One of the highest compliments that is often paid to accomplished scholars in a given field is that they have forgotten more than most people will ever know about their area of specialty. Something similar may be true of the world’s great cities: They’ve often demolished more prime floorspace than most cities will ever build.
And perhaps the greatest city of all, by this measure and many others, is New York. As one might guess, the island of Manhattan, which was the undisputed skyscraper capital of the world for well over a half century, has demolished an astonishing expanse of floorspace since its inception. However, what’s truly striking is not just the sheer volume of usable and even prime square footage that has been slated for intentional destruction but the sheer aesthetic value of many of the buildings that the Big Apple didn’t even blink at snuffing out of existence in the name of progress.
2.4 million square feet here, 2.4 million square feet there
In midtown Manhattan, halfway between Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building, stands a jet-black, glistening obelisk of steel, glass and chrome that towers above Park Avenue. The stunning home of J.P Morgan Chase has an imposing and even awe-inspiring presence that befits an international investment-banking powerhouse.
Some might dismiss the structure as just another glass box. But close inspection reveals a highly original and powerfully modern design, frozen yet strangely alive. However, what makes 270 Park Avenue really special is that its more than 2.4 million square feet are slated for extinction. That’s right. A building that would easily be the domineering centerpiece of almost any city, were it randomly reassigned to somewhere other than Manhattan or Chicago, is being torn down in its entirety to make way for an even bigger skyscraper. For Manhattan properties, merely being a major aesthetic achievement that’s worth $4 billion isn’t enough to guarantee immunity from the wrecking ball.
Upon its destruction, 270 Park Avenue will surpass Lower Manhattan’s neoclassical masterpiece, the Singer Building, as the tallest building to be deliberately destroyed.