A Photographer's Guide To 10 Architectural Wonders In Manhattan

The Lower Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge
The Lower Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge | © Stefano Politi Markovina / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Bryony Hatherley
9 February 2017

The Manhattan skyline is world-famous, complete with historic landmarks standing beside cutting-edge Modernist feats. From medieval museums to corporate headquarters, these are 10 of Manhattan’s most photogenic buildings.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Art Gallery, Building, Museum, School
Map View
Designed by American “starchitect” Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is one of most respected institutions for modern and contemporary art in the world – not to mention a landmark of New York City architecture. Conceived of as an “inverted-ziggurat” and characterized by magnificent spirals, Wright’s design guides an entirely unique and expressive journey through the history of 20th and 21st century art. First opened to the public in 1959 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2008, Wright’s iconic white masterpiece is one of Manhattan’s most photogenic design feats.

The Cloisters

Building, Monastery, Museum, Park
Map View
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s older, quieter counterpart is located in Upper Manhattan within a picturesque Fort Tryon Park. Overlooking the Hudson River and out to the steep cliffs of the Palisades, the Cloisters is an authentic medieval wonder that made its way (in pieces) from France to New York City in the latter half of the 19th century. The building is a fusion of five French cloisters from the Middle Ages, and houses over 5,000 medieval European artworks and artifacts. The museum is well worth a visit for its astounding collection, tranquil herb gardens (accurately designed according to medieval literature), and unusual serenity alone – but it’s also one of New York City’s most fascinating architectural sites due to its rare history. Photograph the building’s striking façades, or capture the details of its expertly-sculpted adornments.

Seagram Building

Building, Park
Map View
Seagram Building against Manhattan skyline.
Seagram Building against Manhattan skyline. | © Perry van Munster / Alamy Stock Photo
It may be an acquired taste for some, but the Seagram Building is an architectural masterpiece designed by one of the greatest Bauhaus figures of the 20th century. Alongside the likes of Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe paved the way for architectural modernism. Located between 52nd and 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, this 38-floor skyscraper was unveiled in 1958. The interior restaurants were notably designed by the great Modernist/Postmodernist architect, Philip Johnson.

The Cathedral of St. John The Divine

Building, Cathedral, Church, Park
Map View
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York.
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York. | © MB_Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Begun in the final years of the 19th century, St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood is considered the world’s largest Anglican church. Well over a century after the first cornerstone was laid, this sublime building has yet to be completed; regardless, it serves as a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture in New York City. Aside from the church’s arresting façades, it houses one of the United States’ foremost textile conservation labs, dedicated to preserving the cathedral’s collection of tapestries as well as textile treasures from around the world. From the Barberini tapestries to one of Keith Haring’s final artworks, St. John the Divine is a certain point of interest for street photographers, history buffs, and art aficionados.

The Dakota

Building, Park
Map View
The Dakota building; located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, known as the home of John Lennon, New York City, USA.
The Dakota building; located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, known as the home of John Lennon, New York City, USA. | © Stocksnapper / Shutterstock
This striking residential building overlooking Central Park West has a dark history as the site of Beatles member John Lennon’s murder. Built in 1884, the now-exclusive co-op was designed by the same architect who realized the famous Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. It was built in a German Renaissance aesthetic with characteristically French accents, and became a New York City landmark in 1969. In 1976 the Dakota became a National Historic Landmark. Visitors may also recognize the building from the 1968 cult horror film, Rosemary’s Baby.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Building, Cathedral, Church
Map View
Detail of facade, St Patrick Cathedral of New York City.
St Patrick’s Cathedral sits amid midtown’s skyscrapers | © Architect's Eye / Alamy Stock Photo
One of New York City’s most iconic landmarks, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is an arresting Neo-Gothic structure located in Midtown Manhattan. From its richly-colored stained glass windows to the immensely-detailed masonry, this historic building attracts visitors from all over the world for its grandeur.

The Chrysler Building

Map View
Chrysler Building at 42nd St and Lexington Avenue, New York City.
Chrysler Building at 42nd St and Lexington Avenue, New York City. | © PSL Images / Alamy Stock Photo
A historic staple of the Manhattan skyline, the Chrysler Building stands at well over 1,000 feet tall with an astounding Art Deco design. The building, which served as the headquarters for the Chrysler Corporation from the 1930s into the 1950s, was ranked one of America’s favorite buildings by the American Institute of Architects in 2007. Reminiscent of a bygone era in New York City, the Chrysler Building remains one of the most classically photogenic points of interest in Manhattan.

New York by Gehry

Map View
Characterized by its other-worldly aesthetic, New York by Gehry is one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, and one of the most striking skyscrapers in the Manhattan skyline. Designed by Frank Gehry, New York by Gehry appears alive with fluid waves of silver. Photograph the building’s façades at different times of day for comparative visual perspectives.

The Flatiron Building

Map View
Daniel H. Burnham was one of the first architects to build up instead of out, which laid the conceptual foundation for the modern-day skyscraper. He would go on to design the famous Flatiron Building in Manhattan. Completed in 1902, the Flatiron Building was, for a time, the tallest of its kind in New York City. While it’s dwarfed in comparison to modern-day constructions, its striking Renaissance and Beaux-Arts aesthetic remains a sight to behold over a century later.

The IAC Building

Map View
View from the High Line Park to the 2007 IAC World Headquarters Building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
View from the High Line Park to the 2007 IAC World Headquarters Building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. | © Lee Snider / Alamy Stock Photo
For photographers with a keen architectural eye who wish to avoid the crowds drawn by New York’s best-known skyscrapers, pay a visit to the IAC Building. Designed by the great Frank Gehry and completed in 2007, the building is located amid the galleries in Chelsea on 18th Street and 11th Avenue. Bearing a simultaneously organic and alien appearance, the building’s unusual angles and materials guarantee a series of arresting photographs.

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