Vertical capitalism: Skyscrapers and organization

Martin Parker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper employs the skyscraper to show how culture and economy are necessarily intertwined. I begin with the idea of the sublime, and then move on to consider representations of the tall building from the 1870s to the present day in order to illustrate what these artefacts are understood to ‘mean’. But skyscrapers are not merely symbols of modern organization, they are themselves forms of economic organizing and the second section of the paper notes the various ways in which the tall building, and the divisions of labour that enabled it, began by ‘making the land pay’ in cities with a burgeoning rental market for small firms. This shift involves partly displacing the architect and the corporation, and instead focussing on project organization and rental values. I conclude by suggesting that the term ‘organization’, because of its mutability, can provide a bridge between culturalist and economic representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-234
Number of pages18
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • architecture
  • cultural economy
  • New York
  • skyscraper
  • sublime


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