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AIA Guide to New York City [Paperback]

Norval White , Elliot Willensky , Fran Leadon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 14 2010 Aia Guide to New York City
Hailed as "extraordinarily learned" (New York Times), "blithe in spirit and unerring in vision," (New York Magazine), and the "definitive record of New York's architectural heritage" (Municipal Art Society), Norval White and Elliot Willensky's book is an essential reference for everyone with an interest in architecture and those who simply want to know more about New York City. First published in 1968, the AIA Guide to New York City has long been the definitive guide to the city's architecture. Moving through all five boroughs, neighborhood by neighborhood, it offers the most complete overview of New York's significant places, past and present. The Fifth Edition continues to include places of historical importance - including extensive coverage of the World Trade Center site - while also taking full account of the construction boom of the past 10 years, a boom that has given rise to an unprecedented number of new buildings by such architects as Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, and Renzo Piano. All of the buildings included in the Fourth Edition have been revisited and re-photographed and much of the commentary has been re-written, and coverage of the outer boroughs - particularly Brooklyn - has been expanded. Famed skyscrapers and historic landmarks are detailed, but so, too, are firehouses, parks, churches, parking garages, monuments, and bridges. Boasting more than 3000 new photographs, 100 enhanced maps, and thousands of short and spirited entries, the guide isarranged geographically by borough, with each borough divided into sectors and then into neighborhood. Extensive commentaries describe the character of the divisions. Knowledgeable, playful, and beautifully illustrated, here is the ultimate guided tour of New York's architectural treasures. Acclaim for earlier editions of the AIA Guide to New York City:

"An extraordinarily learned, personable exegesis of our metropolis. No other American or, for that matter, world city can boast sodefinitive a one-volume guide to its built environment." - Philip Lopate, New York Times

"Blithe in spirit and unerring in vision." - New York Magazine

"A definitive record of New York's architectural heritage... witty and helpful pocketful which serves as arbiter of architects, Baedeker for boulevardiers, catalog for the curious, primer for preservationists, and sourcebook to students. For all who seek to know of New York, it is here. No home should be without a copy." - Municipal Art Society

"There are two reasons the guide has entered the pantheon of New York books. One is its encyclopedic nature, and the other is its inimitable style - 'smart, vivid, funny and opinionated' as the architectural historian Christopher Gray once summed it up in pithy W and W fashion." - Constance Rosenblum, New York Times "A book for architectural gourmands and gastronomic gourmets." - The Village Voice

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"Covering each borough almost block by block, building by building, it is an extraordinarily learned, personable exegesis of our metropolis. No other American or, for that matter, world city can boast so definitive a one-volume guide to its built environment....The AIA Guide to New York City sees that what matters about buildings is not solely their window treatment or spandrels, but the life lived in and through them. THe best city architecture is that which makes possible the world of the street." Phillip Lapote, The New York Times


"Blithe in spirit and unerring in vision."
New York Magazine


"An architect's romp through five boroughs."
The Daily Record, New Jersey


"A book for architectural gourmands and gastronomic gourmets."
The Village Voice


"Over its more than four decades of existence, the guide has evolved into a New York institution, as much a city fixture among a certain crowd as Fourth of July fireworks over the East River."--Constance Rosenblum, New York Times


"Reading [the AIA GUDIE] is a joy, and one immediately sees how anyone--the feverish real-estate broker, the stunned tourist, or the pontificating college historian--would love it."--Thessaly La Force, newyorker.com


"Today in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, 20 people aimed cameras at a three-story row house, snapped photos, and cheered. Part of the reason for their excitement may have been that the building was once the home of Jane Jacobs, the writer and activist. More likely, though, is that the picture-taking session marked the official end of the lengthy research phase for the fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, the wryly written block-by-block directory of landmarks that's become an essential reference for architects, planners, and developers, as well as residents."--C.J. Hughes, Architectural Record


"The new guide, readers will be pleased to know, is a vast improvement over its predecessor, beginning with a redesigned retro-'70s cover that replaces the widely loathed faux-metal version of the fourth edition. The new book is also trimmer than its predecessor, though its content is greatly expanded, thanks to a shift to a two-column page layout. A team of writers, led by White and Fran Leadon, has done extraordinary work combing the city, and not just Manhattan, adding entries for new buildings and providing 'necrologies' for the dearly departed."--Architect Magazine


"Indeed, the AIA Guide is perhaps the finest-grained study of New York's built environment that exists, a guide in which no Italianate cornice, no Art Nouveau balustrade, no limestone carving or postmodern tempietto seems to go unremarked."--Wall Street Journal


"While the majority of the book celebrates the good, the AIA Guide is at its most entertaining when applying its witty and pithy critiques to things considered by the authors to be crapitechture."--Curbed.com


"The AIA Guide to New York City is an indispensable book that new readers will cherish . . . In fact, it is likely the most comprehensive guide to any city's buildings. The sheer volume of pictures and capsule discussions of building design and histories is one of the great publishing achievements of our time . . . Nobody should leave home for NYC without this book."--BeyondChron.com


"The AIA GUIDE is a 1,055-page love letter to the city. It obsessively details the greatness of well-known neighborhoods, while luring the reader to bucolic corners of Staten Island and the hidden Art Deco grandeur of the Bronx."--Bloomberg News


