You can feel New York’s eclectically diverse culture by walking through the streets, and you can see it by looking up at the buildings. Dozens of architectural styles surround each other from different periods in history, artistic movements, and architectural philosophies to create the unique skyline of New York City. Find out the architectural styles behind some of your favorite New York City landmarks.

1. Art Deco – The Chrysler Building

Established in France in the 1920s, the sleek but not minimal style of Art Deco unmistakably represents the era of the Machine Age. Identifying features of Art Deco include ornate, consistent, and geometric detailing of various motifs and fragmented shapes commonly found on the facade. The style is also known for its bold use of contrasting colors, geometric and decorative windows, and spires and parapets that decorate the corners of its buildings.

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The Chrysler Building is an iconic example of Art Deco because of its ornamental radiating terraced crowned arches, triangular vaulted windows, and the decorative eagles at the corners of the building. It is located on the East Side of Manhattan in the neighborhood of Turtle Bay and was constructed by Walter Chrysler in 1930.

2. Art Nouveau – The Little Singer Building

Originating in the 1890s in France and Belgium, Art Nouveau was an artistic movement that emerged in response to and as a rejection of the Industrial Revolution and the rigidness of formal architecture. In contrast, this style emphasizes curves inspired by natural forms like flowers and plants. As a result, the philosophy of Art Nouveau was founded on the idea that artistic design should be a part of everyday objects and life. Identifying features of Art Nouveau style include asymmetrical shapes, extensive use of curved glass and arches, and motifs and ornamentation inspired by nature and natural forms.

Designed by architect Ernest Flagg, the Little Singer Building was built in 1902 and is located south of Prince Street on Broadway. The tracery and ornamental red detailing on the facade of the building and the curvatures of the iron balconies exemplify its Art Nouveau style.

3. Beaux-Arts – Grand Central Station

Originating in France in the 19th century, the ancient-looking, historical revival style of Beaux-Arts evolved from French classicism as a result of new technologies and modern materials. Beaux-Arts merges the grand essence of classicism’s columns, with the Renaissance style and technological advances; specifically the use of steel and glass to allow light. Beaux Arts puts an emphasis on symmetry, columnar support, and triangular pediments.

Grand Central Station, located in Midtown Manhattan, was constructed between 1903 and 1913 by two architectural firms, Reed & Stem, and Warren & Wetmore. The Beaux-Arts characteristics of Grand Central Station include the symmetrical columns and the embedded statues and figures on the facade of the main entrance.

4. Brutalism – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Making its debut in the 1950s in the United Kingdom, Brutalism was introduced by famous architect Le Corbusier. Descending from the Modernist movement, Brutalism was influenced by socialism and aims to achieve social utopianism through the design of utilitarian, low-cost social housing. Brutalism then became a common style amongst institutional buildings like universities, city halls, court houses, and libraries. Brutalism can be recognized by its rough and unfinished surfaces, blocky and geometric shapes, and materials such as concrete and brick.

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Famous architect Frank Loyld Wright designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum built in 1937. The boldness and the strong form of concrete of the Guggenheim Museum exemplify the defining features of Brutalism.

5. Cast-iron – The Bruce Building

New uses for iron began as a product of the Industrial Revolution. In the 1800s, cast iron was particularly popular, not only in construction, but also in ornamentation.  This style of architecture is naturally most easily identifiable by its use of iron material and is popular among bridges, balconies, and row buildings. Cast-iron architecture often uses the structure and form of the building as the complete decorative formation of the facade, with additional iron detailed ornamentation as well.

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/254%E2%80%93260_Canal_Street

The Bruce Building, constructed in 1857, was designed by architect James Bogardus and is located on the corner of Lafayette and Canal Street. It is a clear example of Cast-iron architecture because of its incorporation of the structure made of cast iron as the aesthetic of the facade.

6. Colonial  – Gracie Mansion

In the 1700s, European settlers in North America created Colonial architecture by incorporating the architectural styles of their native countries – mostly Greece and Rome – into their own homes. Originally, the style was intended to reproduce styles that colonists were familiar with back home in England, but eventually the style choice came to represent those wealthy enough to build their own original homes. Colonial architecture can be described as a very rectangular, formal, and symmetrical style.  Some other defining characteristics of Colonial architecture include dental moldings along the eaves, pediment dormers jutted from the roof, flat columns on each side of the door, and shutters along the windows.

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The Gracie Mansion was built in 1799 by architect Archibald Gracie and is located on East End Avenue at 88th Street. The symmetrical and rectangular style of the Gracie Mansion clearly exemplifies Colonial architecture.

7. Gothic Revival – Woolworth Building

Established in the late 1740s in England, Gothic Revival architecture is a mid-19th century picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting the public’s taste for buildings inspired by medieval design. It represents a departure from the previously popular styles that drew inspiration from the classical forms of ancient Greece and Rome. Some defining features of Gothic Revival include decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood molds, high pitched roofs, windows with pointed arches, and houses with cross-gabled rooftops.

The Woolworth Building, located on Broadway street in Tribeca, was completed in 1912 and designed by architect Cass Gilbert. The pitched corners and pointed arches contribute to the Gothic Revival style of this elegant skyscraper.

8. Italianate – Bouwerie Lane Theatre

Italianate architecture is a type of Victorian architecture that was popular during the 19th century. Inspired by 16th century Italian Renaissance Architecture, Italianate style made use of architectural elements from a romanticized past to create buildings that offered an alternative to the prevailing formality of classical architecture. As a result, less rigid building forms and floor plans as well as an emphasis on natural landscaping is popular in Italianate architecture. Identifiable Italianate characteristics include row houses, rectangular, sloping roof, tall and rounded windows, columned entryways, and the use of cupolas. 

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouwerie_Lane_Theatre 

The Bouwerie Lane Theatre, located in NoHo on Bowery, was constructed in 1874 and designed by architect Henry Engelbert for the Atlantic Savings Bank. It is now an off-Broadway theater. The tall rectangular row-like building is a true illustration of Italianate architecture.

9. Modernism – Seagram Building

Modernism began at the end of the 19th century as a movement to break away from classical styles and embrace the revolution of innovation. The famous modernist mantra, “Form follows function,” explains the identifying features of modernism, specifically minimalism and rejection of ornamentation. Modern architecture makes use of new technology of construction, and innovative materials such as glass, steel, and reinforced concrete. 

The Seagram Building is a skyscraper in midtown designed by well known architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson in 1957. The simple, minimalist facade of the Seagram Building makes it noticeably modern in the New York skyline. 

10. Postmodernism – Sony Tower

In the 1960s, postmodernism grew popular as a rejection of modernist rigidness, lack of ornamentation, and lack of architectural history. As a response to Meis Van der Rohe’s modernist ideals of “less is more,” postmodernist architect, Robert Venturi, coined the term, “less is bore.” Postmodernism is extremely elaborate and puts an emphasis on facades with curved forms, decorative elements, asymmetry, bright colors, and features often borrowed by earlier architectural movements and an embracement of history and the past.

Architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson completed the design of the Sony Tower, a skyscraper located in midtown Manhattan, in 1984. The boldness of postmodernism is apparent through the character in the Sony Tower facade with its playful inwardly curved roof and colors.