New York City is filled with exciting and inventive architectural styles. There are many different schools of thought represented in the dense mix of office, residential, and commercial buildings on the island of Manhattan and throughout the boroughs, and each site may have been occupied by a succession of buildings, each reflecting the changing needs and expectations of their times. The skyline, made up of the outlines of these various buildings, is instantly recognizable, but recognizing the individual features can be a challenge to the untrained eye.
Unique New York
"The first thing [distinguishing New York] is the height and the density," says Jim Crispino, AIA, president of Francis Cauffman Architects in Manhattan. "You just don't see these kinds of residential high-rise buildings in other places. These buildings tend to make street walls and park walls. They work well together to define the urban spaces of New York City."
Other cities developed at the same time as New York, Crispino continues, but they don't have such a dramatic mix. "The variety of styles is interesting, but it's not that uncommon on the East Coast to have that variety. What the others can't claim is the height, and the density."
The fact that Manhattan is bounded by water on all sides gives developers only one choice when trying to expand the limits of the city: up. "There might be one or two other cities in the U.S. and only a few in other parts of the world that achieve such building density and street wall in the same way that you do in New York," says Crispino. "Hong Kong and a couple of cities in China come close."
Crispino says New York neighborhoods don't usually discriminate, architecturally speaking. "There is usually a mix of residential and office or mixed-use buildings, such as in Bryant Park. New York is a large collection of small neighborhoods. Even in the East Village there is a large diversity in style."