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AIANY Architecture Tour

NYC Architecture Boat Tour

AIANY Architecture Tour

Highrises, Skycrapers, and Supertalls

In New York in the early 20th century, well-known highrise buildings like the Woolworth Tower, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building reached for the sky and were dubbed “skyscrapers”. Today, the iconic New York City skyline is marked by a recent proliferation of much taller, super-slim, ultra-luxury residential towers. These pencil-thin buildings constitute a new type of skyscraper, made possible by remarkable feats of engineering, advances in material strengths, and a real estate market that drives building heights—and prices—ever skyward. The AIA Around Manhattan Architecture tour highlights the architects and engineers composing a new vision of the NYC skyline with these height-shattering new buildings. We’ll will shed light on the engineering marvels and zoning requirements that allow these heights, as well as the range of architectural styles across the city: super-stretched art deco, purist 3-dimensional grid, and the sloping, chiseled or crystalline forms that visibly break from the traditional NYC skyscraper.

As of January 1, 2019, New York City has 8 officially completed Supertall buildings, and that number could be doubled by January of next year.  So, what’s the difference between a regular highrise building and a “Supertall” skyscraper? 

Highrise refers to any building in New York That is over 75 feet tall (or the limit of how high a FDNY ladder truck can reach).


Skyscraper is a more metaphorical definition.  The term is borrowed from sailing and it describes the highest most point on the tallest mast on a sailboat.


Supertall, however, is a relatively new term by comparison, and is an official designation awarded by the organization called Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats to any building over 984 feet. The measurement marks the height of a building to the “top of the architectural expression” – not counting flagpoles, chimneys or antennae. However, “masts” are fair game—hence why we see such a proliferation of tall masts on top of recent supertall skyscrapers.


It has been several decades now since New York held the record for the tallest building in the world (with the Empire State building and World Trade Center North both holding that title at different points). Today, the distinction goes to Burj Khalifa in Dubai at a whopping 2,723 feet.  Still, New York is experiencing a new bumper crop of “Supertall” buildings.  So, here they are – THE SUPERTALLS OF NEW YORK, many of which you’ll see on our AIANY Around Manhattan tour:


  1. One World Trade Center: 1,776 FT


Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Architect


  1. 432 Park Avenue: 1,397 FT


Rafael Viñoly Architects


  1. The Empire State Building: 1,250 FT


Shreve Lamb and Harmon, Architects


  1. Bank of America Tower: 1,200 FT


Cook + Fox Architects


  1. 3 World Trade Center: 1,079 FT


Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners


  1. New York Times Tower: 1,046 FT


Renzo Piano Building Workshop with FXFOWLE Architects


  1. Chrysler Building: 1,046 FT


William van Alen, Architect


  1. One57: 1,004 FT


Atelier Christian de Portzamparc