History of New York Architecture
This course studies the history of architecture in the City of New York. Students are introduced to style, iconography, technical innovation, geography, and the cultural, social, economic, and political forces that have shaped the city’s buildings from the early seventeenth century to the present.
HA216 or its equivalent
Steven Zucker, Ph.D., Department of the History of Art and Design
Course Activities and Approach to Learning:
Class activities will include illustrated lectures, group discussions, walking tours, and oral presentations delivered by the students. Full student participation in class discussions is an essential aspect of the course and will be stressed from the outset. Assigned readings provide the factual and theoretical basis for a sophisticated understanding of course material. Writing assignments offer the students the opportunity to record their exploration of the city’s monuments, synthesize course material, and identify key issues. Oral presentations allow for in-depth research of a defined topic for the benefit of the class as a whole.
Weekly reading assignments are derived from the attached bibliography and will be linked to the material covered in a given week (see below).
Method of Evaluation:
20% Written assignments
20% Midterm examination
20% Final examination
1. Introduction/From Hudson’s Advance to the Georgian Retreat (1609-1783)
Objectives: Students will be familiarized with the course structure and requirements. Students will gain an introductory knowledge of both the geological history of New York City and of the indigenous domestic architecture of the region. The economic and political forces that led to the establishment of New Amsterdam by the Dutch East India Company as well as Peter Stuyvesant’s surrender to the English in 1664 will be examined. The influence of Dutch and English architectural models as well as New World adaptations such as Cryn Fredericksz’s plans for the design of the new colony will also be reviewed.
Readings from: Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
2. Capital of the Republic or Capital of Commerce? (1783-1840)
Objectives: Students will learn to define and discuss the sources and characteristics of local Federalist, Greek, and Gothic Revival architecture. The Commissioners’ street grid (1807) will be analyzed, as will the implications of the Erie Canal (completed 1825) and of the Croton Aqueduct system (begun 1837).
Readings from: Donald Martin Reynolds, The Architecture of New York City: Histories and Views of Important Structures, Sites and Symbols, revised edition, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1994; Gerard T. Koeppel, Water for Gotham: A History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000; Ric Burns, James Sanders, Lisa Ades, New York: An Illustrated History, New York: Knopf, 1999.
3. Nineteenth-Century Industrial and Commercial Architecture (1840-1900)
Objectives: Students will gain an understanding of the uses and disadvantages of cast iron. The technical challenges faced by John A. Robling and his son, Washington Robling, as they designed and constructed the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) will be analyzed. Finally, the commercial architecture of “Ladies Mile” will be introduced.
Readings from: Margot Gayle and Edmond V. Gillon, Jr., Cast-Iron Architecture in New York, New York: Dover, 1974; M. Christine Boyer, Manhattan Manners: Architecture and Style, 1850-1900, New York: Rizzoli, 1985; Edward Robb Ellis, The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History, New York: Kodansha, 1997.
4. Walking Tour of Nineteenth-Century Architecture in the West Village and Soho (1800-1900)
Objectives: Students will directly encounter and learn to analyze significant examples of nineteenth-century architecture at the old Jefferson Market, along West Tenth Street to Fifth Avenue, at Washington Square Park, and in Soho.
Readings from: Norval White and Elliot Willensky, American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter, Guide to New York City, fourth edition, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.
5. Avenues and Alleys: Domestic Architecture of the Rich and the Poor (1864-1910)
Objectives: Students will learn about both the houses that lined Fifth Avenue and the tenement architecture that housed the city’s new immigrants. Tenement reform will also be examined.
Readings from: Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, New York: Penguin, 1997; Montgomery Schuyler, “The Vanderbilt Houses,” American Architecture, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892; John Tauranac, Elegant New York: The Builders and Buildings, 1885-1915, New York: Abbeville Press, 1985.
6. The Ramparts of Civilization: Museums, Libraries, Churches, Courts,
and Parks (1857-1911)
Objectives: Students will develop an understanding of the motivations, histories, and specialized iconography of civic design. Particular attention will be given to the accomplishments of Frederick Law Olmstead and McKim Mead and White.
Readings from: Albert Fein, Landscape into Cityscape: Frederick Law Olmstead’s Plans for a Greater New York City, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968.
7. Midterm Examination
Slide identification and essay
8. Walking Tour of Beaux-Arts New York: The New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, and the Private Club (1901-1913)
Objectives: Students will visit and learn to analyze significant examples of nineteenth-century Beaux-Arts architecture. The lecture will begin at the New York Public Library, Carrère & Hastings (1911) at Forty Second Street and Fifth Avenue, the class will then proceed east to Grand Central Terminal, Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore (1913). The New York Yacht Club, Warren & Wetmore (1901), on Forty Fifth Street will also be discussed.
