Past Exhibitions

The Woolworth Building @100

FEBRUARY 27, 2013 through SEPTEMBER 15, 2013

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woolworth at night

Woolworth Building at Night,
April 24, 1913. Library of Congress.


Eighty thousand incandescent bulbs illuminated the New York night on April 24, 1913, when the Woolworth Building opened with a ceremony attended by 800 dignitaries. Witnessed by multitudes and wired to press around the world, the brilliant spectacle was a career-crowning achievement for the tower’s owner, the five-and-dime store king Frank W. Woolworth, who paid for the skyscraper with his personal fortune and took a hands-on role in every decision of its design. The great Gothic tower-the Cathedral of Commerce-became the preeminent silhouette on the New York skyline and took the title of world’s tallest office building.


Atlantic Terra Cotta workers
underneath a buttress on the forty-
seventh story, “A 52-Story Facade,”
Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, 1913.

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URBAN FABRIC: Building New York’s Garment District

July 25, 2012 through January 20, 2013.

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View curator Andrew Dolkart’s lecture, “Developing the Garment District!”

The largest concentration of skyscraper factories in the world, the 18 blocks that were the heart of New York’s Garment District, once supported more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs and produced nearly 3/4 of all women’s and children’s apparel in the United States. The rapid development of the district–the area of west midtown from 35th to 41st Streets and from Seventh to Ninth Avenues–occurred almost entirely within the boom decade of the 1920s, when more than 125 stepped-back “loft” buildings took the pyramidal forms dictated by the city’s new zoning law.

Most of the high-rises were erected and owned by immigrant entrepreneurs who had begun their climb from clothing manufacturers, to builders, to real estate moguls. Some made and lost fortunes as boom turned to bust in the Depression, and their names–Lefcourt, Adler, Bricken, among others–have faded.… Read the rest

News Paper Spires

February 2012 - July 2012 The first chapters in New York's high-rise history were written in the 1870s through the early 1900s when the city's great newspapers --the Times, Tribune, and World, among others-- erected tall towers as signature headquarters. "Newspaper Row" on the east side of City Hall Park was center stage for their architectural competition and a concentrated hub of production, transforming news into newspapers. These early skyscrapers were both ostentatious advertisements of the papers' self-proclaimed supremacy and vertical factories where on high floors, editors approved stories and compositors set type, while in the cellar and basement, steam engines or dynamos powered thundering presses that night and day rolled out tens of thousands of papers per hour.


July 2011 – January 2012. SUPERTALL! is an international survey of superlative towers featuring projects that have been completed since 2001, are under construction, or are expected to top out by 2016. Take a virtual tour of the exhibit here!

Vertical Urban Factory

January 2011–June 2011 Vertical Urban Factory features the innovative architectural design, structural engineering, and processing methods of significant factory buildings from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Now, over a century after the first large factories began to dominate our cities, the exhibition poses the question: Can factories present sustainable solutions for future self-sufficient cities?


APRIL 2010 - JANUARY 2011. The Rise of Wall Street charts the architectural evolution of one of the world's most famous locales. "Wall Street" is a broad metaphor for the American center for global finance and a real place with an inordinately rich history layered into every lot of its nearly half-mile length, stretching from Trinity Church on Broadway to the East River.


JUNE 2009 - APRIL 2010
Shanghai today is a vast metropolis of 18 million residents—the largest city in the world's most populous nation. In just three decades, its population has nearly doubled, and the city has been physically transformed by the twin emblems of modernity—high-rises and highways. Formerly a horizontal expanse of dense and sprawling lilong neighborhoods, Shanghai has grown vertically. Nearly 400 high-rises of twenty stories or more were built in the historic core, Puxi, since 1990, and colossal elevated roads fly over old neighborhoods. In the new business district of Pudong on the east side of the river, a master plan dictates taller towers rising from open green space, culminating in a pair—soon to be a trio—of the world's ten tallest skyscrapers. This is the third exhibition in the FUTURE CITY 20|21 cycle.


JULY 2008 - JUNE 2009
Hong Kong, Asia's Manhattan, is today an island of skyscrapers. Born of its deep-water harbor and constrained by its limited land and steep hillsides, the city expanded upward beginning in the 1970s, even surpassing the number of high-rises in New York in recent years. Driven by similar forces, the vertical development of Hong Kong and New York is compared in this exhibition through photography, film, architectural studies, and an analysis of the demographics and densities of the world's most dramatic skyscraper societies. This was the second exhibition in the FUTURE CITY 20|21 cycle.


