This two minute time-lapse reconstructs the 400 year evolution of Lower Manhattan’s skyline. Watch as the city evolves from a small village into a glistening metropolis.
This is also a film about the history of technology. Changing methods of representing urban space influence our perception of time and the city. When New York City was founded, Dutch settlers captured their town’s appearance through seventeenth-century drawings and paintings. As the city grew, people started using printing presses to reproduce images of the city in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the twentieth century, photographers started capturing their city from above through aerial photos. For the first time, New Yorkers could view the entire city in a single panoramic photo.
In tribute to this long artistic tradition, this film constructs the city as each generation of New Yorkers would have represented it: through the subsequent technologies of drawing, printing, photography, and film.
The scan above is suitable for viewing but not for large-format printing. Please request access to the full-size scan at ~400dpi
This ink on paper drawing represents 800 hours of work over several months. The dimensions are 45 inches high by 79 inches wide (114 cm by 201 cm).
This panorama shows NYC looking northwest from above Governor’s Island and Red Hook. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Staten Island are outside the frame. The view is accurate as of summer 2017 and does not include buildings built after this time. View on Google Earth where this image is taken from.
The image features ~4,493 buildings. For the largest and most important buildings, more attention is paid to detail. All of Manhattan’s bridges and major parks are included. Any buildings excluded were done so because they were either too small, too distant to include, or not visible from the angle this image is taken.
● 1,769 buildings in Manhattan
● 436 buildings in Brooklyn
● 1,072 buildings in Queens
● 76 buildings in Bronx
● 1,140 buildings in New Jersey
● 9 construction cranes
● 25 water features
● 28 churches
● 47 ships
● 56 bridges
● 74 water towers
● 348 cars
One metropolis 5,080 features of the built environment shown
My goal in ten years is to research and teach about art history and urban studies. Unfortunately, most aspiring professors do not get to choose the city where they work. Because I might not have the privilege of working near New York City, I wanted to draw a keepsake of all my youthful memories and experiences here. I have a photographic memory walking through the city. So I have memories that relate to all the buildings shown. I plan to frame this on the wall above my desk.
What was the most difficult part?
Because the image is ink on paper, there is no way to erase a mistake. At the later stages, any slip of the pen might have destroyed several months of work.
I am delighted with the result, but the process was tedious and required drawing thousands of windows. I never counted how many. I could only work a few hours per day before becoming exhausted. I will never attempt a drawing like this again because it is so time-consuming, and I am unlikely to ever find myself trapped again at home for such a long period of time. Fortunately.
Has the current pandemic changed how I think about NYC?
The pandemic is forcing me to appreciate NYC from a distance. Even if I am afraid to ride public transit, this drawing – and the experiences it represents – will always be a part of me.
I can see this pandemic slowing down some gentrification and keeping the built environment similar to my drawing for a good few more years. I am just afraid that, with so many businesses closing, the city might emerge from this pandemic unfamiliar to how I remember it in this drawing.
Click red label to view detail area in detail.
Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. Brooklyn main post office (lower right) DUMBO industrial neighborhood (upper left)
Chinatown. Brooklyn Bridge in foreground. Pointed tower at left is the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse.
East River. Moving up the river from bottom: Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge.
Hudson River. World Trade Center in center. New Jersey in distance.
Wall Street with Stock Exchange
City Hall sits in middle above park. Pointed towers at right are Municipal Building and Federal courthouse.
Skyscrapers along the river are in Jersey City. Entrance to Holland Tunnel in distance.
Hudson River and Hoboken Terminal in foreground. NJ Meadowlands in background.
Newark, NJ in distance. Meadowlands in foreground. From bottom: the 1st river is the Hackensack and the 2nd is the Passaic.
Midtown Manhattan in center. Foreground trees with triumphal arch is Washington Park. Round park is Union Square.
Lower East Side. Williamsburg Bridge on right. Large factory in background generates steam power for ConEd.
Central Park and Midtown Manhattan. The Metropolitan Museum (right) and Museum of Natural History (left) are near Central Park.
