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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

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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

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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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Cities

Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years of History

This two-minute animation shows changes in the last 500 years of historical rankings for the world’s 10 most populous cities.

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Animation: The Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years

What do Beijing, Tokyo, Istanbul, London, and New York City all have in common?

Not only are they all world-class cities that still serve as global hubs of commerce, but these cities also share a relatively rare and important historical designation.

At specific points in history, each of these cities outranked all others on the planet in terms of population, granting them the exclusive title as the single most populated city globally.

Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities

Today’s animation comes to us from John Burn-Murdoch with the Financial Times, and it visualizes cities ranked by population in a bar chart race over the course of a 500-year timeframe.

Beijing starts in the lead in the year 1500, with a population of 672,000:

RankCityPopulation in Year 1500
#1🇨🇳 Beijing672,000
#2🇮🇳 Vijayanagar500,000
#3🇪🇬 Cairo400,000
#4🇨🇳 Hangzhou250,000
#5🇮🇷 Tabriz250,000
#6🇮🇳 Gauda200,000
#7🇹🇷 Istanbul200,000
#8🇫🇷 Paris185,000
#9🇨🇳 Guangzhou150,000
#10🇨🇳 Nanjing147,000

In the 16th century, which is where the animation starts, cities in China and India were dominant in terms of population.

In China, the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Nanjing all made the top 10 list, while India itself held two of the most populous cities at the time, Vijayanagar and Gauda.

If the latter two names sound unfamiliar, that’s because they were key historical locations in the Vijayanagara and Bengal Empires respectively, but neither are the sites of modern-day cities.

The 1 Million Mark

For the first minute of animation—and up until the late 18th century—not a single city was able to eclipse the 1 million person mark.

However, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the floodgates opened up. With more efficient agricultural practices, better sanitation, and other technological improvements, cities were able to support bigger populations.

Here’s a look at the biggest cities in the year 1895:

RankCityPopulation in Year 1895
#1🇬🇧 London5,974,000
#2🇺🇸 New York3,712,000
#3🇫🇷 Paris3,086,000
#4🇺🇸 Chicago1,420,000
#5🇯🇵 Tokyo1,335,000
#6🇷🇺 St. Petersburg1,286,000
#7🇬🇧 Manchester1,244,000
#8🇬🇧 Birmingham1,074,000
#9🇨🇳 Beijing1,055,000
#10🇷🇺 Moscow1,002,000

In the span of roughly a century, all of the world’s biggest cities were able to pass the 1 million mark, making it no longer a particularly exclusive milestone.

Modern City Populations

Finally, let’s look at the modern list of the top 10 most populous cities, and see how it compares to rankings from previous years:

RankCityPopulation in Year 2018
#1🇯🇵 Tokyo38,194,000
#2🇮🇳 Delhi27,890,000
#3🇨🇳 Shanghai25,779,000
#4🇨🇳 Beijing22,674,000
#5🇮🇳 Mumbai22,120,000
#6🇧🇷 Sao Paulo21,698,000
#7🇲🇽 Mexico City21,520,000
#8🇪🇬 Cairo19,850,000
#9🇧🇩 Dhaka19,633,000
#10🇺🇸 New York City18,713,000

Interestingly, the modern list appears to be a blend of both previous rankings from the years 1500 and 1895, listed above.

In 2018, cities from China and India feature prominently, but New York City and Tokyo are also included. Meanwhile, Latin America has entered the fold with entries from Mexico and Brazil.

The Future of Megacities

If you think the modern list of the most populous cities is impressive, check out how the world’s megacities are expected to develop as we move towards the end of the 21st century.

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The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

These pivotal trends show how urban demographics are aiding in the transition to a very different economic and investment landscape.

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The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

Cities are what keep the global economic machine humming.

Over 80% of the world’s economic output is derived from activities in cities – and more specifically, it’s estimated that 60% of GDP growth occurs in just the top 600 urban centers.

Given the above, it’s fair to say that the destiny of humankind is directly linked to what happens in major cities. Further, how urbanization plays out over time could end up having a significant ripple effect on the economy, and we should pay close attention to such trends.

Urbanization 2.0

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases eight different ways that urban demographics are evolving.

Below we will summarize the changes, along with potential impacts on the economy:

1. A Higher Percentage of Urban Dwellers

Between 1950 and 2018, we went from 30% to 55% of the world’s population living in cities. This has been driven largely by today’s middle and high income economies in places like North America, South America, Europe, and Japan.

The next stage of urbanization will see us move to 68% – more than two-thirds of the world’s population – living in these urban conglomerations. It will be driven by countries in developing markets, creating a potent investing megatrend along the way.

2. The Countries Driving Growth

It’s estimated that three countries will combine for 35% of all urban population growth.

RankCountryGrowth in Urban Population (2018-2050)% of Global Urban Growth
World860 million people35%
#1India416 million people17%
#2China255 million people10%
#3Nigeria189 million people8%

In total, there will be 2.5 billion more urban dwellers in 2050 than there are today. Many of these people will experience rising incomes in cities, increasing the global middle class to an unprecedented size.

3. Peaking Rural Populations

On the flipside, it appears the world’s rural population has nearly flatlined, with anticipation that it will peak in absolute terms in the next couple of years. Rural populations have been slowly growing since 1950 until this point.

4. The Rise of Megacities

There will be 43 megacities by the year 2050, which is more than quadruple the amount that existed back in 1950.

The changing geography of the world’s megacities will be one of the major forces that shapes the future of the global economy and accompanying investment trends.

5. New Population Centers

By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s urban population will live in Asia or Africa. Meanwhile, North America and Europe will combine for closer to 15% of that total.

6. De-Urbanization

The role of de-urbanization is often downplayed or forgot about when discussing urban demographics, but it is an interesting issue.

Factors such as falling fertility rates, economic contraction, and natural disasters are actually shrinking the size of some cities. In fact, McKinsey predicts that 17% of cities in developed regions will see a drop in population between 2015-2025.

7. Disparities in Urban Growth

The rate for urban population growth is actually trending down across all types of economies – however, these rates come from very different starting points.

High income countries are currently averaging growth of less than 1% per year, and this will continue to decline to below 0.5% per year by 2050. Over the same time period, low income nations will go from 4% to 3% per year.

8. Changes in Average Age

The age distributions in large cities within developed nations will begin to skew older, something we’ve shown previously when looking at the median age of every continent.

The biggest impact here may be felt on dependency ratios in the workforce. With a smaller pipeline of new workforce entrants and a burgeoning population of seniors, this changing ratio is one of the most significant stories impacting urban demographics.

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