New York City's Skyscrapers: Four Iconic Structures

Oct 31 | 5 minutes read
New York City's Skyscrapers: Four Iconic Structures

Is September 3rd, National Skyscraper Day, a date you skipped off?   New City is full of amazing buildings, therefore every day is Skyscraper Appreciation Day.

Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924), a pioneering Chicago architect sometimes called the "father of the modern American skyscraper," was born on September 3. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright later joined his staff.

Two well-known and two lesser-known New nyc City buildings by Sullivan will be highlighted in honor of his work.

Despite its common usage, "skyscraper" is neither a technical term, nor is there a standard definition for its height. In New nyc, a premium label is not given to just any building. Despite being eclipsed (or, in some cases, tragically destroyed), these skyscrapers were once the pinnacle of architecture.


Bayard-Condict Building, which has been overlooked (1899)

Sullivan, who was born in Boston, is best known as an architect in Chicago and the Midwest, but not on the East Coast. Architect and author John Tauranac goes on to say that "unfortunately, NYC got only one of Sullivan's buildings, and not one of his best" in his book Essential New York.

We don't believe it's that terrible. Construction of the Bayard Building at 65-69 Bleecker Street began in 1897 but was completed under the Condict Building's name the following year due to financial problems and disputes with the NYC Buildings Department.

It is covered in terra cotta, one of Sullivan's preferred building materials. Unlike neoclassical architects, who favored adornment purely for the sake of aesthetics, his rule of "form follows function" emphasized practicality.

There are six "faerie" angels, shown as females with butterfly wings, projecting from the exterior of this 13-story office building just below the roofline. According to reports, Sullivan was not a fan of these, but as was the case back then, so is it now: the customer always wins.

Bayard Condict Building


The Flatiron Building, a cultural touchstone (1902)

Some New Yorkers were frightened by this 21-story triangular structure when it was finished in 1902. Being one of the highest buildings in the world wasn't the only cause for concern.

Some residents stayed away because they were worried the wind would blow it down. The project was dubbed "Burnham's Folly" by skeptics who believed the iron-shaped skyscraper would collapse due to its architect, Daniel Burnham.

The appearance of solidity provided by the limestone facade was, in fact, deceptive. The Fuller Building, as it was originally called, was groundbreaking in that it included a steel framework. Steel framework allowed for greater heights than would have been possible with just stone.

My, what a gusty day it is. Rough winds were experienced around the Flatiron. Skirts were often blown over women's heads due to the erratic layout of the buildings. It's easy to picture the gawkers at the corner of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway in an era when bare ankles were considered scandalous. Twenty-three skidoo! a beat cop would yell to scare them off.

The Flatiron Building


The Equitable Building, which has been neglected (1915)

This skyscraper at 120 Broadway is to be thanked by Manhattanites who enjoy sunshine while strolling the city. These Financial District canyons are home to skyscrapers as tall as almost 40 floors, such as this one. The Equitable Building represented a tipping point in terms of the amount of direct sunlight that might be obstructed by surrounding high-rises.

This was the largest office building in the world at the time, and although it was never the tallest, it was the largest. The engineering journal they were published in deemed it to be the heaviest building in the world. The structure resembles a land-based ocean liner in that it was built to efficiently house a large number of people, in this case 16,000. (50 speedy elevators).

Neighboring property owners raised the alarm. Rents for offices in such locations would plummet if they were not well lit and ventilated. (Keep in mind that there was no air conditioning back then.) The Equitable was not the first high-rise with an unorthodox skyscraper, but it took the blame for the industry as a whole when regulations began to be lax.

A zoning regulation passed in 1916 was the first in the country to limit the size and shape of high-rise buildings. The revised plan allowed for "stepped facades," in which a structure recedes from the lot line as its height increases. The Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, two later New York City classics, were required to comply with this code until 1961.

The Equitable Building


The Twin Towers, an instant symbol of America and the world (1973, opened)

As we commemorate the tragic 20th anniversary of September 11, it seems appropriate to think back on the Twin Towers, the original World Trade Center's crowning architectural achievement. They were the tallest structures in the world at the time, each reaching 110 floors (though only for a brief while before Chicago's Sears Tower surpassed them).

These skyscrapers by Minoru Yamasaki completely altered the cityscape. Inside, a cutting-edge system of express and local elevators with sky lobbies served as a vertical subway, speeding employees to their offices and making the most of the available square footage. The amount of new office space generated is about equivalent to 50 midtown blocks, or about eight million square feet. Over ninety-nine percent of it was under lease as of September 11th.

It wasn't the first time an aeroplane crashed into a New nyc City skyscraper; in 1945, a B-25 bomber flew into the fog and crashed into the Empire State Building. Engineers anticipated a similar event with the then-largest passenger plane, the Boeing 707. It was never planned for even larger planes to crash on purpose.

Twenty years after the devastating events of September 11, the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum is dwarfed by the gleaming glass and steel of modern office structures. The new World Trade Center provides a respectful memorial to an indelible catastrophe while also healing a deep wound.

the twin towers


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