Bronx in distance. Queens on right. Manhattan on left. Roosevelt Island in middle with Queensborough Bridge above.
Harlem and Bronx. GW Bridge in distance. Domed structure below bridge and above Central Park is Low Library.
Watch this boat pass through the Duke’s Lock, No. 44 on the Oxford Canal. The Oxford Canal is a 78-mile (126 km) narrow canal near Oxford, England, built between 1770 and 1790. Once for the traffic of freight and produce to markets, today the canal is used for pleasure boating.
A wind-up music box featuring Jane’s Carousel along the Brooklyn Waterfront. When closed, the antique cigar box measures a mere 7 by 7 inches and 3 inches deep. When opened, the Brooklyn Bridge and historic Jane’s Carousel fold out. The carousel spins to the tune of the music while the moon slides across the night sky.
Materials: $4 cigar box, $5 wind-up music box, electrical wire (for trees), plastic lids for wheels, string, tape measure, tin foil, and thick paper
As a lifelong citizen of Newark, I spent much of the past few years painting and photographing my changing city. Pictures features a selection of my work, complemented by classical music. Five of Modest Mussorgsky’s pieces from his composition Pictures at an Exhibition are selected, each of which represents the feel of a certain part of Newark. The following five locations are featured:
Growing up in Newark, I am inspired and saddened by the inner city. I am inspired by Newark’s hope of renewal after decades of white flight, under-investment, and urban neglect. I am saddened by the loss of my city’s historic architecture and urban fabric to the wrecking ball of what is called progress.
Port Newark is America’s largest port on the Atlantic coast. On weekdays, hundreds of cargo ships deliver thousands of Chinese-made products to waiting trucks and trains. On weekends, the port is empty of life, an unintentional and empty urban monument to America’s economic might.
Three shipping cranes being delivered by boat from China.
Container cranes at rest
Donjon Marine Company
Father and mother
Prelude to a broken arm – after the act
Scrap metal office
Landscaped truck depot
God bless America!
Big tires, bigger nation
Big tires, bigger nation
Land of the Free
A sense of scale
Caution: machines at work
Coffee and Gas
Port Newark IKEA cusomers at dusk
Penn Station Newark drawbridge
Port Newark freight yard
PLEASE BE KIND. DO NOT LITTER. FAPS INC. CARES ABOUT YOU.
– signage adorning truck depot
When I left home to attend Columbia University, I knew the transition to college would leave me homesick for Newark. To remind me of home, I painted this watercolor panorama. Every night, in my dorm room, I gazed at this painting and traced the streets and buildings of my childhood memories.
The New Jersey Meadowlands, nestled between New York City and Newark, is a strange sort of in-between zone. It belongs neither to nature nor to man. The grasslands and birds of nature are abundant. So, too, are the derelict factories and warehouses. The unwanted detritus of civilization is cast off into the Meadowlands, ranging from garbage piles to noxious-smelling industries.
Millions of commuters to and from the suburbs to New York City pass through this region of indeterminate identity. Many look out the windows of passing trains, planes, and cars. Yet few care to observe the lapping tides and bizarre beauty of this unwanted strip of land. These views show various scenes from my daily train ride through the Meadowlands between Newark Broad Street and Hoboken Terminal.
Sunset on the Passaic River
Jersey City Factories
Shell Oil monopoly
Industrial zone in the New Jersey Meadowlands
Industial beachhead at Port Newark
Premonition of a city on the Passaic River
Old drawbridge at Port Newark
Overhead Power Lines
City in autumn
After hours in Port Newark
Port Newark tire yard
New Jersey Meadowlands
Dredging toxic industrial runoff buried in the river
When I gaze across the Hudson River from New Jersey, the soaring towers, glassy behemoths, and dark canyons of Manhattan instill me with awe. The broad expanse of the city juts out of the water with crenelated and jagged skyscrapers as if proclaiming: “I am here to stay. Come sun, wind, or water, I will remain. I will grow.”
Manhattan from Hoboken
Misty Manhattan Morning
Madison Square Park
George Washington Bridge from Riverside State Park
George Washington Bridge from Riverside State Park