The proposed 2022 skyline overlooking Central Park.
Photograph: Andrew C Nelson/Jose Hernandez/Skyscraper Museum
An extreme concentration of wealth in a city where even the air is for sale has produced a new breed of needle-like tower. By Oliver Wainwright
It is rare in the history of architecture for a new type of building to emerge. The Romans’ discovery of concrete birthed the great domes and fortifications of its empire. The Victorians’ development of steel led to an era of majestic bridges and vaulted train sheds. The American invention of the elevator created the first skyscrapers in Chicago. Now, we are seeing a new type of structure that perfectly embodies the 21st-century age of technical ingenuity and extreme inequality. A heady confluence of engineering prowess, zoning loopholes and an unparalleled concentration of personal wealth have together spawned a new species of super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive spire.
Any visitor to New York over the past few years will have witnessed this curious new breed of pencil-thin tower. Poking up above the Manhattan skyline like etiolated beanpoles, they seem to defy the laws of both gravity and commercial sense. They stand like naked elevator shafts awaiting their floors, raw extrusions of capital piled up until it hits the clouds.