New York City has one of the most iconic skylines of any major city. Manhattan showcases the work of the very best architects and designers in the world. Let’s take a look at some of the city’s beautiful skyscrapers and where to find them.
German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Seagram Building in 1958. The building sparked a generation of Internationalist Style construction in New York. Internationalist Style uses less decorative designs than those of other New York skyscrapers. At the time, the Seagram Building’s construction costs ($48 million) made it the most expensive in the city. Standing 38 stories tall, the building appeared in hit movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Rosemary’s Baby.
Nicknamed “The Billionaire Building,” One57 has redefined the term “prestige address” in New York. This 75-story skyscraper, designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc, stands south of Central Park amid other super-luxury buildings under development. A mix of light and dark glass on the building’s façade creates a wave of vertical blue stripes. While striking, some have criticized the design. In 2014, Curbed name it the city’s “Worst Building of the Year.” It was the largest residential building in the city before the completion of 432 Park Avenue. One57 has broken records for the price of its condos and offers some of the best views in the city.
Built in 1977 to house Citibank’s headquarters, Citigroup Center at 53rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues stands 59 stories. In 2009, owners renamed it 601 Lexington Avenue, though many still use the original name. The building’s aluminum and glass façade make it one of the most striking buildings in the city. Its 45-degree angled top is immediately recognizable. Architects intended this top to hold solar panels for heating water. The northwest corner stands on the former site of St. Peter’s Church. St. Peter’s agreed to sell the land needed for the building if they could build a new church on the same site. Thus architects built the new skyscraper around the church – a true feat of engineering.
Trump Tower on 5th Avenue is one of the best-known Trump properties in the United States. Built in 1983, the building epitomizes the Trump brand of flashy opulence. Trump collaborated with architect Der Scutt to build the skyscraper. Since then, others took Trump to court with lawsuits for unpaid labor, destruction of historical sculptures at the site, and questionable tax exemptions. Trump and his family occupy a three-level penthouse on the top floors when they are not in Washington, D.C. The building also includes restaurants such as the Trump Bar, Trump’s Ice Cream Parlor, Trump Café, and Trump Grill. While a notable New York skyscraper, this building may be more difficult to visit than others given heavy security and frequent protests.
One World Trade Center
Nicknamed the Freedom Tower, one of the newest additions to the New York skyline stands 1,776 feet tall. The height is an homage to the Declaration of Independence. It’s currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, with a top floor offering incredible views of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. The two pools at the base of the structure are memorials dedicated to the Twin Towers. David Childs designed the building. His firm also designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. An observation deck on floors 100-102 offer sweeping views of Manhattan and the Hudson.
Gehry New York
Built in 2011, the Gehry is architect Frank Gehry’s first New York skyscraper. Located at 8 Spruce Street, the building was first called Beekman Tower. The Gehry is the tallest residential building in North America, and famous for its twisting structural frame. At 76 stories, it’s the 31st tallest building in the world. The building is a great example of Deconstructionist architecture and bears similarities to the Aqua building in Chicago. The Gehry received critical acclaim upon completion and earned the Emporis Award for architectural excellence in 2011.
Constructed in 1909, The MetLife Tower is one of New York’s oldest skyscrapers. Architectural firm Napoleon LeBrun & Sons designed the 50-story building in the style of the Campanile in Venice, Italy. The MetLife Tower is unusual in that it features clocks on all four sides of the building. The building is also home to the New York Edition Hotel, which opened in 2015.
Completed in 1963, the MetLife Building towers over Park Avenue. At the time, it was the world’s largest commercial office space. Emery Roth & Sons, Pietro Belluschi, and Walter Gropius designed the MetLife Building in the International Style. The building was first known as the Pan Am Building and before its bankruptcy was the headquarters of Pan American World Airways. In 1981, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company purchased and later renamed it.
Constructed in 1913, the Woolworth Building epitomizes neo-Gothic architecture and hearkens back to the beauty of Old New York. Designed by Cass Gilbert, it’s one of the city’s earliest skyscrapers. The Woolworth Building appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows since 1929. Woolworth sold the building in 1998 and it now serves as a luxury residential address. The building boasts a spectacular lobby with veined marble, a stained glass ceiling light, and mosaics.
Located at 235 Park Avenue, north of the MetLife Building, the 35-story Helmsley Building is another skyscraper that calls to an older era. Architects from the firm Warren & Wetmore designed it in the Beaux Arts style. This firm also designed Grand Central Station. The building is often lit up at night and during holidays. The Helmsley Building’s impressive lobby celebrates the New York Railroad. The Railroad once used the building as its headquarters, and features marble and inlaid bronze.
