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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Birth of the Skyscraper Steel Skeletons
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In 1895, only six years after the Tower Building was completed, the Bowling Green Offices was begun, practically across the street, and you can see how from the small and narrow Tower Building we get into this vast bulky structure that runs right through the block. It is about 200 feet deep, and once the steel-skeleton frame had been perfected, you could hypothetically build a building of any size, as long as the elevators could get that far up. As long as you had other technologies like wind bracing and foundation construction perfected, once you had the steel-skeleton frame, you could build a building of practically any size. And very rapidly, New York architects, working often with engineers, were building huge, bulky office buildings.

Land values in Lower Manhattan, the center of the city's commercial district, rose astronomically in accordance with this because suddenly land was no longer valued for how much money you could make by building a five- or six-story building, it was being valued for how much money you could make by building a 20- or a 30-story building. So the Bowling Green Offices here show you exactly how fast and how big these buildings could be built. And it, too, is very traditional in its construction. It is built using Greek ornament, and New York architects used every conceivable style of ornament on their buildings. This is especially evident a few years later when New York City decided to build a great office building. The Municipal Building, which is basically a Roman classical structure, really exemplifies this New York love of traditional architecture with a giant triumphal arch at the base and a round temple at the top crowned by a statue of civic fame. This building was designed by McKim, Mead & White and was built between 1907 and 1916 in a very prominent site. Here the city is saying that the city's office needs are just as important as the needs of the business and financial world because they can construct a building that will rival the great skyscrapers of the financial district.


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