Tom Leslie

My research examines the influences that construction, engineering, and design have on one another, in both historic examples and in contemporary practice.  In particular, I look at the roles of material science, structural engineering, environmental design, mechanical equipment, economics, and regional geography in architectural production, using archival material and in situ research to show how construction and material typologies evolve in response to new conditions.  This work has led to books on Louis I. Kahn (Louis I. Kahn: Building Art, Building Science, Braziller, 2005), early Chicago high rise construction (Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934, University of Illinois Press, 2013), and the Italian constructeur Pier Luigi Nervi (Beauty’s Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi, University of Illinois Press, 2017).  Other projects have been published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansTechnology and CultureDesign IssuesThe Journal of Architecture, and The Journal of Illinois History.  My research has been funded by the American Philosophical Society, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats, and the American Academy in Rome, among others, and has been the subject of visiting faculty appointments at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, the University of Technology-Sydney, Australia, the Universität Bauhaus-Weimar, Germany, and the Universitá di Bologna, Italy.

Current research includes projects involving the relationships between mechanical and cladding technologies in the mid-20th century (“Deep Plan, Thin Skin: Environmental Precursors to the ‘Glass Box,’”), the emergence of new structural and constructive typologies in the politically charged environment of postwar Chicago (“Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1984”), and the history of the international airport as a site of technological development at the scales of product and interior design, architectural design, and urban design.