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A Century of New York City’s Evolving Skyline

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new york city evolving skyline

A Century of New York City’s Evolving Skyline

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Over New York City’s storied history, the skyline has evolved constantly.

Smoke stacks and cathedral spires were gradually eclipsed by the stately office towers of “Newspaper Row”, and iconic skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building soon shared the skyline with monolithic towers in the international style.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise NYC and it charts this evolution over the last century, while highlighting just how dramatically the cityscape is set to change by 2020.

The Early History of Skyscrapers

For decades, the ornate spire of Trinity Church towered over Lower Manhattan. It wasn’t until the late-1800s when technology and economic might converged to produce the first modern towers.

The city’s first cluster of tall buildings appeared around City Hall, as newspapers competed to see who could build the most grand headquarters. One of the more ambitious projects in this wave of development was the New York World Building (1890), which held the title as the tallest skyscraper in the world.

In 1908, the ante was upped further after the completion of the 47-storey headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and the 50-storey Metropolitan Life Tower. NYC was slower than its rival, Chicago, in adopting skeleton-frame construction techniques, but once that door was open, height records were eclipsed every few years.

From ’20s to zero

The roaring ’20s ushered in a new age of skyscrapers in New York City that only picked up steam heading into the 1930s. Not only was the economy booming, but the United States had recently became one of the first countries in the world to have a majority-urban population. Manhattan was a magnet for growth, and its extreme population density left only one direction to grow: skyward.

A number of iconic landmarks were constructed in this era, including the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.

nyc skyscraper construction

Source

As the chart above clearly illustrates, the onset of the Great Depression had a pronounced cooling effect on construction in New York City. For more than a decade, no new 150m+ towers were added to the city’s skyline.

New York Today

The world has changed a lot since the ribbon was cut in front of the Empire State Building. Flagship skyscrapers have grown taller than we ever could’ve imagined, and relentless development has completely transformed places like Dubai and Shenzhen. Even so, New York City is still home to more 100m+ buildings than any other city on Earth.

It’s also worth mentioning that New York City found itself back in the top 10 tallest buildings list after the completion of One World Trade Center in 2014.

What the Future Holds

New York City’s skyline is packed with recognizable towers, but for a long time, few new projects challenged the vertical supremacy of buildings like MetLife or Empire State. Today – thanks to engineering innovations and acquisition of “air rights” on neighboring plots – the skyline is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Powered by a healthy ultra-high-end real estate market, slender skyscrapers are rising above the skyline.

slender skyscrapers nyc

Source

This style of building uses a small land footprint so effectively, that projects are springing up around the city. According to Skyscraper Center, there are 86 skyscrapers under construction or planned, with 10 projects set to surpass the height of the Chrysler Building.

planned nyc skyscrapers construction

While this level of construction is dwarfed by activity in fast-growing metropolises in China, this new generation of high-visibility towers is a sign that the Big Apple is still a strong draw for the world’s ultra-wealthy.

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The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?

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In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the Paradox

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

The Urban Economic Engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.

The Hydrogen Fueled City

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.

When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity
  • 10% of the heat and power required by households
  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

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Cities

The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City

This visualization plots out the tallest buildings in New York City, as well as a few in the pipeline that will change the Big Apple’s skyline forever.

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The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City

If you go to the Big Apple, the city’s signature skyline can make quite an impression.

The fact is, New York City has over 6,000 high-rise buildings in total, 274 of which are skyscrapers standing over 492 ft (150 m) tall. It’s an impressive portfolio of real estate, putting NYC as the number two destination globally for such towers, only behind Hong Kong.

But while some of the buildings have dominated the skyline seemingly forever, it’s also a landscape that is changing fast. New projects coming online will be among the city’s tallest, and they will dramatically alter any view of Midtown of Lower Manhattan for future onlookers.

A List of NYC’s Tallest Buildings

Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise, and it shows the tallest buildings in New York City.

Here are the individual profiles of the current top ten:

RankBuilding NameHeightCompletion Date
#1One World Trade Center1,776 feet (541 m)2014
#2432 Park Avenue1,396 feet (426 m)2015
#330 Hudson Yards1,268 feet (387 m)2019
#4Empire State Building1,250 feet (381 m)1931
#5Bank of America Tower1,200 feet (366 m)2009
#63 World Trade Center1,079 feet (329 m)2018
#753W531,050 feet (320 m)2018
#8Chrysler Building1,046 feet (319 m)1930
#9The New York Times Building1,046 feet (319 m)2007
#1035 Hudson Yards1,009 feet (308 m)2018

Two of the biggest skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, were erected during the Great Depression and still crack the top ten list today.

The Chrysler Building was actually the first skyscraper ever to be built at a height exceeding 1,000 feet. Meanwhile, the Empire State building, which was finished one year later, was the “world’s tallest building” for nearly 40 years.

However, as you can see, the rest of the buildings on the top ten list are more recent builds. It’s a testament to how fast the skyline of New York City has changed even in the last decade.

Towers in the Pipeline

But that’s not all, because the skyscraper boom in NYC hasn’t ended yet. The following megatowers are closing in on completion, and will displace many at the top of the current list:

111 West 57th Street
This building is set to be operational in mid-2019, and it’s already very noticeable on the NYC skyline. With a height of 1,428 feet (435 m), it will be the “skinniest” skyscraper in the world when completed, with a width-to-height ratio of 1:23.

Central Park Tower
This building, which was designed by the same people who did the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will be the tallest building in the country by roof-height when done in 2020. It will clock in at 1,550 feet (472 m), making it the most sky-high residential building in the world.

45 Broad Street
With a height of 1,200 feet (366 m), this new building in Lower Manhattan is expected to be completed by 2021. If it were finished today, it would tie the Bank of America Tower for the fifth spot on a list of tallest buildings in the city.

One Vanderbilt
This massive building will be the fourth tallest in the city when completed in 2021. Standing at 1,401 feet (427 m), it will have a highly anticipated observation deck set 1,000 feet above the ground.

Want to visualize more data about the Big Apple?

Check out this animation, which shows the population pulse of a Manhattan workday.

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