Readings from: Kurt C. Schlichting, Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City During the Age of Energy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
9. Cathedrals of Commerce: The New York Skyscraper (1865-1916)
Objectives: The students will learn the history of vertical architecture. Technical innovations such as the Otis safety elevator, improved iron framing, and the introduction of steel will be examined. The transformation of the great masonry structures of the late nineteenth century into the lofty spires of the early twentieth century will be reviewed. Particular attention will be given to the zoning law of 1916 and to the Woolworth Building, Cass Gilbert (1910-13).
Readings from: Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl W. Condit, Rise of the
New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
10. Walking Tour of Rockefeller Center (1928-2000)
Objectives: The students will examine, in person, one of the world’s most successful and influential planned urban centers. Particular emphasis will be given to the relationship between the center and the surrounding area and between the architecture and the painting and sculpture that it contains.
Readings from: Rem Koolhaus, “How Perfect Perfection Can Be: The Creation of Rockefeller Center,” Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1994; Carol Krinsky, Rockefeller Center, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
11. Modern Monuments: New York’s Postwar Architecture (1945-2000)
Objectives: The students will gain a broad exposure to significant local modern architecture. Key monuments such as: The United Nations, Wallace K. Harrison (1947-53), Lever House, Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore Owings & Merrill (1952), The Seagram Building, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson (1958), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright (1959), The Trans World Airlines Terminal, Eero Saarinen (1962), The Whitney Museum of American Art, Marcel Breuer and Hamilton Smith (1966), American Telephone & Telegraph Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee (1979) will be introduced.
Readings from: Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins, David Fishman,
New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism between the Second World War and the Bicentennial, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995.
12. Old or New: Demolition, Urban Renewal, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Objectives: Students will gain insight into the complex issues concerning urban blight and renewal, the demolition of major historical monuments such as Pennsylvania Station, McKim, Mead, & White (1904-10), and the subsequent creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Robert Moses will be discussed as will re-use, and the transformation of Times Square.
Readings from: Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Modern Library, 1993; Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, New York: Knopf, 1974.
13. Student Presentations
Topics selected by the students from a provided list.
Readings from: TBA
14. New Projects
Objectives: Students will become familiar with on-going projects and speculative proposals. The knowledge gained over the semester will be used to assess the merits of particular projects.
Readings from: E. B. White. Here is New York, New York: The Little Bookroom, 1999.
15. Final Examination
Slide identification and essay
Kamin, Blair, Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2010
Bluestone, Daniel. Buildings, Landscapes, and Memory: Studies in Historic
Preservation, New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.
Bell, John and Maxinne R. Leighton. Grand Central: Gateway to a Million Lives,
New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000.
Berlin, Ira and Leslie M. Harris. Slavery in New York, New York: The New Press (and
the New –York Historical Sociey, 2005.
Bletter, Rosemarie Haag and Cervin Robinson. Skyscraper Style: Art Deco
New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
Bolton, Reginald Pelham, Indian Life of Long Ago in the City of New York, New York:
Harmony Books, 1934.
Boyer, M. Christine. Manhattan Manners: Architecture and Style, 1850-1900,
New York: Rizzoli, 1985.
Burnham, Alan. “The New York Architecture of William Morris Hunt,” Society of
Architectural Historians (May 1952).
Burns, Ric, James Sanders, and Lisa Ades. New York: An Illustrated History, New York:
Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City, New York:
Oxford University Press, 1998.
Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, New York:
Clute, Eugene. “The Chrysler Building,” Architectural Forum 53 (October 1930): 406.
Croly, Herbert. “Rich Men and their Houses,” Architectural Record, (May 1902): 27-32.
Cromley, Elizabeth Collins. Alone Together: A History of New York’s Early Apartments,
Ithica: Cornel University Press, 1990.
Curtis, William J. R. Modern Architecture Since 1900, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall,
Elderfield, John. et.al. Philip Johnson and the Museum of Modern Art, Studies in Modern
Art 6, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1998.
Ellis, Edward Robb. The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History, New York:
Embury, Aymar II. The Dutch Colonial House: Its Origin, Design, Plan, and
Construction, New York: McBride Nast & Company, 1913.
“Farewell to Penn. Station,” The New York Times (October 30, 1963): 38.
Fein, Albert. Landscape into Cityscape: Frederick Law Olmstead’s Plans for a Greater
New York City, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968.
Feirstein, Sanna. Naming New York: Manhattan Places & How They Got Their Names,
New York: New York University Press, 2001.
Gayle, Margot. A Walking Tour of Cast-Iron Architecture in New York,
New York: Dover, 1984.
Gayle, Margot and Edmond V. Gillon, Jr. Cast-Iron Architecture in New York,
New York: Dover, 1974.
