This strikes me as a superb example of bookmaking. The book is taller by about 50% than my next largest books (other large art books, their maximum normal size), but narrow. If you stood the two biggest hardback novels you own, one on top of the other, you’ll get the idea. The scheme is a spread for each of 50 notable skyscrapers (there are some other articles, with text in white on dark to distinguish them), the left hand page of which is given over to a single photo, generally superb, with either a quote from the architect or some famous person, or a single small inset image the only intrusion. On the right we have:

a title header;

a prominent bar of the bare facts – name, architect, height, dates and so on;

a few small images – a wider context view, a photo of the architect, a shot of the structure in progress, an architectural drawing or plan, a close-up of a detail, a pic of something the building references or whatever;

captions for each image, often paragraph-length;

the main text, describing how it came to be built and its design, telling us a bit about its architects and clients (the one really terrible part here is the tragically outdated WTC piece, which could hardly be more unfortunate);

the odd quotation, as on the main images (the one drawback is that sometimes these are too general, not really relevant, and you know they just couldn’t resist a semi-related line because it’s from, say, Hemingway);

a little set of silhouettes at the bottom of the page, grey for the comparisons (Sears Tower, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower), black for the building we are looking at;

finally, at the bottom right, a tiny drawing of the building. This can act as an identifier for quick searches. I did try treating it as a flicker-book, illustrating the evolution of the skyscraper, but it was rubbish for that.

I think the writing is a bit dull, and occasionally you can get lost in clauses multiplied to no great purpose, and it’s rather too US dominated (I mean, I know any such book has to centre on America, but there is room for debate as to exactly how much), and misses out some I’d like to see there – possibly because of a not unreasonable fetish for height records, but it looks fabulous (and I found it cheap, so you might be able to as well). What more could you want from a coffee table book? If you have a long, thin coffee table, anyway.