OCTOBER 2007 - JUNE 2008
As part of the FUTURE CITY 20|21 cycle of three exhibitions, NEW YORK MODERN looked back at prophecies of the skyscraper city in the early 20th century when the first dreams of a fantastic vertical metropolis took shape. From the invention of the tall office building and high-rise hotels in the late 19th century, New York began to expand upward, and by 1900, the idea of unbridled growth and inevitably increasing congestion was lampooned in cartoons in the popular press and critiqued by prominent architects and urban reformers.


APRIL 2007 - OCTOBER 2007
The ambition to erect the world's tallest building is as old as the ages, and like the pyramids or gothic cathedrals, Burj Dubai is an epoch-defining tower and an architectural and engineering marvel that tackles unprecedented challenges of design and construction. The slender supertall represents the collective effort of ninety designers in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and a team of consulting companies. The exhibition placed Burj Dubai in both the historical context of the competition for the world's tallest building and in the contemporary arena of Dubai's explosive growth.

GIANTS: The Twin Towers & the Twentieth Century

This exhibit commemorated the original World Trade Center, viewing its creation in the context of the technological ambitions of the 1960s and the hundred-year evolution of New York's skyline. The exhibition featured architectural and engineering models, construction photographs and films, drawings and other documents addressing the planning and design on the complex. The multimedia installation included video and audio clips, as well as interactive touch-screens that allowed visitors to view hundreds of construction photographs in the Museum's collection and to see and hear interviews of key figures in the Trade Center's design and development.

GREEN TOWERS FOR NEW YORK: From Visionary to Vernacular

JANUARY 2006 - JUNE 2006
An exhibition that surveyed a new generation of skyscrapers recently completed or under construction in New York City that embraced sustainability and green building strategies as a central tenet of their design. Ranging from high-profile corporate headquarters to speculative office towers, and from "green" apartment blocks to mixed-use and institutional projects, these buildings represented a leading-edge of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility for high rise architecture in the U.S. today.


2004 - JUNE 2006 Just six blocks south of Ground Zero, The Skyscraper Museum opened an exhibition on the World Trade Center that featured the original model created for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by the architect Minoru Yamasaki.

FAVORITES! 100 Experts Pick Their Top 10 New York Towers

AUGUST 2005 - JANUARY 2006
What are your Top Ten favorite New York skyscrapers? That question was posed in a Skyscraper Museum survey completed by an invited list of 100 knowledgeable New Yorkers and building industry professionals, including architects and engineers, developers, brokers, builders, historians, and critics. The results were seen in this exhibition.


City of Change explored the role of the skyscraper in shaping the identity and character of downtown's streets and skyline in The Skyscraper Museum's exhibition running from January through August, 2005. Linking past, present, and future, the exhibit examined the construction of the World Trade Center and the rebuilding at Ground Zero and highlighted the new construction and residential conversions underway throughout the district.


The first comprehensive examination of the high-rise designs of America's foremost architect examined Wright's abiding interest in the re-invention of the tall building. Over the course of his long career, Wright designed a dozen high-rise buildings of which only two were built--the Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin (1944), and the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma (1952-56). With these designs, Wright proposed a new structure for the skyscraper, challenged prevailing building practices with his use of materials, and proposed new directions in high-rise living.


The Skyscraper Museum commemorated the anniversary of 9/11 on September 10, 2002 by erecting a Viewing Wall at Ground Zero. This would be the first of two walls. The second wall was completed in September 2003. The design of each wall consisted of a screen-like grid of galvanized steel that allowed visitors to see into the Trade Center site, as well as carry a series of large fiberglass panels that featured information on the buildings and rebuildings of lower Manhattan. Special alcoves of recessed bays contained panels with all the names of the victims of September 11, 2001.


FEBRUARY 2002 - MAY 2002
The following site is a tribute to the Twin Towers, examining the history of the complex in its conception, design, and construction from the 1960s through the mid-1970s -- and their destruction on the morning of 9/11.


2000 - SEPTEMBER 2001
Inspired by the popularity of the museum's 2000 spring lecture series, Times Square Now, the installation explored the interactions of design and development by showing the evolution of the building form through multiple study models.


Through taking an unconventional look at high-rise size. The exhibition introduced Jumbo and Super Jumbo buildings, categories that describe size as measured by volume.


OCTOBER 1998 - AUGUST 1999
Examined the design and construction of New York's signature skyscraper, drawing together photographs and film of the construction, architectural and engineering drawings, contracts, builders' records, financial reports, and other artifacts.


APRIL 1997 - DECEMBER 1997
On May 1, 1997, The Skyscraper Museum opened a major exhibition on the architecture and urbanism of Lower Manhattan in donated space, a vacant banking hall at 44 Wall Street, a 1926 skyscraper in the heart of New York's financial district.