Theatres, Museums, Architecture, Art, Shopping, Bars, Food, Markets... where do you start? where do you stop? New York is a Pandora's Box, gleaming with an endless array of colourful facets to a precious stone. Anything you want, you can find in this city, BUT I seem to be looking up, wherever I turn!. So for the sake of this post, I'll stick to one of my favourite passions, the Architecture which really distinguishes this city.
Skyscrapers are the most recognisable feature of The Big Apple, but that wouldn't do justice to this city, which represents four hundreds years of Western architecture, leading with changes in lifestyle and building methods, since its creation. The evolution of new building technologies, combined with the Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed up to 700 buildings, elevated stone and brick as the new material of choice for both stately buildings as well as the characteristic high rise housing blocks we all know from the movies. With the mustering of steel structures this city enters the new century growing in height as well as in width, and gifting the Western world with a unique and inspiring skyline.
New York View - image James Treble
In the 1800s, with the growing economy the population also grew fast, and New York spread from its initial southern tip of Manhattan, up the entire 'island', then across the rivers into the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn (where I've elected to stay). The building of bridges responded to and facilitated the expansion of the masses into areas with lower density of population, stimulating the building and quickly filling the suburban areas. The building of tall apartment blocks, especially between the 1870s and 1930s, also became synonymous with immigration, poverty and over-density of population. The age of the high rise apartment blocks, and the speed in which they spread, meant no internal fire stairs or safety access was included, so these had to be added to all existing buildings, an obvious new addition for my keen designer eye. I've actually become quite excited over the past few days, looking at the huge range of styles and designs of fire escapes, which sit like external skeletons, in response to increases fire regulations and safety controls. Tall or very tall, many of these these buildings still stand proudly, now renovated into heritage and expensive residential blocks.
apartment blocks - image James Treble
The magnificent stone and metal Brooklyn Bridge  become famous around the world, and a recognisable sight for new immigrants arriving by water, and it's still an impressive symbol of expansion towards the future, being modified over time to now include a pedestrian and bike's path, in addition to it's 6 car lanes. Sitting almost parallel, the Manhattan Bridge  also has spectacular good looks, a jewel of Structural Expressionism, its steel structural elements are proudly visible as a display of industrial strength and futuristic desire of the time.
The 'Beaux Arts' style finds a representative jewel in the NY Public Library, with its clear reference and inspiration to neoclassical elegance and décor. Opened in 1911, this is a building that offers stunning architecture and opulent yet elegant décor... Studded with carvings, sculptures, paintings and frescoes this building is simply inspiring, inside and out, and could easily sit at home in a european capital.
the NY Public Library - image James Treble
When searching for Art Deco [1920s and 30s] and its artistic impact into city architecture, you don't have to look far, simply up, to the beautiful Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. And marvellous they are indeed, with the latter, still impressively being the second highest building in New York. Yet, I was left with my mouth open upon entering the New Yorker Hotel. Art Deco as pure as it gets, preserved to our benefit and studded with beautiful carvings, mouldings, sculptures and décor of museum quality. Despite its age, its elegance is undeterred and the patina of age only adds to its charm.
the New Yorker Hotel
Manhattan has the largest CBD in the world, and walking through the streets gives you the strong feeling of being in the middle of the world, or some melded version of every movie you've ever seen! The buildings are so high that looking up, can easily take you by surprise, as you find yourself catching glimpses of even higher towers between and behind the ones just above your head.
Here celebrated old buildings are side by side with modern and architecturally stunning towers. The new 'One World Trade Centre' now stands as the tallest of them all, a modern monument to strength and endurance. Combined with its adjoining new surrounding structures, including the two striking waterfall pits which emulate the foot print of the Twin Towers, this site any person also affects you with awe and respect. It's not just its height, but its architectural energy which empowers it, voicing the cry of a city that will not be stopped from growing and looking to the future.
New York - photo Time Magazine
If like me you have a genuine passion for building and design and enjoy understanding architecture and how it sits in both history and the landscape, then New York is one place where the last few hundreds years of Western History are displayed and celebrated for everybody to explore and admire. Its aesthetic riches are mesmerising, inspiring, and present a celebration of human intelligence, taste, trends and historical styles. New York is indeed a living monument to human achievements in architectural building, technology and design... and the only way for the future is definitely UP!
James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James Treble has more than 25 years of experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design. His knowledge and experience in adding value to homes, through clever design & styling, is now published for all to learn and benefit from. Interior Design For Profit is now available online.