A new exhibit at The Skyscraper Museum in New York City traces the evolution of the city's skyline from the 19th century to the present day and into plans for the future. With a mix of archival photography, interactive graphics, models, and drawings, the exhibit breaks down the skyline's history into distinct eras and traces the various influences that have shaped the city. In the exhibit, the history of the city's buildings becomes a lens through which to view the history of the city, and even the country, as a whole. Technological innovations like the elevator and electric lighting are given form as buildings become radically taller and bigger, visible indications of radical changes in the way city dwellers lived. Other forces, like the rise of building setback codes and the later creation of privately-owned public spaces (POPS), are illustrated with detailed models and explanations of figures like Hugh Ferris and others who have permanently changed skyscraper design in New York and around the world. Highlights of the show include extremely detailed photos from the early 20th century and panoramas that track the skyline's evolution over more than a century. The exhibit shows how New York City, with a vertical cityscape unlike almost any other in the world, actually reflects global trends and innovations as much as it charts its own course. Photographs in the show bring to life the city's past as a mid-rise port for steamships and schooners in stunning detail. It's almost possible to count the bricks on some 1876 views. The show follows the city into the glass-and-steel postwar period and charts the rise of new supertalls in midtown. Current and future projects are put into context by comparing them to the designs and technology of their predecessors. Without explicitly praising or criticizing any developments, the show presents change simply as an inevitable part of the life of the city. SKYLINE Open through January 2019 The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place New York, New York, 10280
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The AIA Conference on Architecture is just around the corner, from June 21 to 23 at the Javits Center in New York City. To add to the excitement, the city will be bustling with architecture events and exhibits, including at MoMA PS1, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Van Alen Institute. Here are our editors' highlights for the week. 1) MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd St. (Midtown) June 18 6:00–8:00 pm. Free. RSVPs required* www.momaps1.org Exhibition reception for 2018 Young Architects Program, featuring finalists LeCAVALIER R+D, FreelandBuck, BairBalliet, and OFICINAA. The winning scheme Hide & Seek by Dream The Combine (Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers), opens to the public June 26. Opening reception, limited space. 2) Night at the Museums Various locations June 19 4:00–8:00 pm. Free. NightattheMuseums.org Fourteen Lower Manhattan museums open their doors, free of charge, as part of this annual event. Visit the Skyscraper Museum, African Burial Ground, Museum of Jewish Heritage, South Street Seaport Museum, National 9/11 Memorial, and others. 3) Architecture Books Opening Reception Storefront for Art and Architecture 97 Kenmare St. (SoHo) June 19 7:00–9:00 pm. Free. Storefrontnews.org Now on display at the legendary Steven Holl and Vito Acconci–designed gallery, selection of 100 fundamental books, selected by a jury, based on Storefront’s Global Survey of Architecture Books. On June 26, Storefront will host a conference at the New York Public Library Main Branch (6:30–8:30 pm, free), featuring prominent architects. 4) Solstice: 24x24x24 Storefront for Art and Architecture 97 Kenmare St. (SoHo) June 20–June 21 Storefrontnews.org Making the most of the longest day of the year, 24x24x24 brings together 24 designers to shape a day of programming and contribute a seat for a collective gathering during the summer solstice. From dawn until dusk, 24x24x24 is an experiment in collective production in design, action, and thinking. 24x24x24 is collectively organized and curated by a group of architects who will be taking over Storefront for Art and Architecture from 7pm on June 20 to 7pm on June 21. 5) Mind the Gap: Improving Urban Mobility Through Science and Design Van Alen Institute 30 West 22nd St. (Flatiron) June 20 6:30–8:30 pm. Free. VanAlen.org An examination of how populations move through cities, using tools and methods from neuroscience and behavioral psychology. Organized by the Van Alen Institute. AN’s very own Assistant Editor Jonathan Hilburg will moderate the discussion. 6) Summer Solstice Aperitivo Vitra 100 Gansevoort St. (Meatpacking District) June 21 4:00-8:00 pm. Free with RSVP* aiany.org Toast the summer solstice with Vitra and Skyline Design. Aperitivi, live DJ, and special exhibitions. 