Four Views on One Set of Data

by Don Friedman on March 21, 2016

Last fall, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat – known informally as “those skyscraper people” – issued a report on the statistics of tall-building construction in New York from 1900 onwards called “New York: The Ultimate Skyscraper Laboratory.” It’s interesting stuff and well worth the few minutes it takes to read. A few items jumped out at me: the largest occupancy is residential, despite the seeming prevalence of skyscraper office buildings; the Bronx has ten buildings over 100 meters high; and the CTBUH wisely declined to offer a firm definition of “skyscraper.”

Citylab linked to the report. Most of their piece was a recap of the original CTBUH report, but they added a brief description of the Singer Building – the tallest building with occupiable interior space that has been demolished as obsolete. Below, the Singer pre-obsolescence, under construction:


Curbed also linked to the report, adding a bit more historic detail and a question about what might happen when the finite amount of building air rights in Manhattan are used up.

In the spirit of self-centeredness, my attention was grabbed by a single fact: the year with the greatest number of 100m buildings constructed in New York was 1931. That’s right in our project sweet-spot for building age. The vast majority of the roughly one million buildings in New York are old enough so that we like them, but it’s good to know that so are most of the icons of height.

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