Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Mysterious, simple, intimidating. These buildings define the 1960s just as much as a certain show.
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and his Bauhaus counterparts were the trendsetters of design in the mid-20th century. Symbols of the sophisticated and restrained look, Mies in many ways defined the architectural era with his wildly successful Seagram Building in 1958. You would have been hard-pressed to find a western corporation at the time that didn't dream of setting up shop in a big, shiny Miesian tower.
The boxy skyscrapers we now see in Mad Men's iconic intro won't need to be redrawn for period-accuracy any time soon. Corporate architecture from the 1960s stayed deeply rooted in its 50s origins. In fact, the towers which provide the background of the falling man all resemble the glass boxes of not only Mies but of Gordon Bunshaft or Max Abramovitz, architects who would remain influential up through the end of modernism.
As the decade wound down, music, fashion, and art transitioned more quickly into psychedelic and early postmodernist movements. For architecture though, the sheer timetable of planning and building a skyscraper made it rare to find avant garde variations.
The influence of Mies's vision and that of the International Style is seen in most of the world's tall buildings from the 1960s. We picked just 13 towers to define the decade in the slideshow below. As Mies always said, "less is more."
Top image courtesy Flickr user, leander.canaris.