New York City’s architecture isn’t all about high rise structures like the Empire State Building. When you examine carefully, there is a history built in each block. The more you wander, the better you will understand how each architectural era graced this city with its best belonging. In many buildings, history blends and presents itself beautifully. In other structures, you see the remnants of a professional’s best masterpiece. It is safe to say that this story will keep writing itself forever. In this post, we will try to cover some of the most influential architectural styles of these centuries-old City.
Colonial and Classical
Era: The Late 17th and mid-20th centuries
Classical buildings ruled this bit of land at that time. You would see secure forms of this style, like domes and high columns. Colonial homes also borrowed from Greek & Roman styles, and you can still find some of these in the City. The colonial structures, built by the British, show how cost affects a building’s construction. Sloped roofs and brick walls adorned houses of the rich, and no more beautification was added to these buildings.
You can spot this today in the Conference House in Staten Island. The Conference Hall, built in the year 1675, housed people like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Today when you visit, it looks like a scene out of a British village. Some experts also call the Statue of Liberty as the torchbearer of Classical architecture (pun intended). We leave it up to you to decide if this is the case or not, upon your next visit.
Era: The Early 80s
After Greece achieved independence in the 1820s, New York became fond of Grecian architectural styles. One example of this is present on the Federal Hall National Memorial, where tourists will discover steep steps, a Greek template façade, Doric columns and more. A presidential oath also took place in this area. Another example is the Astor Place in NoHo. There’s no shortage of Greek revival examples throughout the city.
Era: The Late 19th and early 20th centuries
Renaissance architecture was exciting and took a step further than the colonial style. Architects studied colonial designs but only took a few elements out of it, like Roman arches. So, an arch or a vault was sought suitable to fit into the buildings of that time. New York’s City Hall is one of the most iconic buildings in America.
It is an old building, but one that does not look its age. Due to the outbreak of Yellow Fever, construction took nine long years. There is a dome atop the City Hall, which signifies Renaissance style in all its glory. You can tour the City Hall and pick elements like arches, vaults, and columns that come together and beautify this building.
Era: The Late 19th and early 20th centuries
Germany’s Bauhaus is one of the most crucial design school’s in history. Architecture from there was also showcased in the first art exhibit by the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. This is how the International Style of architecture came into being. The major characteristics include absence of ornamentation, weightlessness and rectilinear shapes. However, international architecture styles can be difficult to spot. Head over to the Lever House or the Seagram Building (you can do both if you have time) on Park Avenue to see live examples.
Era: the early 20th century
The initial years of the 20th century saw increased interest in beautifying the buildings. Art Noveau did not pay attention to the formalism of Classical or repetition of Colonial designs. Architects wanted to put intricate details in every part of their construction and used materials like glass and steel to accomplish this task.
The Chrysler Building is a beautiful construction and a leader of the Art Deco era. Each brick in this building was laid by hand. Architects and builders wanted to put a crown on the sky with this high rise, using glass, arches, and steel. You can spot the artsy crown in most postcards of New York.
Era: mid-20th century
Modernism brought a revolution in the New York architectural landscape. Architects that shied away from anything other than granite started experimenting with glass and aluminum. These buildings emphasized on utilitarianism but also focused on decoration.
The Europeans rejected the modernist revolution, but New Yorkers welcomed it with open arms. The Guggenheim Museum still stands tall as the best of structures erected during the modernism era. Today, you can book a tour inside the museum and enjoy the details in each corner along with the art.
Modern and Post-Modern
Era: mid-20th century to date
Modern and post-modern construction truly started an era of architectural revolution in New York. This wave began with the need to focus on minimalism and practicality. Due to the constant real estate shuffle in New York, you will see hybrid buildings revamped to include modern elements. Digital design software and techniques brought to the modern revolution. Each brick is not laid by hand anymore, that is why there are always a few cranes shining on the New York skyline.
The best example of this construction is the New York Times building. NY Times building prioritized minimalism, energy, and efficiency. Its glassy exterior matches with the soul of the organization and maintains transparency. To date, experts and researchers are trying to pinpoint the current architectural style of New York City. We believe that the City of Lights has its character now. The need for preserving old buildings is higher than ever so the architecture lovers can see the history of this magnificent city in a stroll.
New York’s architecture, while always known for its historic styles, is quickly evolving. Some new styles like the Oculus in Lower Manhattan are so indelible that they’ve already cemented their place in architectural styles. The variety is staggering, and though several other cities try to surpass New York’s architectural styles, it remains unbeaten.