clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How New York City Became the 'Ultimate Skyscraper Lab'

New, 8 comments


[Click for big! Graph via the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.]

If New York City's no longer home to the world's highest concentration of skyscrapers, it is at least the place where they've traditionally been pushed to their limits. Its been home to the world's tallest building a handful of times over—Singer Building (612 feet, 1908-09), Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (700 feet, 1909-13), Woolworth Building (792 feet, 1913-30), Twin Towers (1,361 and 1,368 feet, 1971-73), to name a few—and while it no longer holds that distinction, the cluster of incoming supertall towers cements its status as the "ultimate skyscraper laboratory," a rank bestowed on it by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH). CTBUH just released a new report (h/t CityLab) that charts the city's skyscraper production along its boom and bust financial periods and—surprise, surprise—the two are indivisible.

Per the report,

A timeline of skyscraper completions in New York uncannily resembles the boom and bust cycles of the United States in the 20th and early 21st centuries. The most active year was 1931, when the final excesses of the Roaring '20s were thrown skywards and frozen in concrete and steel. The scarcity of building materials clearly had their effects in the flat World War II period. The rise of multinational corporations may explain the relative surge in skyscraper construction in the 1970s, even as New York City itself endured its darkest financial hours. Then come the wild "Wall Street" years of the 1980s, followed by the lagged effect of the early 1990s slump. The singular event of 9/11 did not have nearly the dampening effect on skyscraper construction, compared to the financial crisis of 2008-9. The current boom demonstrates New York's persistence as a magnet for capital, and its standing as the ultimate skyscraper laboratory over time.


The report also gets to the nitty gritty by mapping and IDing every skyscraper in the city (taken as any building over 328 feet high.) Supertalls, both existing and incoming, get their own extra large dot.


CityLab points out that, after a lull in building, the construction of skyscrapers is booming once again with the rise in luxury residential construction. As of the time of study, 46-percent of the city's 326 skyscrapers are for residential use. Of those, 90-percent of them are in Manhattan. Now, what will happen when developers have all but gobbled up the city's limited supply of air rights?
· Charting the Booms and Busts of NYC's Skyscraper History [CityLab]
· New York: The Ultimate Skyscraper Laboratory (PDF!) [CTBUH]
· See Which Areas of NC Are Ripe For More Development [Curbed]
· Cool Map Thing archives [Curbed]