Stefan Al’s Supertall garners acclaim

The book, Supertall: How the World’s Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping Our Cities and Our Lives, by Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture, Stefan Al, has garnered acclaim, including reviews from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In it, Al draws from his experience and perspective as an architect of skyscrapers and as an urban designer to track the history of the global boom in megastructures, dissect the effect this trend has on the urban environment, and emphasize the need to center human wellbeing and sustainability in the future of tall buildings. 

Part of the book enumerates and explains the technological innovations that have emerged in the era of the supertall, and delves into detail on a number of record-setting skyscrapers of the past and present, including the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa, and the Shanghai Tower. Focusing on four cities – London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore – the second part examines the social, political, and environmental impact of these structures, and lays out the need to transform the way we engage with megastructures. 

In the Wall Street Journal review, Anthony Paletta praises Al’s ability to “[explain] these esoteric technical challenges in lucid fashion” and render the “story of what’s come about in the age of the supertall… gripping.” Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic and author, describes the book as a “thoughtful inquiry” written with a “clear and critical eye.” The New York Times article continues, “There is a lot of rich history here, well and concisely told (and illustrated with superb line drawings, a refreshing change from the big, splashy photographs of coffee-table books).” 

Al’s writing is complemented by over thirty beautifully rendered architectural drawings by David Dugas, Associate Professor in the architecture program. Pictured here are his illustrations of Bangkok’s Mahanakhon, Manhattan’s 111 West 57th Street, and Paris’ Tour Triangle. 

In the early days of his career, Al worked on the competition and commission for the 2000-feet tall Canton Tower, briefly the world’s tallest tower. Following its construction, as a Senior Associate Principal at KPF, he contributed to the design of mixed-use master plans and high-rise towers across Asia and the US. Al is currently a licensed architect in New York and The Netherlands and a LEED accredited professional, working in the private practice he founded, Stefan Al Architects

Al is also the author of several other books, including Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise: Green and Gray Strategies, a vital assessment of one of the most significant challenges facing the design community, encompassing mixed strategies that prioritize the needs of people and communities. His co-authored book, Beyond Mobility: Planning Cities for People and Places, won the 2019 National Urban Design Award. His book, The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream, was a Wall Street Journal “best book to read.” He is acclaimed for his work on Asian urbanism with four books published including, Villages in the City, which was selected by Architectural Record as “one of the best” books on informal urbanism. Besides his academic publications, his work has been featured in museum and biennale exhibits and media outlets including The Guardian, The Times, and NPR. 

For those interested in checking the book out, the Art and Architecture Library in Cowgill Hall now has a copy of Supertall: How the World’s Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping Our Cities and Our Lives available to borrow.