NYC Iconic Architecture
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New York, New York Guide (D): NYC Iconic Architecture

New York City is well known for its skyline, architecture, and skyscrapers. This guide on iconic architecture shows some of the most important buildings that have shaped the history and unique character of the Big Apple.

Included are museums, historic buildings, observation decks, and cathedrals, among others. New York City is one of the few cities in the world with a rich architectural evolution that is both educational and entertaining.
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Attractions Map

Guide Name: NYC Iconic Architecture
Guide Location: USA » New York
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (D))
# of Destinations: 24
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Federal Hall   Trinity Church   St. Patrick's Cathedral   Metropolitan Museum of Art   Cathedral of St. John the Divine   Flatiron Building   Grand Central Terminal   Woolworth Building   New York Public Library   Chrysler Building   Empire State Building   Rockefeller Center   United Nations Headquarters   Seagram Building   Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum   Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts   World Financial Center   Hearst Tower   Bank of America Tower   Brooklyn Museum   Museum of Modern Art   High Line   Brooklyn Bridge   Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower  
Author: Norberto Figueroa
Author Bio: Norbert Figueroa is an architect who is always looking for new ways to reinterpret this world. When he's not designing new buildings and urban spaces, he is traveling around the world with his backpack looking for new experiences and inspiration.
Author Website:
Federal Hall

1) Federal Hall

Built in 1842.

This Greek Revival building was built to replace the old City Hall (built in 1700, demolished in 1812) on the same site that served as the nation’s first capitol building. It was here where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. The Greek temple front symbolizes the young nation’s democratic ideals.

Two prominent American ideals are reflected in the building's architecture: The Doric columns of the façade resemble those of...
Image by Gryffindor under Creative Commons License.
Trinity Church

2) Trinity Church

Built in 1846.

This is the third Trinity Church built on this site, after the first one was destroyed by fire and the second one weakened by snowstorms. The current church has a Gothic Revival architecture and at the time of its completion its 281-foot (86 m) spire and cross was the highest point in New York until surpassed in 1890 by the New York World Building.

In the churchyard, in addition to Alexander Hamilton's grave, there is a memorial to the unknown martyrs of the revolution...
Image by Wikikela under Creative Commons License.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

3) St. Patrick's Cathedral

Built between 1858 and 1878.

The Cathedral of St. Patrick (commonly called St. Patrick's Cathedral) is the largest decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States.

The cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and it can accommodate 2,200 people. It is located right across Rockefeller Center.

Construction began in 1858 but was halted during the Civil War and resumed in 1865. The cathedral was completed...
Image by Mr. Kjetil Ree under Creative Commons License.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

4) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Built in 1880.

The world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) is housed in this Neoclassical building situated in the edge of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. The design shows strength, culture, and wisdom; symbolizing the art sheltered inside. The main building is one of the world's largest art galleries.

Represented in the permanent collection are works of art from classical antiquity and Ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from European masters, and an extensive collection...
Image by Arad under Creative Commons License.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine

5) Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Built from 1892.

The cathedral began construction in 1892 and throughout construction it underwent massive stylistic changes that varied from Byzantine to Gothic. Its construction was interrupted by the two world wars, and still to this day it is not finished.

Cathedral Hours:

Monday - Saturday, from 7am to 6pm,

Sunday 7am - 7pm

Public Tours

Individuals and groups less than 10 people can walk through the bustling nave and through the serene chapels to learn about this...
Image by Louis Waweru under Creative Commons License.
Flatiron Building

6) Flatiron Building

Built in 1902.

Considered one of the first skyscrapers in the city, this eye-catching building combined elements of French and Italian Renaissance architecture. It was designed by Chicago's Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. Like a classical Greek column, its facade is divided into a base, shaft and capital.

The Flatiron building, originally called The Fuller Building, is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper. Upon completion in 1902 it...
Image by Imelenchon under Creative Commons License.
Grand Central Terminal

7) Grand Central Terminal

Built in 1903.

