017]. Available from
redirectedFrom=sustainable - eid.

onewtc. 2017. Be Inspired. New York: One World Trade Center.
[cited 8 November 2017]. Available from https://www.onewtc.

Owen, A. (2017) Roles and forms of networks in craft micro-enter-
prise contributions to sustainability. Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies 5(2).

PHA. 2017. Selected Project Portfolio, Civil Engineering. Philip Habib
& Associates. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from http://

Ralston, L. T. M. 1930. The Engineer’s Problems in Tall Buildings. The
Architectural Forum 52 (6 (June)): 909-920.

Rose, S. 2013. Commercial Property: No, That Isn’t Freedom Tower.
Wall Street Journal, 2013 Jun 24. [cited 20 August 2017]. Available

Rudge, W. E. 1931. Empire State: A Pictoral Record of Its Construction.
New York: William Edwin Rudge.

Samuels, G. 1947. What Kind of Capitol for the U.N.? New York
Times Magazine, 4/20/47, 9, 55-57, 59.

sbp. 2017. Projects. Schlaich Bergermann Partner. [cited 31 August
2017]. Available from

Schiellerup, P., and J. Gwilliam. 2009. Social production of desir-
able space: an exploration of the practice and role of property agents in the UK commercial property market. Environment
and Planning C: Government and Policy 27 (5):801-814.

Sexton, R.W., and R. T. Walker. 1928. American Commercial
Buildings of Today. New York: Architectural Book Publishing
Company, Inc.

Simon, E. P. 1929. The Sky Line of a City. Engineers and Engineering
46 (8):189-191.

SKA. 2017. Notable Projects. Steven Kinnaman & Associates. [cited 31
August 2017]. Available from
Starrett, W. A. 1928. Skyscrapers and the Men Who Build Them.

New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Teltsch, K.. 1949. Climate a la Carte in U.N.’s New Home. New York
Times, September 5, 8:1.

Thornton Tomasetti. 2017. Our solutions balance multiple objec-
tives. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from http://www.thorn-

Tripier, P., and C. Dubar. 2005. Sociologie des professions. Second
ed. Paris: Armand-Colin.
UN. 2017. UN and Sustainability. United Nations. [cited 12 November
2017]. Available from

van Leeuwen, Thomas A. P. 1988. The Skyward Trend of Thought.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Vidaris. 2017. Project: One World Trade Center. [cited 31 August
2017]. Available from

Wade, F., R. Hitchings, and M. Shipworth. 2016. Understanding
the missing middlemen of domestic heating: Installers as a
community of professional practice in the United Kingdom.

Energy Research & Social Science 19 (Supplement C):39-47. doi:

Wade, F. N. Murtagh, and R. Hitchings. 2018. Managing profession-
al jurisdiction and domestic energy use. Building Research &

Information 46 (1):42-53. doi: 10.1080/09613218.2017.1324698.
Walsh, J. A. 1931. Vertical Distribution in the World’s Tallest Structure.

Electrical World 97 (7):328-334.
WBCSD. 2007. Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and
Opportunities. World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

WBCSD. 2009. Energy Efficiency in Buildings — Transforming the
Market. World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Woods, R. & Korsnes, M. (2017) Constructing Zero Emission Houses:
Changing Craftsmanship or a Lot More of the Same?. Nordic
Journal of Science and Technology Studies. 5(2).

WorldsearchFilms. 2010. How does it feel to work on One World
Trade Center. YouTube. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from

WSP. 2015. One World Trade Center: Engineering an Icon. YouTube:
WSP. [cited 31 August 2017]. Available from https://www.

WSP. 2017. One World Trade Center. WSP. [cited 31 August
2017]. Available from

Yudelson, J. 2008. Green Building Through Integrated Design
(GreenSource Books): LSC LS4 (EDMC) VSXML Ebook Green
Building Through Integrated Design (GreenSource Books).
New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

Yudelson, J., and U. Meyer. 2013. The World’s Greenest Buildings:
Promise Versus Performance in Sustainable Design. London,
UK: Routledge.
Special Issue Peer Reviewed Articles