Why do so many of New York's older skyscrapers have a similar design?
The answer can be traced back to a monumental 1916 zoning law, which established “setback” requirements for buildings above a certain height. In the heart of the Financial District, the Equitable Building, a historic skyscraper that predates the law, remains a symbol of the excesses of the pre-zoning era.
Video by Raymond Schillinger
Camera: Brian Schildhorn
Additional Production: Ren Potts, Jordan Oplinger, Maya Greene
Graphics: Christian Capestany
Special thanks to:
Carol Willis - Founder, Director, and Curator of The Skyscraper Museum
New York City Department of City Planning
Archival Photographs from Getty Images, POND5
#NYC #history #architecture
Thanks for the infor Bloomberg. I just came back from NYC and thought it was trying to be unique but you have enlightened me. The setback has accidentally made the city so unique and I find it pleasant looking.
Yeah, unfortunately didn't help any. Still the most oppressive skyline in the world, particularly when actually looking from the bottom (people live inside it, not fly around it, how it's always shown). Don't how "distinct" it is, but the architecture certainly isn't much of anything to behold, consisting mostly of ugly grey boxes (viewed from any angle). Walking through most any street in NYC, having the height pushed back doesn't help at all in actually seeing past the buildings. Sky-to-cement wall ratio is still about 20:1.
You can see this even in skyscrapers built during the Mad Men era- the 50's into the early 60's. Here's some notable examples- 270 Park Avenue and 1285 6th avenue (1960), 1290 6th Avenue (1963) and 277 Park Avenue (1964). However, architectural fashion had changed- clients wanted sleek, modern towers instead of the "frozen fountain" look popular during the Art Deco era. So architects moved most of the setbacks to the sides and backs of the buildings, giving them the appearance of having tails, after a fashion. People notice the tall and sleek tower fronting the avenue, but often don't see that there's a whole tail section happening too, which often contains a sizeable chunk of floor space. 1290 6th Avenue's got the most complicated arrangement of setbacks of any of these towers.
This is incentive for lot mergers because you have to create a larger lot area to allow a building to be taller. It also further concentrates wealth because people with smaller lots face more limitations.
wow , I visited Manhattan from Australia a few months ago and I looked back at the photos I took from the empire state building roof top and I had always notice how the older sky scrappers were shaped distinctively from the newer sky scrapers and now I found the answer. NYC is such a fascinating place and I look forward to returning there some time soon and I want to see a college marching band too.
Indeed, in fact I know several native New Yorkers who hated the original WTC complex, but now you have the freedom tower, which just doesn't have anything close to as powerful an imprint on the skyline. Unfortunately we can never have the twin towers back.
It has a disgusting sky line, look at that concrete jungle? No wonder European nations dont want their cities to look like American concrete jungles, truly disgusting. Why in any ones mind would you want to visit New York? There is nothing there and that applies to the US as a whole. Personally i would only go to LA or whatever for the gun range and that is it. History is so small i would best go to Switzerland to get more history. Skyline is made of concrete, horrible
Not only the people owning a building and working in it are affected by its height, but also other inhabitants of a city. To protect their interests (sunlight, desirable landscape, et cetera) it is very reasonable to enforce regulations.
Is there an exception to that rule? I notice the UN building (at 4:00) isn't built in that style.. and it's pretty broad too. Although it's in a less dense area, there's a similar older building (at 3:39) which is also in an open area, but has the stepped design. Any thoughts?
Basically all was going good until the cronies had to regulate to keep rent prices high. Thanks to zoning laws nowadays you have to commute by car for hours or pay stupendous amounts of rent to live downtown, all because someone thought it was a good idea to restrict where apartment complexes and offices can be built. Now people life far from their work which wastes billions of commute hours nationwide and hurts the environment.
Not all of it was zoning laws, though it certainly didn't help. I would say most of that specific problem was the trillions we spent in subsidizing the automobile through our extensive road and highway system, which subsidized suburban sprawl as a result.
The amount of work that has gone into this four minute long video is substantial. So pleasing to watch. You made it look so simple and perhaps, that's the sign of excellent content.
Thanks! Keep going!
Hugh Ferriss, an architectural illustrator, did some very cool drawings of how buildings could look with the 1916 zoning not long after the law was passed. An example (google yields a few more): https://www.skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/FUTURE_CITY/NEW_YORK_MODERN/walkthrough_1916.php
iTechTips, US Bank Tower is exactly what I mean by gimmicky. Like Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, other cities with individually beautiful bldgs but no other city has a skyline that appears to rise out of the water because of the way Manhattan is a flat narrow island.
The Transmerica Pyramid (along with the Mt. Sutro transmission tower) has been making the San Francisco skyline distinctive since the '70s. The newly built Salesforce tower surpassed it as the tallest building in the city.
I have noticed NewYork's buildings went inword as it went up but I never knew it was because of zoning laws.
Also, Some places have laws for having so much ground area wrather it's parks or what ever around a tower.
The City of Los Angeles was actually the first to regulate land use going back to 1904. https://recode.la/sites/default/files/file_attachments/basic_page/OrdNo9774-ResidentialDistricts%28July%2025%201904%29.pdf
same ole, same ole....dull, lifeless,static bland building projects...glass curtain wall....too boring.......we need a new approach....a new theme and style...I new mind set....since the beginning of skyscrapers it has always been to honor business and industry....or religion....
How about honoring the women and females of the world....the women who bore us .....
don't they deserve an honor , and statement in architecture ???....to do them proud??
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a 167 floor...2154 foot tall building in the shape of an ovary.....located near Sutton Place in new York. ......mixed use. ..maternity hospital
it's sure to raise some discussion💁💁💁💁
Because it is forever in a process of building. Next time you walk into one - patch a hole in a wall or nail a step, buddy! .. but don't point a finger at me when they catch you drawing a bigger dick on a renaissance painting at your local museum.
Building has two fairly distinct meanings as a noun, if you think about it:
* Something already constructed - "it's one of the ugliest buildings in the city".
* The process of constructing something - "the building of the pyramids took many years".
(There are a few other meanings of "building" - as in adding to something, or gaining sympathy, but that's for another discussion.)
Bloomberg .. That makes sense. I think the vertical faces of the twins contributed to their skyline prominence. For example... they always looked much bigger than the Empire State Building from far away. This was an interesting video. Thank you!
Thanks for your comment! The original World Trade Center towers (which were built after the updated 1961 Zoning Resolution) were built on a large, multi-block plaza. This meant the towers were technically "set back" from the street far enough to be built to their record-setting heights without a visible setback in the structure.
Wow. Learned something, nice video. Glad to see that the Zoning Resolution was very well thought out and worked out for the city. Yeah, here in Europe skyscrapers were proposed in some cities in Germany (of course we barely have need for them), but in many cases we also don’t want them.
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