Kate Ascher’s 2005 book, The Works: Anatomy of a City, was essentially a wiring diagram of the city of New York—every city, really—intricately detailing the mechanics of urban infrastructure. (You’ll never be more enthralled by a sewage-system infographic.) Now Ascher’s back with another eye-widening piece of illustrated deconstruction, this one on the most enduring symbol of city life—The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper. “I love the complexity of cities and their total dependence on the invisible systems that keep them running. Skyscrapers are cities in the sky,” she says. The Heights features more than 200 pages of explanations, diagrams, and remarkable stories. It wasn’t easy to pick just one, but we aimed high.
Most skyscrapers are designed to incorporate multiple uses, generally stacked on top of one another. Historically, towers included retail on the lower levels and either residential or commercial space above. Today’s tall buildings often host all three. Less than half of the 100 tallest buildings in the world are solely office properties. The footprint of a typical 1.3 million-square-foot mixed-use skyscraper covers 60 percent of the average New York City block. The same amount of mixed-use space spread over a suburban setting of strip malls, quarter-acre building lots, and open parking would sprawl across the equivalent of more than 21 New York City blocks.
Adapted from The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper, copyright © Kate Ascher, published by the Penguin Press in November