7) Architecture League Prize 2018: Night 1 Sheila C. Johnson Design Center Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave. (Greenwich Village) June 21 7:00–9:00 pm. $10 for non-members. RSVP required* ArchLeague.org Lectures by the winners of the Architectural League’s prestigious annual prize, recognizing the nation’s top young architects: Gabriel Cueller & Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts. Followed by reception 8) Modulightor Building Open House 246 East 58th St. (Midtown) June 22 6:00–9:00 pm. $15. RSVP required* modulightor.com Tour Paul Rudolph’s stunning four-story glass townhouse. 9) Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In Javits Center 655 W 34th St, New York June 22 7:00 am–7:00 pm Prime Produce 424 W 54th St (between 9th and 10th aves) June 23 10:00 am – 7:00pm This Think-In is divided into two parts over two days: active engagement with relevant sessions at the AIA National convention to ensure substantive dialogues on professional issues on Friday, June 22; and Think-In panel discussions on Saturday, June 23 at Prime Produce that examine the theme of Infrastructure. Infrastructure is the network of systems necessary for an organization to function. When those systems are degraded enough, the defining functions of the organization fail. The Architecture Lobby has selected this theme for its first National Think-In to generate a way forward and rebuild our discipline’s infrastructure. 10) Architecture League Prize 2018: Night 2 Sheila C. Johnson Design Center Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave. (Greenwich Village) June 22 7:00–9:00 pm. $10 for non-members. RSVP required* ArchLeague.org Lectures by winners of the Architectural League’s prize: Anya Sirota, Alison Von Glinow & Lap Chi Kwong, and Dan Spiegel. 11) A’18 Community Service Day Various locations Check-in: Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia Place 7:30 am–6:00 pm; reception 6:00–8:00 pm aiany.org/a18 Looking for a meaningful way to spend the last day of conference? AIANY encourages you to volunteer for a half or full day of work that will benefit local nonprofits. Roll up your sleeps and pitch in on projects that range from upgrading a church kitchen, fixing a shelter’s community room, working a mobile farmer’s market in an underserved community, and installing infrastructure at a school’s educational outdoor garden. Volunteers will have the chance to make a real difference for these organizations and the people they serve, and see parts of New York City that they might not otherwise visit. Collaborating firms include: Cannon Design and Stalco Construction, James Wagman Architect, Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, FXCollaborative, Perkins Eastman, and 1100 Architect. Participants must sign up in advance. 12) Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave. (Greenwich Village) June 22–23 12:00–6:00 pm. Free. ArchLeague.org Exhibition featuring the 2018 winners of this prestigious prize program. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to consider objectivity and criteria by which architecture might be judged today. 13) Panorama of the City of New York Queens Museum Flushing Meadows Corona Park Ongoing QueensMuseum.org Conceived by urban mastermind and World’s Fair President Robert Moses for the 1964 Fair, the Panorama is a 1:1200 scale model of New York City, covering 469 acres and including hundreds of thousands individually crafted buildings. In 1992, the original modelmaker updated the Panorama while the museum underwent its expansion, designed by Rafael Viñoly. 14) New York at Its Core: 400 Years of NYC History Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Ave. (Upper East Side) Ongoing MCNY.org What made New York New York? Follow the story of the city’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s “Capital of the World.” Framed around themes of money, density, diversity, and creativity, the city delves into its past and invites visitors to propose visions for its future. 15) Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City Center for Architecture 536 La Guardia Place (Greenwich village) Through September 1 CenterforArchitecture.org Waste is a design problem. This show presents strategies for architects, designers, and building professionals to help divert waste from landfills. Curator Andrew Blum will lead tours of the exhibition on Friday, June 22, 10:00–11:00 am, and Saturday, June 23, 11:00 am–12:00 pm. This exhibition is based on the Zero Waste Design Guidelines and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Text by AIA City Guide, Storefront for Art and Architecture and AN.
