The skyscraper defines the skyline of New York City more than any other architectural style. High-rise buildings dominate the cityscape; the tallest building in New York is One World Trade Center.
Over the decades, these tall buildings, steeped in industry and ingenuity, have reached new heights to reflect the ambitions of their developers. And these ambitions continue today with the opening of One World Trade Center, Hudson Yards and Edge , and the construction of new, thin residential towers in midtown Manhattan.
But what is a skyscraper? That seems obvious. But in reality it is not like that. Carol Willis, curator of the Skyscraper Museum in Lower Manhattan, says they use "very simple" criteria that require a building to be "taller than a cube." This seems to make many buildings suitable for skyscrapers.
Other experts say the elevator makes the difference between a plain old building and a skyscraper. “Vertical architecture would be impossible, above all, without the elevator, the great equalizer of civilization,” wrote Barr Ferree, a leading 19th-century architecture critic. If so, that would likely be the 600-foot-tall Equitable Life Assurance Building, the first office building with an elevator, the world's first skyscraper when it was completed at 120 Broadway in 1870.
Meanwhile, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international organization that tracks and certifies skyscrapers, considers a number of criteria in determining the definition of tall buildings, from "height relative to context" and "ratio" to "tall building." Technologies" such as windbreaks and elevators. "Supertall" buildings are defined as over 300 meters tall.
However you define skyscrapers, there's a lot to know about New York City 's tall buildings just waiting to be discovered.
1. Until 1890, Trinity Church on Broadway was the tallest building in NYC.
Trinity Church on Broadway in Lower Manhattan , whose Gothic spire rises to 275 feet (87 m), was the city's tallest building until the completion of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World building in 1890.
2. Newspaper companies wrote the first draft of the city's tall building ambitions.
In the late 1800s, the city's powerful newspapers constructed the tallest buildings on what was known as "Newspaper Row" on the east side of City Hall. These buildings included not only The World, but also the 80m large so-called “Print Palace”. The New York Times, the Sun, and other newspapers built along the line could be considered "vertical factories" because the entire production process could be carried out on site: editors were housed along with huge steam-engine presses that produced thousands of copies per hour printed.
3. The Flatiron narrows to just 6 feet at Fifth Avenue.
Never the tallest, but among New York City's most iconic skyscrapers, the Flatiron Building rises 21 stories, 87 meters and narrows to 1.80 meters at the top. It was originally built on a triangular patch of Manhattan to house the Fuller Construction Co. headquarters. The name comes from the press calling the building a three-sided iron and that stuck.
4. Longacre Square was renamed Times Square in honor of the New York Times.
The 25-story building, built in 1904, measures 110 meters high to the top. But the company included its basement and flagpole to measure it at 145 meters and proclaimed it the tallest in the city. Its architecture was praised as regal and majestic. The Board of Aldermen changed the name of Longacre Square, saying the Times had "done so much to develop the neighborhood and contribute an architectural monument to the city." The building's completion was celebrated with fireworks on December 31, 1904, making it the first New Year's Eve party in Times Square. The building would also feature the first "moving" sign, the Motogram, a 1.5-meter-tall, 110-meter-wide band of 14,800 lights that would transmit messages and notices.
5. President Woodrow Wilson turned on the lights of the Woolworth Building to mark Opening Day.
At 7:30 p.m. on April 24, 1913, Wilson pressed a button in the White House to turn on 80,000 light bulbs in the Woolworth Building, a publicity stunt that coincided with the opening of the world's tallest skyscraper. The Woolworth required 90 miles (140 km) of electrical wiring and its own power station.
6. In 1916, the city passed the first zoning law in America to regulate skyscrapers.
The goal of the 1916 zoning law was to prevent the city's streets from "turning into gloomy, darkened canyons in the early days of skyscrapers." Efforts to regulate skyscrapers were sparked by the construction of the 40-story Equitable Building in 1915, which cast a seven-acre shadow on the street. The first building to comply with 1916 zoning laws was the Barclay-Vesey Building in Lower Manhattan, now owned by Verizon.
7. The Chrysler Building dedicated three floors to an elite luncheon club.
The Cloud Club, which included many of the city's powerful, served as a secret bar during Prohibition. Members were assigned wooden lockers to store their bottles. Each locker had hydrographic symbols carved on its doors to prevent state officials from identifying its millionaire lawbreakers. The club had access to an office, lounge, reception room, grill, oyster bar, barber shop, bathrooms, toilets, dressing rooms and even a cigar humidor. The Secret Bars of New York tour is available here .
