It goes without saying that New York City is home to some of the most magnificent buildings in the world. And though it seems like the city's addiction to superstructure construction threatens to blanket us in perpetual shadow, the city's glittering skyline, seen from the right vantage point, is still consistently breathtaking. Here are our favorite buildings in NYC, skyscraper and otherwise. We've omitted some obvious ones (the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Flatiron and the Woolworth Building), but feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.
Courtesy MariSheibley's flickr
The Chrysler Building: This 77-story masterpiece, built in the Art Deco heyday of 1928, had the luxury of being the world's tallest building for just under a year until the Empire State Building eclipsed it, and though the latter might have all the fame, the Chrysler Building's got the glory. The skyscraper's detailed ornamentation and steel American eagle gargoyles—modeled after the radiator caps on a contemporary Chrysler—and spectacular terraced crown cement its status as perhaps the most stunning building in the city. Sadly, unlike the ESB, there's no viewing gallery up top, but you can still enter the building's lobby and marvel at its Art Deco ceiling mural during regular business hours.
The Chrysler Building is located at 405 Lexington Ave between 42nd and 43rd Streets in Midtown East.
Photograph by Missy S on Flickr
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met boasts one of the greatest art collections in the world, but its aesthetic wonderment isn't limited to the works on its walls. The 2 million square foot building boasts a magnificent (yet forever unfinished) Beaux-Arts facade complete with columns, stone slab pyramids and impressive arches. Inside, the museum's Great Hall is another one for the books, featuring grand arches and a marble floor replete with mosaic tiles. And the Grand Staircase, which leads from the Met's entrance hall up to its collection of European paintings on the second floor, is its own masterpiece. Fun fact: the building's Medieval Hall was actually the first wing built in the museum, and you can still see the original main museum entrance from the 19th century inside the Petrie Sculpture Court.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org).
Courtesy Gary Burke's flickr
Grand Central Terminal: Even Shake Shack lines can't sully the majestic beauty of Grand Central's Main Concourse. The sweeping zodiac mural, marble walls, spectacular arches and the iconic central clock are enough to set the terminal apart from that unspeakable train station to the west. But there's also more to Grand Central than meets the eye: there's the whispering gallery at the Guastavino tile archway, for instance, and the secret train car and station hidden under the neighboring Waldorf-Astoria hotel which Franklin D. Roosevelt used to conceal the fact that he was wheelchair-bound. And the building's Beaux-Arts facade, often overlooked amid the area's crowded bustle, is masterful, topped with a Tiffany-glass clock flanked by statues of characters from Greek myths.
Grand Central Terminal is located at 89 East 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Aves in Midtown East (212-340-2583, grandcentralterminal.com).
Courtesy wallyg's flickr
The New York Public Library: We almost lost the current incarnation of the NYPL's main branch, thanks to a controversial renovation project that aimed to transform the Beaux-Arts Stephen A. Schwarzman Building into a circulating library. Thankfully that renovation will no longer happen, leaving us with an untouched architectural wonder. The building's main entrance, flanked by the NYPL's iconic stone lions, boasts stone arches, columns and a carved frieze. Inside, the all-marble and brick building is marked by porticos, arched windows, winding staircases and antique metalwork. Unfortunately, two of the NYPL's most impressive architectural offerings are off-limits for the time being—the famed Rose Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room have been closed off to the public for the past few weeks, thanks to a chunk of plaster that fell from the Reading Room's ceiling.
The NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is located at Fifth Ave and 42nd Street in Midtown (917-275-6975, nypl.org).
Courtesy Benjamin Running's flickr
Hearst Tower: It's no Californian castle, but the Hearst Corporation's international headquarters—which houses publications like Cosmopolitan and Esquire—is still a sight to behold. The 40-floor tower, completed in 2006, sits atop the original Hearst building's landmarked stone facade. The zigzagging steel triangles that climb into the sky are comprised primarily of recycled materials, which earned its status as the city's first LEED Gold skyscraper; the floor of the atrium is paved with heat conductive limestone. There's a rain-collecting system that runs from the roof to the basement, and the building also has its own eco-friendly system for circulating cooling and heating water in the summer and winter.