56 Leonard Street
For some spectacular modern architecture, look no further than 56 Leonard Street. This 57-story condominium in the hip Tribeca neighborhood transformed the skyline of lower Manhattan when it upon completion in 2017. Designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, the building resembles a tower of “houses stacked in the sky.” From a distance, the asymmetrical structure looks like a tower of blue and silver Jenga pieces rising above lower Manhattan. As of 2018, 56 Leonard Street is the tallest building in Tribeca.
The Chrysler Building is one of New York City’s most recognizable structures. A great example of Art Deco architecture, this 77-story structure includes a magnificent spire visible for miles. Located in Turtle Bay, the Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for 11 months before the Empire State Building surpassed it. It still retains the title of the tallest brick building in the world. On the building’s upper floors sit 50 ornaments in the style of gothic cathedral gargoyles. There are also radiator cap-themed ornaments that designed to look like bald eagles. The Chrysler Building’s triangular lobby boasts “Transport and Human Endeavor” – a mural dedicated to the Golden Age of aviation.
While at 21 floors it might be one of the smaller skyscrapers in Manhattan, the Flatiron building is impressive to behold. This triangular shaped building, originally known as the Fuller Building, sits at the intersection of 5th Avenue, Broadway, and 22nd Streets. Constructed in 1902, the Flatiron Building received its name because at a distance it looks like a flat cast-iron clothing iron. That name has also extended to the surrounding area, which is now a small but growing Manhattan tech hub. The building joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Empire State Building
Another one of New York’s most recognizable towers is the Art-Deco Empire State Building. The American Engineering Society considers it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. At 103 stories tall, it is one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years before the completion of the World Trade Center North Tower in 1970. No trip to New York is complete without getting a glimpse of the Empire State Building, though it’s pretty hard to miss!
432 Park Avenue
432 Park Avenue is one of the city’s tallest residential buildings. Architect Rafael Vinoly designed the building with a very minimalist aesthetic- a concrete façade with oversized square windows. What many people don’t realize is that minimalist design is inspired by a trash can designed by Austrian designer Josef Hoffmann in 1905. It’s also one of the new breed of expensive addresses in Manhattan with expansive views of Central Park. The building sits at the site of the former Drake Hotel, a landmark demolished in 2007.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Another Art Deco tower that forms the heart of Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza is the headquarters of media giant NBC Universal. Constructed in 1940, the building has previously been called the RCA Building and the GE Building. 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or “30 Rock” as it’s often called, occupies an entire city block. The upper levels include the famous Rainbow Room restaurant and an observation deck known as the “Top of the Rock”, which offers breathtaking 360-degree views of Manhattan and nearby boroughs. 30 Rockefeller Plaza is also the site of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a 100-fruit Spruce that is lit in a public ceremony in November of each year. In the winter, the courtyard at the base of the building transforms into an ice skating rink illuminated by the tree. Beneath the building is a large public shopping concourse and a food court with a wide range of offerings.
Located in the Upper West Side at 2109 Broadway, the Ansonia has a rich history since its construction in 1899. The building was originally designed by Paul e DeBoy to be the most impressive hotel in Manhattan. The Ansonia’s Beaux Art façade and mansard roof certainly reflect that goal. It was the largest New York hotel at the time and the first to offer air conditioning. The hotel also offered perhaps the first “farm to table” concept: a rooftop farm with over 500 chickens that was later shut down by local health authorities. The building was converted into condominiums in 1992 but still retains its grandeur.
The Hearst Building
Located on 57th street near Columbus Circle, the Hearst Building is an unusual New York skyscraper. Designed by architect Norman Foster, the building is constructed out of triangular frames that form a jagged façade. The six-story stone base built in 1928 was preserved when construction began and 46 stories were added when the building was completed. As the name suggests, the Hearst Building is home to the headquarters of Hearst Communications, which owns numerous popular magazines. The impressive atrium features escalators that carry guests through “Icefall”, a three-story water sculpture.
New York skyscrapers span decades of development and are a visual history of the city. From turn of the century structures to 1950’s Art Deco to more modern and bizarre designs, the city’s towers are a delight for both residents and tourists. While they are certainly impressive during the day, some of the best photos can be taken at night. The MetLife Building and the Empire State Building are often illuminated to highlight major events or holidays and few things are more impressive than the Chrysler Building’s illuminated spites. Whether you’re an architecture buff or just passing through, New York skyscrapers never disappoint.