BBC World Service Turns to Georgia Tech School of Architecture Professor for a Lesson in Skyscrapers

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Georgia Tech’s resident expert on large scale buildings, Benjamin Flowers offered his expertise on skyscrapers and how people react to them on the recent BBC World Services broadcast episode of “The Forum.”

In the episode, “The First Skyscrapers,” which premiered Saturday, November 11, 2017, Flowers joined Bridget Kendall and guest experts, founding director and curator of the Skyscraper Museum, Carol Willis, and architectural author, Thomas Leslie, as they discussed the early days of skyscrapers and how these structures have impacted and shaped city skylines.

Explaining the early reception of growing city skylines, Flowers said, “I think there was an attendant ambiguity about to what extent building tall represented an opportunity but also to what extent it represented a threat to a kind of way of life, where suddenly your access to sun and air was dramatically altered by the creation of structures that changed the skyline but also changed the nature of life at the street scale pretty significantly.”

In the early days of skyscrapers, buildings were constructed to address the scarcity of real estate and the incentive to build tall on limited amounts of land.  Today, skyscrapers are more often about power.

“I think the interesting thing is that if you think about where the tallest building in the world now sits,” he said, “it’s that the very forces that we associate with driving the rise of the skyscraper… simply does not apply in the case of Dubai, where you have a spine of skyscrapers surrounded by a sea of low, four to five story constructions and is surrounded by little or nothing. And so, what you see now is an increasing demand on the part of clients to build tall, not in response to economic considerations or even to considerations of demand.”

Flowers continued, “I think in some ways as of yet, we have not seen the topping out of what the opportunities are.”

To hear Flowers discuss “The First Skyscrapers” on the BBC World Services episode of “The Forum”, visit


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