In January 1931, architects and socialites gathered at New York City’s Hotel Astor to drink and dance away the gloom of the Depression for one night. The occasion was the annual Beaux-Arts Ball (its theme: “Fête Moderne—a Fantasie in Flame and Silver”).
What’s chiefly remembered about this particular high-society party is that titans of New York real estate came dressed in costumes depicting their own buildings, including the Waldorf Astoria and the Chrysler Building. That led to goofy, memorable photographs like the one shown below.
Yesterday, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a nonprofit devoted to tall buildings, revived that moment as the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary with an international conference in Chicago. Guests of CTBUH’s Beaux-Arts Costume Ball on October 30 wore outfits depicting 21st-century skyscrapers—smaller, more lightweight versions of their own creations in steel and concrete. The event also had a competitive element; 26 architecture, engineering, and construction and development firms took part in a costume contest. The winner, Darin Cook of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, wore Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers.
Below are some guests at the black-tie ball, paired with the real structures they represent. For those of us (ahem) who tend to rush-order factory-made costumes for Halloween, the creativity and skill in fabrication here are pretty humbling.
CORRECTION: This article originally misstated the name of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and has been updated.