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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 The Future of the City
The Bulkiest Skyscraper in New York
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The Future of the City
The Bulkiest Skyscraper in New York
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And as this debate was going on and people were proposing different ways in which to build skyscrapers and how to regulate skyscraper construction, the old Equitable Building that had been begun in 1868 and had expanded in the latter part of the nineteenth century to incorporate an entire square block between Broadway, Nassau Street, Pine, and Cedar Streets, burned down. And an announcement was made in 1912 that the new Equitable Building would rise on the entire plot and it would be one and one-quarter million square feet of space. This would be the bulkiest skyscraper in New York. This really added to the debate that was already going on. Sometimes this building is interpreted as the building that caused New York to pass a zoning law in 1916, but that is not exactly true. The debate had already been going on and it was very clear that there was going to be some sort of regulation. This building just increased the debate. The massive new structure of this building, which played such an important role in this debate, was, like the Flatiron Building, also designed by a Chicago architectural firm. It was actually designed by Daniel Burnham's successor firm, Ernest Graham & Associates. And it was finished in 1915, the year before the zoning law was passed. This building was really condemned when it was completed because of the huge scale and the bulk of the building. But from the point of view of the developers—who actually were not Equitable, Equitable sold the site and although its name was attached to the building and they leased space in the building, they did not own it—this building was a masterful example of how to design a huge skyscraper. It has a large number of elevators, which were very carefully planned. It was thought of as a moneymaking building and they thought about how tall they could build a building to maximize rental income. How would they have to design it to attract attention to the building? It has a beautiful Roman classical lobby that is actually designed to look like a Roman basilica inside, and then it has a vast array of elevators that take the thousands and thousands of workers up to their offices each day.

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