The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.
PRESENT & FUTURE SKYLINE
What will the Manhattan skyline look like in 2023? The section of the exhibition that considered this question was organized on a long central table, covered in an early twentieth century fire insurance map (originally created for the exhibition Ten & Taller), that featured six areas and groups of images, detailed below. On the table was also displayed a wood model of Midtown, created in 2007 by the amateur model maker Michael Chesko.
Two overview images offered projections of the future Manhattan skyline. One, which had been created for an issue of National Geographic in December 2015, was presented as an open magazine. Their graphic represented the lower Manhattan skyline in 2020 as seen from Brooklyn and included profiles of all buildings, current and projected.
Bottom: Renderings by Ondel Hylton, courtesy of Ondel Hylton and CityRealty.
The other was a digital drawing created in 2016 by Ondel Hylton (above) for the real estate website CityRealty and its related news blog 6sqft.com that added to a Google Earth base image of lower Manhattan all the buildings then under construction or announced development that might be completed by 2020. Compilations such as this are extraordinary, because they require in-depth knowledge of the current real estate market as well as an analysis of zoning issues. They illustrate what architects or developers rarely include in their promotional images – their competitors. Because this image dates from 2016, it includes some projects that have since faltered, while some newer ones are missing. The city is constantly evolving, so a “future” model can never truly be up to date.
Still, these digital projections clearly reveal the characteristics of a distinctly new era of the Manhattan skyline. They show a multiplicity of new towers that are taller than those of past eras. There are two types. Office buildings or mixed-use structures have large floor plates and greater girth. Residential towers have slimmer proportions: at least twenty supertall and super-slender condominium towers are currently under construction, and many more are projected.
In addition, this overview illustrates several new areas with a concentration of new skyscrapers: the West Side development of Hudson Yards with at least sixteen new towers; the rebuilding at Ground Zero and other sites across lower Manhattan; new high-rise development along the East River, including the Brooklyn and Williamsburg waterfront; and future towers in the area around Grand Central rezoned as East Midtown.
A NEW MIDTOWN SKYLINE
The area around Grand Central, the main terminal for suburban commuter rail lines to Westchester and the Hudson Valley, as well as the hub for five city subway lines, became the anchor for Midtown in the 1920s and, even more so, in the post-war years as Park Avenue transformed into a corporate corridor of skyscraper headquarters. Those aging office towers, however, were losing their competitive edge of prime location to buildings in new districts, such as Battery Park City’s World Financial Center (now renamed Brookfield Place) and, in the early 2000s, a redeveloped Times Square, as well as, recently, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
Toward the end of the Bloomberg administration in 2012, the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) outlined a plan that would create incentives for the private sector to reinvigorate and “green” the Grand Central district with new buildings or by retrofitting older structures. The DCP proposed an increase in the maximum floor area (FAR) allowed for blocks between 39th and 57th streets and Third and Madison avenues, an area they termed East Midtown. Through the purchase and transfer of air rights, in particular the unused air rights of designated landmarks such as Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, developers could assemble up to twice the floor area allowed under the prevailing zoning regulations. In exchange for this up-zoning, the City required improvements – at the developer’s expense – to underground connections to transit and the creation of new public amenities such as pedestrianized streets and new plazas.
A precedent for the East Midtown Rezoning, which was passed by the City Council in 2017, was One Vanderbilt, a new tower designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) now under construction that will rise to 1,401 feet to become the tallest office building in Midtown. The rendering at the right shows the shifting status of the signature towers of the 21st century skyline as the Art Deco spires of the Chrysler Building and Empire State will be overtopped almost a century after their heyday. A recently announced project that will make use of the new zoning rules is a new headquarters for JPMorgan Chase at 270 Park Avenue, which will require the demolition of the existing 1961 building to create a taller, 70-story skyscraper.
Another tower which preceded the area rezoning, 425 Park Avenue, designed by Foster + Partners, shown in the rendering on the upper right, is scheduled to open in 2019.
Owner/Developer: SL Green Realty Corp.
Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates Consulting Engineers
Height: 1,401 ft. | 427 m. | 58 floors
G.F.A.: 1,750,212 ft² / 162,600 m²
This model, designed by the architectural firm KPF, shows the building’s design of four interlocking volumes, revealed at the top of the structure. The massing of the building, which slopes away from Grand Central, has a decidedly more contemporary style than the setbacks of many of the surrounding 70 to 80-year old buildings. The facade of glass and glazed terra-cotta also stands out from the many stone and brick edifices. To maximize height with limited FAR, One Vanderbilt has fewer stories, and higher ceilings, than other skyscrapers of comparable height.
West Side Skyline, Hudson Yards
An entirely new skyline is taking shape on Manhattan’s west side between the central business district of Midtown South – generally considered to be bounded by Eighth Avenue (which is the border in the wood Chesko model on display) – and extending to West Street and the Hudson River waterfront. The core of this new district is Hudson Yards, 26 acres of mixed-use development that includes 16 skyscrapers, both commercial and residential, as well as retail and cultural spaces, totaling 18 million square feet. They are being built, at immense expense, on a new platform over the West Side Rail Yard, the area of train tracks owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) which uses the ground-level tracks to park Penn Station’s commuter trains between rush hours. Created under a master plan overseen by New York City and the MTA, Hudson Yards is being developed by a partnership of Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group. It constitutes the largest private real estate development in U.S. history. The massive project is being designed and constructed in two phases: the six skyscrapers of the East Yards, which are now all nearly topped out and can be seen from all around the city, have an estimated completion date of 2022. The West Yards are still undergoing design.
Hudson Yards was planned in the Bloomberg Administration and initiated by a competition to develop the site, ultimately won by Related with a master plan by KPF, who are also architects for the two tallest skyscrapers, 30 and 10 Hudson Yards. The government’s goal was to stimulate a westward expansion of the central business district through tax incentives and tax-increment financing (TIF) that was used to fund an extension of the Number 7 line across 42nd Street to a new 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station. After the financial crisis of 2008-2009 eased, development activity in the entire district began to accelerate. Several simultaneous projects led by different entities, including the new office towers of Manhattan West on Ninth Avenue, and to the north, as well as a concentration of smaller residential buildings, have risen at the edges of the Hudson Yards platform, and especially along the High Line elevated park. Today, the City’s ambitious plan to channel dense new growth into underdeveloped areas of Manhattan seems an “overnight” sensation.
SUPER-SLENDER RESIDENTIAL TOWERS