The term ‘skyscraper’ was first introduced in the late 19th century to describe buildings employing new techniques of steel framed construction that stood at over 10 stories. By the 1920s, these towering architectural structures began popping up in cities across the United States, namely Chicago and New York, during a period of robust industrial expansion. Skyscrapers not only carried a connotation of pride, breaking constraints of the past through advances in civil engineering, but stood as universal symbols of American modernity.
While architects were challenging themselves to push the boundaries of scale, Austrian born design polymath Paul T. Frankl was thoughtfully examining skyscrapers based on structure and form. Achieving notoriety as an art historian, professor, furniture designer, architect, painter and gallerist, Frankl’s skills across industries and mediums qualified him as a quintessential 20th century renaissance man.
Following a move to the United States in 1914, Frankl began exploring the fields of architecture and painting, as well as furniture and product design. It wasn’t until the 1920s in the development of his ‘skyscraper’ style furniture, that Frankl gained notoriety as one of the first modern designers of American decorative arts.