Built by and named for the New York Central Railroad in the heyday of American long-distance passenger trains, it is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms: 44 platforms, with 67 tracks along them.

It's building is modeled on a merge between a Roman triumphal arch and a Roman bath. The Beaux Arts façade and interior concourse present a strong symbol that mixes antiquity with industrialization. It symbolizes the triumph of the railroad and it was...
Image by Diliff under Creative Commons License.
Woolworth Building

8) Woolworth Building

Built in 1911.

The Woolworth Building, at 57 stories, is one of the oldest skyscrapers in New York City. This once tallest building in the world is one of the masterpieces of early skyscraper design. Still to this day, it remains one of the fifty tallest buildings in the United States as well as one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City.

The Woolworth Building was constructed in neo-Gothic style by architect Cass Gilbert, who was commissioned by Frank Woolworth in 1910 to design...
Image by Jonathan71 under Creative Commons License.
New York Public Library

9) New York Public Library

Built in 1911.

With a combination of Classical and Beaux Art design, the main branch of the New York Public Library was the largest marble structure in the United States during the early 20th century.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is the third largest public library in North America and is one of the United States' most significant research libraries.

Since the New York Public Library is a network of 87 libraries, this building is also known as Stephen A. Schwarzman...
Image by Ken Thomas under Creative Commons License.
Chrysler Building

10) Chrysler Building

Built from 1928 to 1930.

Standing at 1,047 ft it was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931. Even though it lived as the tallest building in the world only for a few months, the Chrysler building’s Art Deco design placed it in a monumental spot in New York’s skyline. Referencing the automobile, this is one of the first large buildings to use metal extensively on the exterior.

When the building first opened, it...
Image by Misterweiss under Creative Commons License.
Empire State Building

11) Empire State Building

Built in 1931.

This Art Deco iconic building was the tallest building in the world from 1931 till 1975, when the World Trade Center took the title. After 9/11 it stood again as the tallest building in New York, until surpassed by the new Freedom Tower. The Empire State Building is the first building to cross the 100 floors mark (102 floors) and it broke the record of construction time. It took only one year and forty-five days to build, considering it was built during the Great Depression.

Image by Jiuguang Wang under Creative Commons License.
Rockefeller Center

12) Rockefeller Center

Built in 1932.

This complex of 19 buildings is one of the best examples of urban planning in New York City. Here you will find Radio City Music Hall, the famous Rockefeller skating rink, and the Top of The Rock observation deck.

The centerpiece of Rockefeller Center is the 70-floor, 872-foot GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza ("30 Rock") —formerly known as the RCA Building— located behind the sunken plaza.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Image by David Shankbone under Creative Commons License.
United Nations Headquarters

13) United Nations Headquarters

Built in 1947.

Standing on the eastern shore of Manhattan, on the banks of East River, the United Nations Headquarters remains both a symbol of peace and a beacon of hope.

This modern complex helped revitalize New York City at the end of World War II and it’s 38 stories tower was the first mayor International Style design constructed in the city. The design was based on the plans developed under the collaboration of architects Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier - two of the most well known...
Image by Padraic under Creative Commons License.
Seagram Building

14) Seagram Building

Built in 1958.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in collaboration with Philip Johnson, designed this often-overlooked tower. The building stands 516 feet tall with 38 stories. Although the Seagram Building wasn’t the first all stainless-steel and glass building constructed on Park Avenue, it’s one of the finest and most elegant examples of curtain-wall architecture in the world.

This structure, and the International style in which it was built, which expressed and articulated the structure of...
Image by Tom Ravenscroft under Creative Commons License.
Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum

15) Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Built in 1959.

