2004

This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.

The skyscraper — a multi-story office building served by an elevator — was born in Lower Manhattan in the decades following the Civil War, just a short walk from Battery Park City and this tightly-focused museum. Carol Willis, who authored Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago, founded The Skyscraper Museum in 1996 and it moved to this location, on the ground floor of the 39-story Ritz-Carlton Hotel (Handel Architects) in March 2004. In planning Battery Park City, guidelines required that developers provide various public amenities. Cultural institutions that benefit from this program include the Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library, Poets House, an intimate literary center, and this small museum, which occupies a five-thousand square foot space opposite the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at the southeast corner of Battery Place and 1st Place.

Architect Roger Duffy, a senior partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was responsible for its riveting interior. His firm, which played a major role in the creation of many of the world’s tallest buildings, such as the Burj Khalfia in Dubai and One World Trade Center, worked on this related institutional project at no cost to the museum. Among the firm’s various designers, Duffy has developed a consistent reputation for producing daring, somewhat unconventional works. In New York City, examples include the recently completed New School University Center on 14th Street in Manhattan, and the Toren, a striking apartment tower on Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn.

For this unique project, Duffy created a sleek, modern interior that celebrates verticality. Both the ceilings and floor surfaces are clad with mirror-polished stainless-steel panels that reflect the various vertical elements, especially the freestanding exhibition vitrines. These column-like elements, which incorporate lighting and other utilities, consequently appear much taller than they actually are.

Entering the museum, we head left and ascend a long ramp flanked by windows. Near the top, one turns to face the towering vitrines that punctuate the main gallery space. Here, many notable exhibitions have examined the origins of this building type and its relationship to the urban environment, from the now historic streets of Manhattan, to Dubai and Shanghai — where the skyscraper’s future is currently being written.

Matthew A. Postal