Carol Willis is the founder, director, and curator of The Skyscraper Museum. An architectural and urban historian, she has researched, taught, and written about the history of American city building. She is the author of Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago (Princeton Architectural Press, 1995), which received an AIA book award and was named “Best Book on North American Urbanism, 1995” by the Urban History Association. Critic Herbert Muschamp has praised Ms. Willis in The New York Times as “the brilliant and energetic woman who created the Skyscraper Museum in 1996 from nothing but her imagination, her passion for New York architecture, and her belief in the importance of history and the value of the public realm.”
Ms. Willis is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Columbia University where since 1989 she has taught in the program The Shape of Two Cities: New York and Paris in The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning. From 1979 to 1991 she taught courses on the history of architecture at Parsons School of Design in New York and for eleven summers conducted walking tours on the history of French architecture for Parsons in Paris.
Before establishing The Skyscraper Museum, Ms. Willis was guest curator for exhibits on the architects Raymond Hood and Hugh Ferriss. In conjunction with the exhibit Hugh Ferriss: Metropolis, she oversaw the facsimile reprint of the delineator’s 1929 book The Metropolis of Tomorrow, contributing a historical essay on Ferriss and appendices (published by Princeton Architectural Press; reprinted in 1998). In addition to articles in books and scholarly journals, Ms. Willis is the editor for Building the Empire State, a book on the construction of New York’s signature skyscraper, published by W.W. Norton in 1998. Her exhibitions at The Skyscraper Museum include Building the Empire State, Design Development: Times Square, Big Buildings, City of Change, Favorites, Green Towers for New York, Giants: The Twin Towers and the Twentieth Century, and World’s Tallest Building: Burj Dubai. She has written introductions to numerous monographs and collections, including Skyscraper Rivals, New York Architecture, Manhattan Skyscrapers, and New York Deco, and has appeared in numerous television documentaries and radio broadcasts, including programs for The History Channel, PBS, A & E. and BBC Television, NPR, and BBC World Service Radio.
As an undergraduate, Ms. Willis majored in Art History at Boston University, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. She did her graduate work in architectural history at Columbia University in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, receiving an M.A. in 1976 and M.Phil. in 1979. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards.
Ms. Willis lives in a skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan with her husband Mark Willis, an urban economist.