The south end of the UVA Lawn at night

Skyscraper Gothic: The Creation of an American Identity

Date & Time

September 4, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM EDT


UVA Alumni Hall, Ballroom
211 Emmet Street South
Charlottesville, VA 22903


Skyscraper Gothic, the dazzling new exhibition at The Fralin Museum of Art, highlights America’s emergence as an architectural force through the development of a distinctly American building type—the skyscraper. Among the most beloved of American buildings, icons such as the Woolworth Building, Tribune Tower, and Chrysler Building launched a popular interest in modernism and Americanness. This panel discussion will provide an overview of the exhibition, with its emphasis on the skyscraper as a motif in American material culture as witnessed by skyscraper furniture, handbags, toys and more as well as the buildings themselves. It will also highlight the role of UVA students in the research and design of the exhibition as part of a collaborative partnership between the School of Architecture and The Fralin Museum.

Panelists will be available in the Skyscraper Gothic exhibition at The Fralin Museum of Art from 11:30 am-1:00 pm to answer questions and for further discussion. The Museum is located on Grounds at the Thomas H. Bayly Building,155 Rugby Road Charlottesville, VA.


This event is part of the More Than the Score UVA faculty-led lecture series. Find more talks like this one at More Than the Score.

Temporary Masking Policy: Because of the Delta variant, UVA has put in place a mask requirement for all people – vaccinated and unvaccinated – who enter UVA properties.

This event will also be offered virtually.  Register here to receive your link to the live stream.


Matthew McLendon

J. Sanford Miller Family director and chief curator, Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia (moderator)

Matthew McLendon an art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art, became the J. Sanford Miller Family director and chief curator of The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia in 2017. He is widely recognized for his cross-disciplinary curatorial practice, an emphasis on community engagement and education, and activating under-represented voices in the museum setting.

Since coming to The Fralin, McLendon has focused on activating the museum both within the University community and the wider communities served. Under his leadership the museum has seen a record increase in attendance as well the development of a number of new programs. Among these programs are Greenbrier Global Artists, an afterschool program serving the children of refugees and asylum seekers as well as a partnership with the Violet Crown Cinema Group for “The Fralin Downtown” a series of monthly films and documentaries addressing both the visual and performing arts.

Before coming to The Fralin, McLendon was recruited in 2010 by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida under the aegis of Florida State University, to revive its dormant modern and contemporary program. In 2011, Joseph’s Coat, at the time the largest Skyspace to date by artist James Turrell, was opened under McLendon’s leadership and his original exhibitions began building larger regional and national audiences.

Matthew McLendon has served as teaching faculty for graduate and undergraduate students at Florida State University, New College of Florida, and Rollins College, in addition to frequent guest lectures, interviews, and media appearances. McLendon earned his MA and PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London.

Lisa Reilly

Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History, School of Architecture

Lisa Reilly‘s chief research interest is in medieval visual culture. Her most recent book, The Invention of Norman Visual Culture: Art, Politics, and Dynastic Ambition, published by Cambridge University Press, establishes a new interpretive paradigm for the eleventh and twelfth-century art and architecture of the Norman world in France, England, and Sicily Recently she and Kevin Murphy co-edited a collection of essays, Skyscraper Gothic, which was published by UVA press. They are co-curating a related exhibit at the Fralin Museum which will opened in August. Lisa Reilly has previously published books on Peterborough Cathedral and Vassar College (with colleague Karen Van Lengen).  She is currently writing a Corpus Vitrearum volume on the stained glass of the late medieval parish church, St. Michael le Belfrey, together with Mary Shepard. Ms. Reilly is a leading early user of digital humanities technology. She was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia (2006-08). Her ongoing research project investigates the medieval design process using digital analysis.

