A guest from the design firm Gensler dressed as its Shanghai Tower. Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.

In a revival of a 1930s society party, guests at a Chicago ball wore outfits of famous buildings such as Marina Bay Sands and the Aqua Tower.

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.

The 1931 Beaux-Arts Ball. From left to right, A. Stewart Walker as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Ely Jacques Kahn as the Squibb Building, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as 1 Wall Street, D.E.Ward as the Metropolitan Tower, and Joseph H. Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Urban Buildings and Habitat)

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.

David Farnsworth, Andrew Johnson, and David Scott of the engineering firm Arup as Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. (Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.)
Marina Bay Sands. (Kevin Lam/Reuters)
Richard Lee of C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners as Taipei 101. (Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.)
Taiwan’s Taipei 101. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Alexia Cavazos of Studio Gang as Chicago’s Aqua Tower. (Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.)
The façade of the Aqua Tower. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
Darin Cook (left) of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects as Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers—the winning costume—with Luo Zhenyu of CITIC HEYE Investment as Beijing’s CITIC Tower. (Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.)
The Petronas Towers. (Joshua Paul/AP)
A group photo of costumed ballgoers. (Spot My Photos by Purple Photo Co.)

CORRECTION: This article originally misstated the name of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and has been updated.

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