The Edifice Complex as Goal Displacement in the Corporate Skyscraper

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Abstract

Corporate office skyscrapers are a common feature of cities, yet the justifications for such structures are surrounded by myth. The assumption that such buildings are needed to house large corporate bureaucracies does not bear close scrutiny. The tension between economic and non-economic goals is illustrated by four early, iconic skyscrapers of New York City. Together, these four buildings represent a pivotal period in the linkage between organizational goals and the structures that house those organizations. A principal distinction is between corporate headquarters skyscrapers, whose designs often reflect non-economic motivations, and those built as speculative ventures, where return on investment is the main criterion.