Skyscraper Museum | Celebrating the Architectural History of NYC

by Denise Marie

The Skyscraper Museum was created to celebrate New York City’s architectural history and to examine the different influences that shaped one of the most impressive skylines in the world. Through a variety of ways, such as exhibitions and publications, the museum analyzes the role of the tall building in our everyday life, as well as objects of art and design.

The museum is a private, not-for-profit educational corporation that was founded in 1996. The main aim of the museum is to study the past, present and future of high rise buildings.

History of the Museum

The Skyscraper Museum initially started off as a temporary exhibition that set up home for itself in four different places between the years 1997 and 2003. While its exhibition, “Design Development: Time Square” was being shown in 2001 at 110 Maiden Lane, the museum was forced to close its doors and move due to its proximity to the World Trade Center and the devastation of 9-11. The floor space of the Maiden Lane location was instead used as an emergency center following the tragedy.

In 2004, the museum was finally given a permanent home in Battery Park City, Lower Manhattan, in a building that is shared with others, including the Ritz Carlton Hotel and a 38-story condominium tower. The building’s developers, Millennium Partners, generously donated ownership of the space to the museum. The permanent museum was designed by the award-winning architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).

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What’s to See at the Skyscraper Museum?

The very location of the museum – with a panoramic view of New York’s harbor, and the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop – immediately provides it with the atmosphere needed to truly celebrate a museum devoted to high risers and buildings.

Visitors enter the museum up a narrow ramp and find themselves in a well-lit space containing brightly lit vitrines. Because of the relatively small floor space assigned to the museum (around 5,800 square feet), the designer cleverly utilized special effects such as floors and ceilings sheathed in stainless steel to create an optical illusion of larger space.

The Skyscraper Museum includes two main exhibition halls. The first houses the museum’s core exhibit called “Skyscraper/City” which presents the evolution of New York’s commercial skyline. The second exhibition hall is home to a variety of changing shows throughout the museum’s calendar.

Since the museum moved to its permanent home, and has acquired show space, it has been able to start collecting artifacts related to the history of skyscrapers, and preserving them.

Changing Exhibitions and Programs

Since the world of architecture is forever growing and evolving, the Skyscraper Museum seeks to keep visitors abreast with the latest news and developments in the industry. Its exhibitions are always current and the museum will usually run an educational program alongside a popular exhibition to teach the public more about the topic.

An example would the “Burj Dubai” exhibition that provides fascinating information about the construction of what is due to be the tallest building in the world. The exhibition shows all the steps connected to the building of this masterpiece, from the ingenious engineering used, to the basic construction hiccups that come with trying to build a tower of at least 2,300 feet high, in the middle of the desert in temperatures that sometimes reach 120 degrees.

The museum also runs a series of lectures in conjunction with its popular exhibitions. These educational programs are usually free to members of the Skyscraper Museum and open – for a nominal fee – to the general public.

The museum also seeks to educate the public on current issues such as ‘green’ construction. It has run many popular programs in the past, including “Green Towers for New York: From Visionary to Vernacular” which focused on the development of ecologically friendly buildings which provide a high quality of life for its inhabitants, conserve energy and resources and are built with natural light as a top priority.

Family Programs

Despite its image as a very aesthetic and minimalist museum, the fact is that the Skyscraper Museum is very hands-on when it comes to children! The museum regularly runs workshops and activities where children can join in the fun of exploring the world of building and construction. Kids get to discover architecture at workshops run by real architects. Fun activities include constructing their own high rise creations using every day objects and building a giant house with brick blocks. All workshops are held at the museum itself, providing visual inspiration for any budding architects and engineers! Interested families should contact the museum to obtain a list of upcoming events.

The Gift Shop

No visit to the Skyscraper Museum would be complete without a stop off at its gift shop. The store offers a range of impressive books and publications on the world of architecture by noted authors, including the museum’s director, Carole Willis. A 10% discount on prices is available to museum members.

Also available in the store are posters from the museum’s exhibitions, as well as the general ware found in most gift shops such as t-shirts, caps and mugs. The store is open from Wednesday to Saturday, from 12.00 until 6 pm.

Visiting Skyscraper Museum NYC

The Skyscraper Museum is situated at 39 Battery Place, Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon until 6 pm. Guided tours are offered to groups during hours when the museum is not open to the general public. Students and seniors get a discounted price.

The museum itself is in close proximity to many of New York’s main tourist sites, including Ellis Island embarkation points, the Statue of Liberty and Broadway and is easily accessible by public transport.

The Skyscraper Museum is probably the only one of its kind in the world and therefore generates a lot of interest from people connected to the building industry, as well as the general public. The museum was created to celebrate the exciting world of high rise building and also with the idea of providing visitors with a unique experience, such as the feeling of standing forty stories in the air over a busy New York street. This is a definite must-see site when visiting New York!

Location: at 39 Battery Place, New York City, New York
Phone: 212-968-1961

Click here to visit Skyscraper Museum official website.

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with the company in question.

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