In 2018 she was awarded the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. Ms. Reilly held the NEH/Horace Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Chair of Art and Architectural History (1999-2002) and frequently offers workshops on teaching. She was awarded a hybrid challenge grant by the Office of the President to redesign the architectural history survey using digital tools. Students in her course On Hajj with Ibn Jubayr: Reconstructing the 12th Century Mediterranean, created digital exhibitions using Neatline. Their work can be seen here. More recently, she has taught a new course, “The Visible Past”. This new course, which is part of the Digital Humanities (DH) certificate, explored what was visible at different historical moments throughout medieval Europe through a study of textual and visual evidence from the past with the aim of considering how more localized antique remains and their presentation may have influenced art and architectural production. Students produced digital projects using Storymaps to present their research  some of which have been posted to the public site, which is in the early stages of development. She also teaches the required digital humanities course for M.A. students in architectural history. In spring 2017 she taught an innovative new course, Strategies of Interpretation: Highland in which an interdisciplinary group of students developed interpretation proposals for James Monroe’s house, Highland. Together with Matthew McLendon, director and chief curator at the Fralin Museum of Art, she will offer a course in spring 2020 on museum collecting with the support of a fellowship from the Jefferson Trust.

Elgin Cleckley

Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Thinking, School of Architecture

Elgin Cleckley, NOMA, is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Thinking in the School of Architecture at UVA with an appointment in the School of Education and Human Development and the School of Nursing. He is a designer and principal of _mpathic design – an award-winning Design Thinking pedagogy, initiative, and professional practice.

After studying architecture at the University of Virginia and Princeton University, he collaborated with DLR Group (Seattle), MRSA Architects (Chicago), and Baird Sampson Neuert Architects (Toronto) on award-winning civic projects. Before joining UVA’s Design Thinking program in 2016, he was the 3D Group Leader and Design Coordinator at the Ontario Science Centre (Toronto). This work produced the world’s first museum/design thinking architectural space (the Weston Family Innovation Centre). 

Elgin is the recent winner of the 2021 UVa Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award,  two ACSA Awards, and the 2021 Dumbarton Oaks Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. _mpathic design’s practice includes collaborations with the City of Lynchburg, and the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Diversity. Elgin is also the Design Director at the UVa Equity Center, and it’s Project Pipeline: Architecture Mentorship Program.

Brianna DeMan

Fourth Year Undergraduate in the School of Architecture

Brianna DeMan is a fourth year undergraduate in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, studying Architectural History and Archaeology. With a concentration in historic preservation, Ms. DeMan is deeply interested in recording and communicating stories of underrepresented populations through local resources and individual narratives. She has worked with the UVA Library Scholars’ Lab, National Geographic Society Fund, and local historical societies to make the rich history and material culture of Central Virginia publicly available through 3D scanning and digitization. At present, Brianna DeMan is the Project Manager of local nonprofit One Shared Story, while in the process of writing her undergraduate thesis.

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About the Book

Skyscraper Gothic : Medieval Style And Modernist Buildings
Murphy, Kevin; Reilly, Lisa



Of all building types, the skyscraper strikes observers as the most modern, in terms not only of height but also of boldness, scale, ingenuity, and daring. As a phenomenon born in late nineteenth-century America, it quickly became emblematic of New York, Chicago, and other major cities. Previous studies of these structures have tended to foreground examples of more evincing modernist approaches, while those with styles reminiscent of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe were initially disparaged as being antimodernist or were simply unacknowledged. Skyscraper Gothic brings together a group of renowned scholars to address the medievalist skyscraper—from flying buttresses to dizzying spires; from the Chicago Tribune Tower to the Woolworth Building in Manhattan.

Drawing on archival evidence and period texts to uncover the ways in which patrons and architects came to understand the Gothic as a historic style, the authors explore what the appearance of Gothic forms on radically new buildings meant urbanistically, architecturally, and socially, not only for those who were involved in the actual conceptualization and execution of the projects but also for the critics and the general public who saw the buildings take shape.

Lisa Reilly on the Gothic skyscraper ● Kevin Murphy on the Trinity and U.S. Realty Buildings ● Gail Fenske on the Woolworth Building ● Joanna Merwood-Salisbury on the Chicago School ● Katherine M. Solomonson on the Tribune Tower ● Carrie Albee on Atlanta City Hall ● Anke Koeth on the Cathedral of Learning ● Christine G. O’Malley on the American Radiator Building