Archetypes

by Don Friedman on January 15, 2016

I was looking at a number of our projects today and realized we have pretty well covered the spectrum of historic New York building types. Recent and current projects have included 1920s apartment houses, 1860s cast-iron lofts, 1920s skyscrapers, 1870s rowhouses, 1890s tenements, 1890s skyscrapers, and 1880s churches. That’s two sets of steel-framed buildings with concrete-slab floors, two sets of masonry-bearing-wall buildings with wood-joist floors, and three sets of buildings with mixed, transitional structure that includes wood joists, cast iron, masonry, and wrought iron and steel.

Not only are these all common building types here, but they are instantly recognizable thanks to a hundred years of movies and sixty years of television. These building types, which evolved mostly as reactions to the local economy, building codes, and development pressure, were with one exception not meant to be iconic but they have become so. The self-aggrandizing exception, the 1920s skyscrapers, were consciously designed as icons but they still had to function in order to be built.

The cumulative effect of working on these buildings sometimes feels like I’ve been trawling through an archive.

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