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A note from Untapped Cities founder, Michelle Young: 

9/11 happened on the first day of registration my sophomore year in college. I was sleeping and I remember hearing bounding footsteps in the hallway of our thinly-walled dorms at Harvard and someone saying that the World Trade Center had fallen. It seemed like something out of a crazy dream, so I kept on sleeping. I woke up to instant messages (remember those on AOL?) from New York, where I’m from. Friends at Columbia University had seen the whole thing happen from their skyscraper dorms in Morningside Heights. 


Times Square Municipal Art Society CompetitionMosaic of 6 entry boards for the Municipal Art Society competition. (Credits: William F Schacht & Cassandra Mcgowen, Richard Haas & Judith DiMaio, Gilbert Gorski, Frank Lupo & Daniel Rowen, Lee Dunnette, Jaime Gonzales-Goldstein & Martin Maurin, George Ranalli, Paul Bentel & Carol Rusche)

Now through January 2015, the Skyscraper Museum is presenting the exhibit Times Square 1984: The Postmodern Moment. The exhibit takes visitors back to the seedy, crime ridden, nostalgic Times Square of the late 1970s early 1980s. In 1984, the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts organized an alternative “ideas competition” for Times Square with a $10,000 prize, in reaction to a critically panned proposal by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The request for proposals drew more than five hundred entrants and widespread press attention. The New York Times recently highlighted this new exhibit in a slideshow highlighting 20 of the boards museum director Carol Willis was able to track down.


Hearst Building vintage photo NYC Untapped CitiesVintage photo of the Hearst Building via Hearst Corporation

In 1926, William Randolph Hearst commissioned Joseph Urban, one of the most important theater designers of the time, to create a building to house his magazine empire. The International Magazine Building, which is located at 300 West 57 Street, was built between 1927 and 1928 at a cost of two million dollars. The building was supposed to convey “its cultural importance, expressing the influence of [Hearst’s] magazines ‘on the thought and education for the reading public.”

The building was designed with an auditorium for concerts, lectures, “and other similar educational activities.” Between 1945 and 1947, George B. Post & Sons designed nine additional stories for the building. The plans were filed in 1946 but never realized.  (more…)


New York City is home to multiple stunning and architecturally unique college campuses from Columbia’s Neo-Classical acropolis to City College’s Gothic estate. Had the Depression not occurred, the City would have also been home to an exotic Moorish Revival Campus.

Yeshiva University was born out of the 1915 merging of Yeshiva Etz Chaim, which had been founded in 1886, and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which was founded in 1897. It was located in a small refurbished building on Montgomery Street, on the Lower East Side. Within a decade, the University was ready for a new campus.  (more…)

Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower Madison Square Park NYC Untapped CitiesThe Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower when it was the tallest building in the world. Source: Library of Congress

We all know the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building on Madison Square Park with its distinctive tower rising high on the skyline. Yet, many people don’t realize that there could have been another, very different MetLife tower if one architect’s plans had come to fruition.

Harvey Wiley Corbett was born in San Francisco in 1873 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Corbett worked as a draftsman with Cass Gilbert (architect of the Woolworth Building), but it was his collaboration with Hugh Ferriss on drawings of what a skyscraper city could look like while abiding by the 1916 Zoning Laws that made his work well known. He turned his theoretical work into reality by building incredible Art Deco skyscrapers.  (more…)

Brooklyn Museum

In 1893, McKim, Mead, & White won the design competition for what would become the Brooklyn Museum. Their design featured a Beaux-Arts masterpiece , 560 feet square, with four interior light courts. The Greco-Roman building won praise for its sculpture filled façade (noted sculptors include Daniel Chester French, Adolph Weinman, and Charles Kerk). In New York City, the Brooklyn Museum is often overlooked, despite the fact that it is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States and is well known for its Egyptian Collection.  (more…)