Hearst Tower is located at 300 West 57th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen (212-649-2000).
(Courtesy The Standard High Line)
The Standard High Line: In addition to being a prime spot to party on a roof, the Standard's Meatpacking District hotel is an oddball architectural marvel in its own right. The building, completed in 2009, straddles the High Line in a "perpetual lap dance," offering up rows of full-windowed rooms boasting stellar views on both sides of the glass. Seen from the street, the seductive top floor lounge, designed by Roman & Williams, glows like some sexy, irresistible Eye of Sauron. The Standard's bold architecture embodies retro cool, hearkening back to Le Corbusier modernism and ironically turning Eastern Bloc style into something somehow chic. Magically perched atop two thick concrete stilts, it sometimes seems as if a giant 1980s computer grew legs and is about to march on the Meatpacking District, bringing Pac-Man and Pong to the masses. Kraftwerk should perform here.
The Standard High Line is located at 848 Washington Street between Little 12th Street and 13th Street in the Meatpacking District (212-645-4646, standardhotels.com/high-line).
The Bronx Library Center: There are numerous reasons to laud The Bronx Library Center, which opened on East Kingsbridge Road in 2006. Though it's not necessarily the most striking building on this list, it earns accolades for being the city's first publicly-funded building to get LEED certified. The floors are flanked by glass curtain walls, and the funky sloped roof makes for a unique, wood-paneled fourth-floor ceiling. Most importantly, the building is flooded with light, creating an inviting, airy environment prime for reading—in fact, the branch's attendance and circulation numbers saw a significant spike when the new center first opened, and the library continues to be popular among children and adults in the area.
The Bronx Library Center is located at 310 East Kingsbridge Road at Briggs Avenue in The Bronx (718-579-4244, nypl.org).
THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS
Photo by Jake Dobkin
Williamsburgh Savings Bank: Brooklyn's magnificent tower was miserably transformed into a pile of condos back in 2007, but thankfully the building's landmarked status has maintained enough remnants of its architectural glory, both inside and out. The 37-floor building, once the tallest in Brooklyn, was built back in 1926, and boasts a rare four-sided clock topped by a small Florentine dome. Inside, the building is rich with mosaics, vaulted arches and churchlike naves and apses. The bank's been primarily closed to the public since the luxury apartments moved in, though it's open for certain public events as the venue Skylight One Hanson. Still, we can only dream of that spectacular view from the top.
The Williamsburgh Savings Bank is located at 1 Hanson Place between Ashland and St. Felix Streets in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-783-5437).
Courtesy wallyg's flickr
Hotel St. George: Once upon a time, Hotel St. George was the largest hotel in New York City, playing temporary home to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Those days are long gone—the hotel ceased functioning a few decades ago, and is now a student housing building for schools like NYU and Pace. Much of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1995, the building's famed indoor pool is gone and the ballroom's closed up, but one of the hotel's most interesting features remains: the entrance to the Clark Street subway station is inside the hotel, well-hidden from street view.
Hotel St. George is located at 100 Henry Street at Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights (718-624-5000).
Courtesy kingfal's flickr
The Guggenheim: Museum politics aside, the Guggenheim's Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. building is one of the city's greatest architectural treasures. The building's open rotunda, cylindrical shape and spiraling floors make it one of the most ambitious works of architecture not just of its time, but to date. It took over fifteen years to develop and build it, and both Wright and Solomon R. Guggenheim died before the museum was completed in 1959. Today, the open rotunda's even been used for site-specific works, like last summer's outstanding James Turrell exhibition that transformed the museum's heart into a pulsating, vibrant light installation.
The Guggenheim is located at 1071 Fifth Ave between 88th and 89th Streets on the Upper East Side (212-423-3500, guggenheim.org).