December 8, 2009
by: Fran Leadon AIA

(L-R): Museum of Arts and Design; HL23; Diana Center (Nexus Hall).

Fran Leadon

The manuscript of the new edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, two years in the making, is due at the publishers next week, with publication scheduled for June 2010. Oxford University Press, the publishing house on Madison Avenue full of young, enthusiastic editors, is waiting patiently for us to deliver the finished 1,100-page book. The Guide is an unusual project for Oxford, in that Norval White, FAIA, and I are not only providing the book’s content (text, maps, and photographs), but the camera-ready design and layout as well, from the title page through the index. For the last month we have been in constant communication with our designer, Teresa Fox of Foxprint Design, and our copy editors Yuliya Ilizarov, Angela Starita, and Jeremy Reed, as we finalize the design of the new Guide.

This fifth edition represents a rather drastic re-imagining of previous editions, bursting with hundreds of new entries, more detailed maps (including each building footprint), larger photos, an expanded index, new neighborhoods in the Manhattan and Brooklyn sections, more landscape architecture projects, and more information about not only what is existing, but what has been demolished (detailed “Necrologies”) and what has been planned and promised but not built (yet). We hope the result is a Guide that explains the totality of 21st-century New York in all its spatial, cultural, and historic complexity.

As a design instructor, I spend much of my time in class teaching my students how to manage their time effectively, and I often scold them for doing things at the last minute. So it’s interesting to me that I should find myself in exactly that frantic state, running around the city at the last possible moment, visiting projects, snapping photos, and trying to squeeze one last project into the Guide. Yesterday, for instance, I went up to Columbus Circle to get a good shot of Brad Cloepfil’s, AIA, Museum of Arts and Design. (I wasn’t happy with the photos we already had; it turns out that MAD is difficult to photograph well, for reasons I don’t quite understand.) Two days ago I ran over to Chelsea to snap photos of Neil Denari’s HL23, which is nearing completion and warrants a photo in the Guide. Last week I was at Barnard College, shooting some nice early morning shots of Weiss-Manfredi’s Diana Center (Nexus Hall).

Last week I also discovered a nice project completely by accident as I was walking along West 123rd Street in Harlem: Keith Strand’s diminutive office and residence he calls “123 House.” Sandwiched between tall apartment buildings, 123 is a modernist take on a Federal-style house, with photo-voltaic panels punctured by a swinging glass hatchway in place of the traditional pitched roof and dormer. I squeezed 123 House into the Guide at the last possible moment, between entries for Greater Metropolitan Baptist Church and the Refuge Temple (formerly Harlem Casino), just as Strand’s actual house got squeezed into its sliver of a site.

Norval White, FAIA, is an architect, architectural historian and professor who has designed buildings throughout the U.S. In addition to the AIA Guide to New York City, he is the author of The Architecture Book and New York: A Physical History. He currently resides with his wife Camilla in Roques, France.

Elliot Willensky, FAIA, (1934-1990) was an architect and architectural historian. He served as vice chairman of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, and was the official Borough Historian of Brooklyn. He also wrote a popular history, When Brooklyn Was the World, 1920-1957.

Fran Leadon, AIA, is an architect and professor at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. He lives in Brooklyn.


Our website has detected that you are using a browser that will prevent you from accessing certain features. An upgrade is recommended to experience. Use the links below to upgrade your exisiting browser.