The Guggenheim is Frank Lloyd Wright’s (one of the best architects of all times) last major work and it is considered as one of the 20th century's most important architectural landmarks. Its unique form and design make this building an unmistakeable icon. Unlike conventional museums, the main gallery is a spiraling ramp that connects all six floors seamlessly. Its white curled ribbon appearance is in sharp contrast to the more typically boxy Manhattan buildings that...
Image by Figuura under Creative Commons License.
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

16) Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Built in 1968.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is comprised of a unity of several travertine buildings that surround an open, user-friendly plaza. The center, located between 62nd St. and 66th St. and between Colombus Av. and Amsterdam Av., is considered one of New York’s great collections of modern art and architecture. The Metropolitan Opera House, located on the west side of Lincoln Center, is the focal point of this cultural hub. It is also the largest of the buildings.

Image by MBisanz under Creative Commons License.
World Financial Center

17) World Financial Center

Built between 1985 and 1988.

The World Financial Center is a group of four Post-Modernist towers built on the Hudson River landfill next to the World Trade Center site. While they might not be particularly iconic in terms of architecture, they hold an important place in New York’s economy and history. Portions of the complex, especially the Winter Garden, were severely damaged in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The complex was built on landfill used to build Battery Park City....
Image by WiNG under Creative Commons License.
Hearst Tower

18) Hearst Tower

Base built in 1928 and Tower built in 2004.

This interesting building, the headquarters for the Hearst Corporation, combines an Art Moderne base with a Late Modern tower. The six-story base was built by the architect Joseph Urban and it was originally intended to be the base of a skyscraper, but the tower was not built due to the Great Depression. In 2004, the base got it's deserved tower, nearly 80 years after original construction.

The modern tower stands 46 stories tall and sharply...
Image by Alsandro under Creative Commons License.
Bank of America Tower

19) Bank of America Tower

Built between 2008 and 2009.

This contemporary design incorporates a playful design with its tilted glass walls that deform the shape of the tower as it rises. It is currently New York’s second tallest building (1,200 ft or 366 m), only after the Empire State Building, and it is one of the most highly efficient and ecologically friendly buildings in the world.

The building had a total cost of US$1 billion and was designed by Cook+Fox Architects, currently one of the world leading...
Image by User Jleon under Creative Commons License.
Brooklyn Museum

20) Brooklyn Museum

Built in 1897.

The Brooklyn Museum is one of the premier art institutions in the world. It is the second-largest art museum in New York City and one of the largest in the United States. Its permanent collection includes objects ranging from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, as well as the art of many other cultures.

It is housed in a 560,000 square foot (52,000 m²) Beaux-Arts building designed with a steel frame structure but covered with classical masonry. The museum,...
Image by PaladinHero1 under Creative Commons License.
Museum of Modern Art

21) Museum of Modern Art

Built in 1939.

The Museum of Modern Art (also known as MoMA) has been important in developing and collecting modernist art and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. Some of the collections include architecture and design, painting, sculpture, photography, among other.

In 1929, the Museum opened in an existing building on 57th Street, but it wasn’t until 1939 when it moved to its present location. A number of additions attest to the success and...
Image by hibino under Creative Commons License.
High Line

22) High Line

Railway Built in 1939, Park built from 2009 to 2011.

The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) linear park built on a section of a former elevated freight railroad spur. The elevated park, designed by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, counts with a design that unifies various architectural pieces and public spaces.

The High Line Park currently runs from Gansevoort Street up to 30th Street.

The park's attractions include naturalized plantings, inspired by the...
Image by Beyond My Ken under Creative Commons License.
Brooklyn Bridge

23) Brooklyn Bridge

Built from 1870 to 1883.

The Brooklyn Bridge, originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

The bridge was initially designed by German...
Image by Tiago Fioreze under Creative Commons License.
Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower

24) Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower

Built in 1927.

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower is the second tallest building in the borough of Brooklyn. At 37 stories and 512 feet (156 m) tall, it was the tallest and is still the third tallest building on Long Island, and is among the tallest four-sided clock towers in the world.

It was built by the architectural firm Halsey, McCormack and Helmer in a modernized (Art Deco) Byzantine Romanesque style. Its interior has a vast, vaulted banking hall, 63 feet (19 m) high. It stands as...
Image by Gryffindor under Creative Commons License.

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