Gilmartin, Gregory. Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Arts Society,
New York: Municipal Arts Society, 1994.
Goldberger, Paul. “City’s Naming of Grand Central as Landmark Voided by Court,”
The New York Times, (January 22, 1975): 1:6.
——-. “Grand Central Reinstated as Landmark by Court,” The New York Times,
(December 17, 1975): 33:1.
——-. The City Observed, New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
Hamlin, Talbot. Greek Revival Architecture in America, New York: Oxford University
Hawes, Elizabeth. New York, New York: How the Apartment House Transformed the Life
of the City (1869-1930), New York: Knopf, 1993.
Homberger, Eric. The Historical Atlas of New York: A Visual Celebration of Nearly Four
Hundred Years of New York City’s History, New York: Henry Holt, 1994.
Huxtable, Ada Louise. Architecture Anyone?: Cautionary Tales of the Building Art,
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.
——-. Classic New York, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1964.
Jackson, Kenneth. Encyclopedia of New York City, 2nd edition, New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2010.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Modern Library,
Kazin, Alfred. A Walker in the City, New York: Grove Press, 1951.
Koeppel, Gerard T. Water for Gotham: A History, Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Koolhaus, Rem. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, New York:
The Monacelli Press, 1994.
Kowsky, Francis R. Country, Park & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux,
New York: Oxford, 1998.
Krinsky, Carol H. Rockefeller Center, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Landau, Sarah Bradford and Carl W. Condit. Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865
-1913, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
Lockwood, Charles. Bricks and Brownstones: The New York Row House, A Social and
Architectural History, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.
Low, David Gerrard. Stanford White’s New York, New York: Doubleday, 1998.
McCullough, David. The Great Bridge, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.
Mumford, Lewis. Sidewalk Critic: Lewis Mumford’s Writings on New York, edited by
Robert Wojtowicz, Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.
——-. The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895, New York:
Dover Publications, 1931.
——-. The Culture of Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1970.
Olmstead, Frederick Law and Calvert Vaux. Description of a Plan for the Improvement
of the Central Park, New York: Aldine Press, 1858.
Postal, Matthew A. and Andrew Dolkart, edited by Matthew A. Postal, Guide to New York City Landmarks, fourth edition, New York: New York City Landmarks
Preservation Commission and John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
Ramirez, Jan Seidler, editor. Painting the Town: Cityscapes of New York, Paintings from
the Museum of the City of New York, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
Reed, Henry Hope. The Golden City, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1959.
——-. The New York Public Library: Its Architecture and Decoration,
New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986.
Reiss, Marcia. New York: Then and Now, revised edtion, San Diego: Thunder Bay Press,
Reynolds, Donald Martin. The Architecture of New York City: Histories and Views of
Important Structures, Sites and Symbols, revised edition, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1994.
Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York,
New York: Penguin, 1997.
Sanderson, Eric W. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, New York:
Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American
Revolution, New York: Penguin Books, 2002.
Schlichting, Kurt C. Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and
Architecture in New York City During the Age of Energy, Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Schuyler, Montgomery. American Architecture, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892.
——-. The New Customs House at New York,” The Architectural Record 20 (July
Silver, Nathan. Lost New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1971.
Stern, Robert A. M., et.al. New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age,
New York: Moncelli Press, 1999.
——-. New York 1900: Architecture and Urbanism 1890-1915, New York: St. Martins
——-. New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism between the Between the Two World
Wars, New York: St. Martins Press, 1995.
——-. New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism between the Second World War and
the Bicentennial, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995.
Sternfeld, Joel. Walking the Highline, Gottingen: Steidl and Pace/MacGill Gallery, 2001.
Stokes, Isaac Newton Phelps. An Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, six
volumes, New York: R.H. Dodd, 1926.
John Tauranac, Elegant New York: The Builders and Buildings, 1885-1915, New York:
Abbeville Press, 1985.
Trachtenberg, Marvin and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture from Prehistory to Post-
Modernism, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1986.
Tunick, Susan. Terra-Cotta Skyline: New York’s Architectural Ornament, Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1997.
Vaux, Calvert. “A Plea for the Artistic Unity of Central Park,” The New York Times
(August 27, 1879):5.
——-. “The Central Park of New York,” The New York Times (July10, 1864): 5.
Veiller, Lawrence. Housing Conditions and Tenement Laws in Leading American Cities,
New York: Evening Post Job Printing House, 1900.
Walsh, Kevin. Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis, Collins: New York,
Weil, Francois. A History of New York, translation by Jody Gladding, New York:
Columbia University Press, 2004.
White, Norval and Elliot Willensky. American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter,
Guide to New York City, fifth edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.