Culture Up: NYC Architecture

Paintings, sculptures, music, and, yes, even architecture! While New York City’s buildings might not be quite the peak of high culture, I think they’re still worth appreciating.  That, and I can’t resist researching good ol’ NYC!  Remember – I’m aiming for breadth not depth here.

Empire State Building


Address: 350 Fifth Avenue
Architect: Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon
Completed: 1931
Style: Art Deco

The Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York for almost 40 years until the World Trade Center towers were completed in 1970.  The building plans were revised several times during the infamous “Race into the Sky” against 40 Wall Street the Chrysler building.  However, the building only became profitable in the 1950’s.

Situated on the former site of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, this building is so big it has it’s own zip code, 10118.

Chrysler Building


Address: 405 Lexington Avenue
Architect: William Van Alen
Completed: 1930
Style: Art Deco

The Chrysler building’s history is shrouded in drama. William Van Alen began working on the plans for the building at the same time his former partner, H. Craig Severance, began working on a building at 40 Wall Street.  Severance made sure that his building was planned to stand 32 feet taller than the Chrysler building.  Van Alen, on the other hand, continued his work quietly, while secretly constructing a 125-foot spire.  It was only after 40 Wall’s building was completed that the spire was revealed and set in place, giving the Chrysler building the title of Tallest Building in the World for a proud 11 months before the Empire State Building was completed.

Flatiron building


Address: 175 Fifth Avenue
Architect: Daniel Burnham and Frederick Dinkelberg
Completed: 1902
Style: Renaissance Revival

Ain’t she a beauty? While I’ve never been to NYC before, this is one of my favorite buildings. It’s just so unique and is a great example of how its design was directly influenced by its location.  NYC needed a building that fit on that little triangular spit of land, and thus the Flatiron building was born.

A fun fact about this building: due to the geography with the building splitting wind drafts as they blew down the street, it made the wind unpredictable.  Men would often gather around Madison Square to see if they could catch a glimpse of a woman’s skirt blowing up due to the wind.

Rockefeller Center


Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Architect: Raymond Hood
Completed: 1933
Style: Modern, Art Deco

Aside from being the setting of one of my favorite TV shows ever, it has also been known as the RCA Building, the GE Building, the Comcast Building, as well as my personal favorite, 30 Rock.  NBC headquarters and their New York studios are there.

Fun fact: 30 Rock has its own observation deck called “Top of the Rock” – it’s cheaper than going to the top of the Empire State Building and (I’ve heard) you get just as good of a view.

The Dakota


Address: 1 W 72nd St.
Architect: Henry H. Hardenbergh
Completed: 1884
Style: Renaissance, English Victorian

While not groundbreaking from a cultural standpoint, it’s just so pretty!  Unlike the other buildings in this post, it is the only residential building.  Among other celebrities, John Lennon lived there until his murder in front of the building.  Other notable residents include Lauren Bacall, Rosie O’Donnell, Judy Garland, and Lillian Gish.

The Dakota got its name because at the time of its construction it seemed so remote in relation to the rest of Manhattan as the Dakota Territory seemed in relation to the rest of the country.

One World Trade Center


Address: 285 Fulton St.
Architect: David Childs & Daniel Libeskind
Completed: 2013

While it has the name of the original North Tower, it stands on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center (the 9/11 Memorial lies on the sites of the original One and Two World Trade Center buildings). Including the spire, the building stands at 1,776 feet – and that’s on purpose.

One of my favorite things about 1 WTC is the secrets it holds. As the building was constructed, workers left graffiti messages of hope and resilience.  Words like “Freedom Forever. WTC 9/11,” and “Change is from within” are scrawled across beams and concrete pillars.  Former President Barack Obama signed a beam that eventually topped the building that says, “We remember. We rebuild. We come back stronger!”

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