Get out your Palm Pilots and Seinfeld DVDs—it’s time to start appreciating the 1990s. Time travelers can start their pre-Millennial studies by visiting the Skyscraper Museum’s new exhibition, Millennium: Lower Manhattan in the 1990s. The show, which runs through April, explores civic plans, architectural schemes, and urban legislation that proliferated in this time of simultaneous optimism and anxiety for Manhattan's southern tip. As the Financial District recovered from recession, and reckoned with a building stock and location that were becoming less desirable, the area was in need of new ideas and policies to enact them. In the museum’s mirrored galleries visitors come face to face with urban prescriptions, some successful, some not. Those that came to be included the J.M. Kaplan Foundation's Heritage Trails, walking tours guided by colorful signpost sharing the stories and significance of local buildings and sites. Most no longer stand, but thanks to the museum, you can now view them all online. There's also a massive model of Battery Park City, which added half a dozen buildings as well as significant new public space—like Machado Silvetti’s Wagner Park. Failed plans included SOM’s proposal for a revamped New York Stock Exchange, with a 51-story office building above, and Smith-Miller+Hawkinson’s Museum of Women—The Leadership Center, a nine-story institution just up the block from the Skyscraper Museum. Visitors should also take a look at James Sanders + Associates project for Liberty Plaza, now Zuccotti Park. Commissioned by Heritage Trails New York, the scheme was intended to inject the frenetic activity of the area's financial markets into its relatively sleepy urbanscape, with undulating stock tickers, interactive charts, full color LCD TV displays (a new technology at the time), learning kiosks, and even a beacon sending a beam of light high into the air; an early precursor to the Tribute in Light. The show methodically pinpoints other vital 1990s benchmarks: the crafting of a new neighborhood plan, the landmarking of dozens of buildings, the establishment of the Downtown Alliance, the first bombing of the World Trade Center (1994), the founding of the Skyscraper Museum itself, and the birth of a residential boom in the area thanks to residential conversions and financial incentives. It clearly paints a picture of how pivotal this period was in establishing contemporary New York, and how radically the area, and the country have changed since, as downtown has—for better and worse—morphed under the effects of global capital, real estate, and terrorism perhaps more profoundly than anywhere in the world.
In 1874 The New York Tribune Building, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, topped out at 260 feet (including the clock tower) on 154 Printing House Square (Nassau Street and Spruce Street) in Manhattan. Though demolished in 1966, the building lives on in TEN & TALLER: 1874-1900, an exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in New York City. But if you can't wait to delve into the TEN & TALLER, an online interactive map is available below. TEN & TALLER documents all 252 Manhattan buildings erected before and 1900 that, as its name suggests, were ten stories or taller. The museum's online interactive map plots the 252 structures on both historic and contemporary maps of Manhattan. A timeline feature starting at 1874 (the year Manhattan's first ten story building went up) allows users to toggle through the years, revealing ten-story-plus buildings all color coded by typology ("office, hotel, apartment, loft," and "other") in the process. In addition to zooming in and out, users can also appear and disappear the historic/contemporary Manhattan grid. The historic grid is comprised of 101 plates from 1909 Bromley’s Atlas (updated to 1915). The result of more than 1,500 hours of work—stitching individual files together and aligning them with the modern-day grid of Manhattan—the map (according to its creators) is the only one of its kind that covers such a wide geography of Manhattan and can be examined in such detail. Upon this mega-map, the footprints of the buildings appear as users alter the date. Buildings can be clicked on too, in order to find out more information on the building such as: when it was built; its status; height, width and slenderness (height divided by width); depth; architect; building use; framing; type of walling used (and their material composition) and cost. As to why the study only looks at 26 years of New York's high-rise development history, The Skyscraper Museum said in a press release that the early development of skyscrapers was a narrative which they felt deserved more attention. By 1900, the standard method of construction was skeleton construction and thus the technology to allow towers to rise skyward paved the way for an influx of high-rise development. At the museum's gallery, the exhibition features models, maps, historic photographs, and original architectural drawings to depict this narrative. The exhibition is now on show at 39 Battery Place runs through April this year. [Warning: This map will not scale on a mobile device or small screen. You can also access it on the Skyscraper Museum's website here.]