8. The Empire State Building was designed for transatlantic flights. Or not.
In a race to build the world's tallest skyscraper, the Empire State Building's ambitious planners decided to top the structure with a 200-foot-tall tower that would supposedly serve as a mooring mast for future passenger airships (like the ill-fated Zeppelins). Some claimed that after transatlantic airships arrived, a line would be thrown out and an electric winch would be used to pull the object in. The passengers then exited via a gangplank to the 102nd floor. It only takes a few minutes to reach the shops of Fifth Avenue. It didn't work and the plan failed. An airship was never docked. In fact, according to CEO Anthony Malkin, the entire airship mooring mast idea was untrue. In reality, the mast was used to make the building taller than the Chrysler Building.
9. Rockefeller Center incorporated sophisticated engineering to separate the sound.
One of the 260-meter-tall building's tenants, NBC, was determined to avoid unwanted noise in their studios. To achieve this, the studios were structurally isolated from the rest of the building to prevent the transmission of noise and vibrations. Furthermore, it was insulated to ensure a completely soundproof environment in the windowless complex.
10. The United Nations Secretariat building introduced the all-glass facade for skyscrapers.
The UN headquarters received some ideas proposed by an international panel of architects such as Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer when it was completed in 1952. However, it was the cladding of a building with what appeared to be two curtains of glass that was given preference. This proved highly controversial and had a lasting impact on skyscraper design in the years that followed. The windows are tinted blue-green and help absorb radiant heat and reduce the building's air conditioning costs.
11. A 1961 landmark law encouraged developers to include public spaces in their plans.
In 1961, a new zoning law attempted to address these plans by creating incentives that allowed developers to add additional space as long as public space was included in their plans. In 2000, there were 503 privately owned buildings throughout the city, with publicly accessible areas in 320 of them. An example is the Marine Midland Building plaza with its iconic red cube.
12. The original World Trade Center was the first skyscraper to undergo special wind tunnel testing.
In 1963, the World Trade Center became the first high-rise to undergo skyscraper testing, a test designed specifically for this type of building, so that modifications could be made to withstand high winds. How was this done? Through a novel boundary layer wind tunnel developed by engineer Jack E. Cernmak, whom the builders of the Sears Tower in Chicago "The Wind City" also consulted. Through these tests, the designers of the Twin Towers were able to predict turbulence and vortices that could affect the buildings. According to the Skyscraper Museum, the tests also allowed engineers to develop a theory about the "rate of rupture of glass" exposed to the winds of the atmosphere.
13. The Twin Towers were so large that express elevators were introduced for the first time.
These elevators transported passengers non-stop to "sky lobbies" on levels 44 and 78 at a speed of 488 meters per minute. Once they reached these levels, passengers could take the local elevators as if they were back on the ground floor. There were also express elevators that went directly to the roof of each tower. Largest buildings in New York still use this system today.
14. Citicorp Center was the first skyscraper to contain a tuned mass damper
The massive device - a 400-ton concrete block that swings with the building on an oiled surface - acts like a pendulum to counteract the strong winds. Although common in tall buildings today, the decision to incorporate a tuned mass damper to counteract high winds was controversial at the time the 279-meter-tall Citicorp Center was constructed.
15. The Bank of America Tower is an ecological first.
The 55-story tower of One Bryant Park was the first skyscraper in the United States to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council upon its completion in 2010 and features an urban garden. Rain and snow that falls on the building is collected and used to flush toilets. According to the architects, the building's design draws on "concepts of biophilia," which they describe as "humans' innate need for connection with the natural environment." To this day, the building is considered one of the most environmentally friendly in the world.
16. 8 Spruce Street has windows that make you feel like you're hanging over Manhattan.
The Frank Gehry-designed tower at 8 Spruce Street, known as the Beekman Tower, was designed with its undulating facade. It was designed with bay windows that give tenants the feeling of being outside the plane of the exterior wall. Each floor has its own configuration. The tower's unique design was made possible by state-of-the-art software developed by Gehry Technologies.
17. One World Trade Center has 20 floors of bomb resistance.
Everything at One World Trade Center (1,800 ft.) was built to address the tower's obvious safety concerns - a legacy of the history of September 11, 2001. The building features tight fireproofing on every floor, "optimal access for firefighting" and " structural layoffs" according to "Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings" by Judith Dupr. The base of the tower has been described as "bunker-like".