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The Metropolitan Life Tower: Architecture and Ideology in the Life Insurance Enterprise

  • Roberta Moudry

Abstract

Fiancial institutions, among them life insurance companies, are prominent builders and owners of skyscrapers. These institutions are known for their corporate headquarters, symbolic markers on the cityscape— one thinks of the TransAmerica Building in San Francisco, the John Hancock Building in Chicago, or New York Life’s recent television campaign featuring their 1920s Madison Avenue home office.1 The imprint of these powerhouses of capital on the urban landscape is more extensive than the singular architectural event, as mortgages, bonds, and philanthropic activities direct the financial sector’s funds and visions into the built and human structures of the city. However, the skyscraper headquarters is the corporation’s public face, occupying space in the city and providing a visual object to which a range of corporate values and products are linked and marketed to the public.

Keywords

Life Insurance Life Insurance Company Employee Welfare Commercial Real Estate Clerical Worker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Daniel Abramson, Skyscraper Rivals: The AIG Building and the Architecture of Wall Street (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    An “imagined community” as defined by Benedict Anderson, is a group of individuals who may not know or see each other, but believe or are made to believe that they share common goals. Anderson believes this to be a factor in national identity, a construct promoted in particular by newspapers. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, rev. ed. (London and New York: Verso, 1991), 33–36.Google Scholar
  3. Katherine Solomonson, The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition: Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 61–67.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For a general study of Met Life’s corporate structure as well as the home office see Olivier Zunz, Making America Corporate, 1870–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990)Google Scholar
  5. Gail Fenske and Deryck Holdsworth, “Corporate Identity and the New York Office Building: 1895–1915,” in The Landscape of Modernity: Essays on New York City, 1900–1940, ed. Olivier Zunz and David Ward (New York: Russell Sage, 1992), 129–159.Google Scholar
  6. Angel Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870–1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Meir Wigoder, “The’ solar Eye’ of Vision: Emergence of the Skyscraper-Viewer in the Discourse on Heights in New York City, 1890–1920,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 61:2 (June 2002): 152–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Sarah Watts, “Built Languages of Class: Skyscrapers and Labor Protest in Victorian Public Space,” Ch. 9 in The American Skyscraper: Cultural Histories, ed. Roberta Moudry (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elspeth H. Brown, Catherine Gudis, and Marina Moskowitz 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Moudry

There are no affiliations available

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