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NYC is home to 23 of the world’s tallest intentionally demolished buildings

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The number will become 24 if the SOM-designed 270 Park Avenue is demolished

Tall buildings. Photo by Michael Brown/Getty Images

If the city and JPMorgan Chase do in fact move forward with their plan to demolish the Union Carbide Building, they would also be creating a new record—one which we’re not sure they’d be proud to proclaim. A new study released by the The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) looks at the 100 tallest intentionally demolished skyscrapers in history; 270 Park Avenue’s demolition would propel it right to the top of that list.

The demolition would surpass the record set by another New York City skyscraper 50 years ago. That record was created by the former Singer Building, which was demolished in 1968 to make way for One Liberty Plaza. Some of the other NYC skyscrapers that made it to the top 100 list include the Deutsche Bank building, the Manhattan Life Insurance Building, and the Savoy-Plaza Hotel.

According to CTBUH’s study, most of these skyscrapers were cleared away for even taller structures. The same would be true if 270 Park Avenue’s demolition moves forward. Preliminary plans call for a 70-story structure to replace the existing one. But what makes 270 Park’s planned demo particularly astounding is that it would be the first building taller than 200 meters to be demolished (The Singer building stood 187 meters tall).

Curbed architecture critic, Alexandra Lange, described the planned demolition as follows:

Nonetheless, there is something unseemly, particularly for a mayor who acts as if he has environmentalist bona fides, about crowing over what would be the largest voluntary building demolition in the world. Renovation is always a better use of resources than demolition and replacement. No architect was mentioned in the New York Times story on the replacement. Are they hiding? There isn’t a skyscraper architect today who isn’t indebted to SOM, and buildings like Union Carbide, for advancing the form, the materials, and the systems that make the contemporary workplace. It’s the worst form of shortsighted to throw this building away.

One of the most startling facts in CTBUH’s study was that the average lifespan of the 100 tallest demolished buildings is just 41 years. Unsurprisingly, a little more than half of these 100 structures were in the United States, and a quarter of them were built between 1890 and 1920.

“Considering the tallest demolished building to date was only 187 meters tall, there’s really no precedent for tearing down 200-meter-plus towers,” said Antony Wood, the executive director of the CTBUH. “We should perhaps thus be thinking of tall buildings as perpetual entities with lifecycles potentially exceeding 100 or 200 years, while designing them in such a way that they can be creatively adapted for potential future uses.”