Architectural Highlights Tour of New York City
NYC has so many spectacular architectural styles and landmarked neighborhoods; it would take a lifetime to learn them all. However, whether you are a Neo-Gothic geek or a romantic over Romanesque, we can show you around town and explain the differences between friezes and bas-reliefs, from mansard roofs to rusticated stone. From our oldest surviving Colonial Church - St. Pauls Chapel in 1766 and its Episcopalian brethren Trinity Church to the French Renaissance Revival of City Hall of 1812. There's the grand beauty of Beaux Arts at the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, and everyone's favorite: Art Deco - with Rockefeller Center to the Empire State Building and the magnificent Chrysler. Understand the NYC skyline with a Levys' Unique New York Tour Guide.
Why So Tall?
One thing you need to understand about New Yorkers is that we like to build. From the first windmill of New Amsterdam in the 17th century to the New World Trade Center to be completed by 2019, the island of Manhattan has been a veritable laboratory of construction. Sure we can talk bout mansard roofs, but to understand how we’ve developed so many fascinating, beautiful and downright mind-boggling structures over the past couple hundred years, one must understand how New Yorkers utilize space.
The island of Manhattan is tiny: approximately twelve miles long and two and a half miles wide at its widest point. That’s Twenty-three square miles in total. We’ve got a population of 1.6 million people living on this island, which means a population density of 70,000 people per square mile (the densest place in the country!). But that doesn’t even include the visiting population. On any given day, the population of Manhattan effectively doubles to 3.9 million people. And you think that’s bad? A hundred years ago, the neighborhood of the Lower East Side had a density of 270,000 people within that approximate square mile. That means about 16 people living on one floor measuring at bout 460 square feet. So we really didn’t have a choice but to build: Apartments, municipal office buildings, courthouses, and industrial complexes…it never ends!
A Love for the Ages
Lost, but not forgotten
A lot of cities in America lost their beautiful Beaux-Arts turn-of-the-century skylines whether from fires, earthquakes or just a desire to rebuild in a modern, economically or environmentally friendly manner. New York City has certainly lost some of the gems of its early days like the Singer Building or the original Penn Station, but a powerful landmarks and conservancy movement sprang up in the 60’s when Grand Central Terminal was almost torn down and has helped us keep our architectural treasures. The oldest public building that’s still in use every day dates back to 1766. And St Paul’s chapel isn’t called “The Little Chapel That Stood” because of it’s age: it was the only building on the perimeter of the World Trade Center that didn’t suffer major structural damage!
New York is commonly known as the melting pot, and it’s no different in the world of architecture. In an attempt to distinguish themselves, architects are constantly working in bold strokes. Take the Woolworth Building for example. Who thought that the tallest building in the world might take the shape of a magnificent Gothic tower? And made out of limestone at that!
A bas-relief is artwork that's carved into the building
Sometimes tradition takes hold, like in the perfectly classic Greek revival styling of Federal Hall or the Neo-Roman New York Stock Exchange building, a veritable temple to the gods of commerce. But sometimes tradition is seized and drilled like a jackhammer into an entire section of the city! Rockefeller Center is a playground for Art Deco fans. Gaze at the slender towers that draw the eye up to the Top of the Rock and feast on the angular bas-reliefs that majestically grace the fronts and sides of each building in this massive complex.
The old and the new
O. Henry once said “New York would be a wonderful city…if they ever finish it!” and that’s one thing we’re strangely proud of. Some cities have that “frozen in amber” feel to it, but we’re constantly fixing up, rehabilitating and building anew. From the 19th century warehouses of Chelsea that are now cutting edge studio spaces and hotels to the Platinum LEED (Leader of Energy Efficient Development) skyscrapers of midtown, we’re always looking ahead. And the New World Trade Center is a very important part of that future. With seven new buildings on their way to completion, we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
How to spot some architectural style
New York's Federal Hall
Greek Revival: A popular way to show classic reverence. The Greeks did it early and did it right with major advances in arithmetic and other basic sciences. Very plain geometric shapes like rectangles or parallelograms with many simple columns that run from the ground to hold up the structure.
Olivet Baptist Church
Neo-Roman: Like Greek revival on steroids! The Romans wanted to prove how much more powerful they were than their forebears so look for Greek-style structures with huge domes, unnecessarily enormous staircases and imposing statues.
Beaux Arts: Building on the classical style with incredibly modern techniques developed in the late 19th century. With iron and steel in the mix, the Beaux Arts School could use the aesthetics of the ancient Greeks and Romans but make them tall, strong and large enough to accommodate a growing urban population. Look for grand entrances and capping flourishes on buildings that take up half a city block.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Art Deco: Look up! The age of the skyscraper was well under way when Art Deco came to fame. Inspired by smooth streamlined machinery, like the automobiles and steam engines of the 1920’s. You won’t find flowery carvings but lots of straight lines and clean arcs and modern, somewhat abstract depictions of humans and gods.