On view until Sept. 4 at the Skyscraper Museum, GARDEN CITY | MEGA CITY showcases the built and unbuilt works of Singapore-based WOHA, an architecture firm that specializes in designing for the world's tropical urban areas. The exhibition begins by contextualizing WOHA's projects with what might be architects' and urbanists' greatest 21st century challenge: the rapidly (and sometimes haphazardly) growing cities of the developing world. 7 of the world's 20 megacities are in tropical areas. So what valuable lessons do WOHA's skyscrapers—designed for density, verticality, heat, and humidity—bring to the table? The exhibition—which consists of ~10 large-scale models shown alongside renderings—argues that it's time to leave the hermetically-sealed modernist tower behind in favor of a more nuanced approach to the building envelope. One built project in particular, a Singaporean public housing project called SkyVille@Dawson (2007-2015), stands out as an exemplar. Its 500-foot-tall towers are diamond-shaped in plan but only one apartment thick at their edges. This leaves a large hollow interior the runs the entire height of each tower; these capacious vertical voids channel cooling breezes and shelter communal green spaces located every 12 floors. Shared spaces, greenery, and passive ventilation are work harmoniously. The Met, a 755-foot-tall tower in Bangkok, makes similarly smart use of natural cooling with a hollow interior open to breezes. Other WOHA projects are verdant, though in a far more luxurious sense. The PARKROYAL on Pickering, for instance, is a hotel and office building in Singapore's Central Business district. Its sculptural concrete forms are brimming with lush vegetation. The other projects fill a similar pattern: large, open, green spaces punctuate the skyscrapers' height. Sometimes massive volumes are removed from the tower to create multiple courtyards in the sky; it's almost as if several medium-height towers with a street-level plaza were stacked atop each other (see the Oasia Downtown, at far bottom). While it's doubtful these latter-day Babylonian gardens are open to the public in most instances, and the proliferation of greenery recalls a broader fad of trees-on-towers, there's no pretension that this architecture is shovel-ready to replace the informal settlements or slums of the world's growing cities. In the words of the exhibition text, "WOHA thinks of their prototypes as components for a fully sustainable future city....Cities must now be made of, by and for people..." and not just "vast agglomerations of inanimate stand-along financial equation." The firm even rated each of its projects in terms of a "Civic Generosity Index," with some projects earning lower marks than others. With luck, projects like Skyville@Dawson will stand as inspiration for when we start designing and planning tropical megalopolises in earnest. It makes perfect sense that Singapore would be the locus for this urban innovation—the tiny island already supplies its own water even as the rest of the world prepares for a coming freshwater crises. With over 80% of Singaporeans living in public housing, the Singaporean government has long been committed to smartly designing for density: necessity is the mother of invention when 5.5 million people need to comfortably live on 277 square miles of land. If anything, after seeing these projects, the Buckminster Fuller in me wanted more (as Bucky would say) "synergy": skyscrapers that not only channel cooling breezes, but also capture rainwater for their residents or even use vegetation and gravity to filter gray water. With greater luck, firms like WOHA will continue to capitalize on the unique circumstances of Singapore to experiment, then transport that knowledge to other cities in the tropics (and perhaps beyond). While this exhibition doesn't show how these towers work in relation to their cities—this is a show for architects, less for urbanists, though design at this scale is practically urban—perhaps WOHA will elaborate on that issue during their next exhibition: Fragments of an Urban Future, which will be at the Palazza Bembo of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibit will, according to a press release, respond to "the most pressing issues facing megacities today— unprecedented urbanization, accelerating climate change, and the need for preservation of tropical biodiversity." For those interested, you can explore the GARDEN CITY | MEGA CITY exhibition here on the Skyscraper Museum's website.
Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place, New York Through February 15 Once a seedy, crime-ridden corridor, Times Square has since been transformed into a vibrant and safe, neon-lit entertainment hub for theatergoers. But in 1984, the future of The Great White Way was uncertain. A proposal to erect a set of four skyscrapers and demolish the 1904 Times Tower jump started a debate between urban renewal advocates and preservation-minded urbanists, and gave way to an “ideas competition” for the site, organized by the Municipal Art Society and National Endowment for the Arts. The Skyscraper Museum’s Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment highlights 20 drawings from the juried competition, showcasing a real assortment of ideas, ranging from passionate declarations to more eccentric architectural proposals.
Shanghai Talks> Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum on balancing dense development with open spaces
Last year I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat‘s September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall thinkers I interviewed was Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum. We discussed if there's an optimum height for tall buildings, and balancing dense development with open spaces. “You can have places that are characterized as high-rise cities,” she said, “that have opposing models of the way that land is used. The densification of space, the densification of energy…is complemented by the open space, public space, advantages of nature spaces that benefit us all.” Willis also wondered whether the current Asian boom in very tall buildings has an historical precedent. “The Chinese cities you see today that are growing their skyscrapers as an image of ambition and identity is very similar to the forces of capitalism that produced the Woolworth Building or the Insurance Company Building,” she said. “What I think is most fundamentally different between the Chinese cities and the American cities at the turn of the century is who controls the land.” You can read more on CTBUH's website and share the video from YouTube.
Sky High & the Logic of Luxury The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place New York, NY Through April 19, 2014 For Manhattan architecture, the sky has always been the limit. The current trend in super-slender, luxury high-rise residential buildings has excited a niche clientele and captured the attention of skyscraper architects. This October, The Skyscraper Museum explores these ultra slim constructions, from their contextual rise to the modern engineering technologies that have rendered them possible. Featuring projects from the “57th Street phenomenon” and downtown’s pencil-thin counterparts, Sky High & the Logic of Luxury surveys the multitudinous elements involved in the design, construction, and marketing of super-tall, super-luxurious residences. Penthouses in these spindly buildings sell for double-digit millions, but the exhibition claims there is a “simple math” in the logic of luxury behind them. Beginning with Manhattan’s history of slenderness, Sky High & the Logic of Luxury traces their growth. The exhibition reveals how New York City has the specific conditions, localities, and branding psychology that encourages these very tall, very thin, luxury skyscrapers and the subsequent market-demand that has shot their costs sky high.
News Paper Spires The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Pl. Through July 2012 Focusing on the years between 1870 and 1930, News Paper Spires at the Skyscraper Museum considers the buildings where the most important events of the day were committed to the public record with ever-increasing speed. Just after the Civil War, The New York Times, The New-York Tribune, and The New York Post all were headquartered on the so-called “Newspaper Row” to the east of City Hall Park (above), each headquartered in early skyscrapers, where writers and editors worked above, while below typesetters and steam-engine powered printing presses churned out morning, afternoon and evening editions. In this exhibition, the history of these vertical urban factories—including their migration from downtown to midtown—is considered through films, architectural renderings, photographs, typesetting equipment, and the archival newspapers themselves.
Domino: Old and New Tuesday, June 20 6:00 p.m. Museum of Jewish Heritage (reception following at Skyscraper Museum) 36 Battery Place Tonight at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Skyscraper Museum hosts "Domino: Old and New," a program on reinventing Williamsburg's historic industrial waterfront that focuses on the development of the Domino Sugar Factory site. Principals from the project's design, engineering, and construction teams will present on development possibilities for the 11.2 acre site (slated to include over 2000 residential units and four acres of public space) and participate in a panel discussion led by AN's own executive editor Julie V. Iovine. Further details at the Skyscraper Museum.