Today is Skyscraper Day! Or is it? Barbara disagrees!

Today is Skyscraper Day! Or is it? Barbara disagrees!

Last year blogs and news outlets were celebrating Skyscraper Day by urging to share a bit of tlc with your local skyscraper, or some posting of simular gist, but this year things seem to be a rather quiet. As I write this, the Google News page doesn’t show much current activity, but the day is still young. The Empire State Building has its signature white lighting on tonight, so no party night for the queen of skyscrapers it seems.

September 3 honors the birthday of architect Louis Sullivan which is recognized as the Father of the Skyscraper, but an article posted here three days ago argues that Sullivan really is more of a mentor of the skyscraper, not quite the inventor. The tallest building that he was involved in is the 71-meter Auditorium Building in Chicago, which is more of a large 40-meter tall building block with a little tower reaching that height. As much as Sullivan is one of the most interesting architects of his time, celebrating Skyscraper Day in his honor might be a bit too much on the high side.

On August 10, some blogs announced that day was Skyscraper Appreciation Day, which is in honor of the birthday of William van Alen, who is known as the architect of the Chrysler Building. The argument here is that the Chrysler Building is indeed one of the most emblematic skyscrapers. But Van Alen barely was an emblematic architect as besides having designed the Chrysler Building, he isn’t known for much else. Credit must at least equally go to its commissioner Walter P. Chrysler.

If you want to exclude architect’s birthdays, the one day that is irrefutably linked to skyscrapers is off course September 11. I’m well aware that even 14 years on, many will not consider that an appropriate day for celebration, but I also think one could see the argument of reappropriation. Perhaps in another generation’s time we can.

Luckily we have one more option left. If you have ever partaken in Saint Patrick’s Day you may have been under the impression you were celebrating some of the better Irish traditions, but what you really were celebrating was the death date of the foremost patron saint of Ireland. A patron saint is someone who is regarded as the tutelary spirit or heavenly advocate of a place, craft or activity. They are based on stories from Roman Catholicism, and there are plenty of them. Patronage depends on places, suffering and attributes involved.

One story revolves around a pretty lady called Barbara who lived in the 3rd century in either present day Turkey or Lebanon. Barbara was so pretty that her father Dioscorus did what most concerned dads would do, which is lock her up in a tower. Barbara’s response was something that I guess was an act of FU at the time, which was to openly convert herself to Christianity, which her father didn’t take well. Long story short, Dioscorus beheaded Barbara but by act of god was killed after being struck by lightning. Full story here, or here if you prefer a 60-second video.

Since this story included a structure, violence, suffering and lightning, Barbara, now a saint, is the patron of many groups of people, such as armourers, architects, artillerymen, firemen, mathematicians, miners, and prisoners. Paintings of Saint Barbara almost always picture her with the tower in which she was locked up.

Since this is the only patron with a story that prominently includes a tower, Barbara is by far and large the most likely candidate to look after skyscrapers from the heavens, and to declare her feast day, December 4, as the real Skyscraper Day. Then again we’d have to share it with prisoners and gun owners, but with the fireman being part of it sure calls for a huge firework display!

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