Though it might seem that each recent generation attempts to take credit for the rise of the futuristic “skyscraper,” buildings that rise ten floors or higher were born with the Gilded Age. “Ten & Taller: 1874-1900,” on view through April 2017 at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City examines every single building 10 stories and taller that was erected in Manhattan between 1874 through 1900 (h/t Curbed). Beginning in the mid-1870s, the city’s first ten-story office buildings rose on masonry to 200 feet high with spires that stretched 60 more feet. By 1900 New York City could boast of 250 buildings at least as tall; the world’s tallest office building was the thirty-story 15 Park Row; framed with steel, it soared to 391 feet. As technology brought elevators and new methods of construction, the vertical expansion was becoming a forest of tall towers.
It was a big day in New York City last Friday, when the One World Trade Center Observatory officially opened to the public, welcoming New Yorkers and tourists alike to the top of the tallest building in North America. While the view from 1,250 feet up in the air seems like the apex of the world, the folks over at the Skyscraper Museum put together this fun infographic, which compares the highest publicly-accessible tourist spaces around the world, including observation decks, bars, restaurants, and other sky-high thrills. Turns out, the One World Trade Observatory ranks 9th for observation decks and 11th for all publicly-accessible spaces.
The latest addition to the Skyscraper Museum‘s permanent collection is “The History of Height,” an interactive timeline of the tallest buildings throughout history. The web tool is made up of a scrollable stream of flashcards starting as far back as the Great Pyramid in 2650 BCE and continuing all the way to today’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa. It also offers information about the innovations that allowed people to build higher, like fireproof floors, zoning laws, elevators, and high-strength bolting, and includes towers that have long since been demolished, but had an impact on the supertall environment.
Image via Skyscraper Museum
It seems like every other day now we’re discussing the latest supertall tower, whether it be 432 Park topping out or the pricing information for visiting One World Trade Center’s observatory. These stories always include the basics — the tower’s height, number of stories, and architectural design; but we usually discuss these facts in relation to the building as a whole, not focusing on what it is that really sets these skyscrapers apart–their tops. A new exhibit at the Skyscraper Museum hones in on just that, the uppermost floors of the world’s tallest towers.
Ten Tops looks at buildings 100 stories and higher, analyzing “the architectural features they share, including observation decks, luxury hotels and restaurants, distinctive crowns and night illumination, as well as the engineering and construction challenges of erecting such complex and astonishing structures.”
What’s now a Disney Land-like mix of big-brand stores like M&M’s and Hershey’s, the televised location for Good Morning America, and home to everyone’s favorite costumed characters, was once “the worst block in town.” During the 1970’s and 80’s, Times Square was filled with peep shows and porn theaters and riddled with crime. In 1984, in an effort to build taller and reduce crime while preserving the frantic energy and cultural heritage of the area, a design competition was organized by the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts. The debate among architects, developers, and preservationists came after plans were revealed for four skyscrapers near the intersection of 42nd Street, Broadway, and Seventh Avenue.