"A book that belongs in every New Yorker's library."--Dwight Garner, New York Times


About the Author

Norval White is Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture, City College of New York. His architectural designs include the New York City Police Headquarters, among many other buildings. He is the author of The Architecture Book and New York: A Physical History. Elliot Willensky (d. 1990) was Vice Chairman of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission and the author of When Brooklyn Was the World. Fran Leadon is a registered architect and teaches at the School of Architecture, CityCollege of New York.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect May 14 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm an architect from Canada who loves NYC. When I travel to the big apple, I like to set up an architectural agenda (free!) and this book is required reading. Why not 5 stars? I think that the hard copy should be combined with an electronic version. The actual book is great reading around home and looks good, however, it is not the sort of thing that you can walk around with. Editorially, more should be made of the various "villages" around the city. Overall fun to read and useful.

Doug Hawes
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the big one, thick and authoritative, though now so heavy as to be increasingly less portable. Don't expect to read a lot about each building, but instead you'll find a huge number of NYC buildings covered briefly and effectively. Now up to date for 2010. Indispensable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ur-Guide to New York's Buildings May 30 2010
By Christopher Gray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I had anticipated that this version, with Norval in France, with an interloping 30(?)-something as (new) co-editor, and using student labor, would be thin and watery. Hardly! This version, full of the same level of piquant and candid observation of the Ancient and Honorable first two editions - when the original authors were both driving the bus - but also rich and intricate with observations on the tidal wave of new architecture which has swept over New York in the last decade-plus. And these are not, I feel sure, only the input of estimable but newcomer Fran Leadon, but also Norval White who was intensely interested in what was happening on the New York streets until his last days.

Even back past Lewis Mumford and Montgomery Schuyler, New York has not yet had the equals of Elliot and Norval in writing about New York's buildings - they are on every page.

Christopher Gray

PS The necrology is back!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gone are the Walking Tour Maps Sept. 1 2010
By M. Graff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The delicious 3rd Edition had wonderful step by step Walking Tour Guide Maps of selectd areas decribed in the Guide. The highlighted places of interest along the way. This Fifth Edition makes narrative text references to these Walking Tour Guides, specifically naming each Tour,such as West Village "Walking Tour A, B, C, or D" but the actual maps are omitted from the this Edition.

To add insult to injury, the tours are different than the ones in the Third Edition. (I do not have the Fourth, so I do not know what the OUP did there.)

I think that the least that OUP should do would be to send the omitted Walking Tour maps to those that have bought and will be this Fifth Ed.

The problem overall is that notwithstanding the above, this is the only book of its kind and is indispensible to anyone with a serious interst in New York City.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully descriptive, accurate guide to the Big Apple June 15 2010
By Liz Winters - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What an amazing book!! Of course it is impressive for the sheer breadth of entries--like no other book on my shelf, thumbing through it feels like holding the entire city of New York in my hands. As a long-time resident of the city, as the years pass it becomes easy to overlook the marvels all around. This has been especially true of my current neighborhood, the Upper East Side, or, more specifically, Bed Pan Alley, as the NYT dubbed the far-east sixties for its abundance of medical facilities. Apparently a great place to have a heart attack and not much else. But the fifth edition of the AIA guide gives me a whole new appreciation for the architectural and design gems right outside our door--even including my local pharmacy's sign (no not the Duane Reade), which I've always loved! Great to have its importance verified by such a thoughtful expert as Mr. Leadon-- I happened to catch his interview on the Leonard Lopate show on NPR and was very impressed. I hope he writes a long-form narrative about New York one day, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing throughout and found the entries on my neighborhood to be right on the money. Highly recommended for locals and visitors alike.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For New Yorkers willing to look up and gawk June 14 2010
By Pteridophytalist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a NYC resident of more than 25 years who has broken the spines of both the third and fourth editions of the AIA Guide to New York City, I think the latest edition is a must-have item for any New Yorker with an ounce of curiosity about the buildings and history of the five boroughs. During the decade since the last edition, the cityscape of NYC has been changing at a frenzied pace--at least until the housing bubble popped and the luxury condo boom crashed. This new edition revisits the old, updates the transformed, and point out the new in concise paragraphs of historical fact and pithy architectural criticism. I may not always agree with the authors' opinions but I do appreciate their dry, witty style. The fifth edition has also improved the quality of the maps and the photographs enormously, and I really enjoy the addition of the "necrology" sections--paeans to buildings that are no longer there.

New Yorkers--buy this book and look up! You'll never look at your city the same way.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to carry Sept. 20 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One Customer Review says, "The latest edition, even in paperback, is so expanded and comprehensive that carrying it on a walking tour is unthinkable." Not true. I have toured New York four days during the past month since buying the book. Each day was twelve hours or more of walking with book in hand, constantly flipping from map to text-entry and back. Its tall narrow shape makes it handle like a small book. Both hands can support the spine while one thumb flips pages forward and the other back. Mine still looks new after 50 hours of this.

The paperback edition's covers, and the pages, seem able to withstand outdoor use. Last Friday afternoon while I was taking a break in Madison Square a pigeon dropping splatted all over the back cover of my book. It was a minute at least before I could acquire some napkins, but when I did it wiped off cleanly. The mess did not even begin soaking through and there is no warping of the cover or discoloration. It didn't even smell.

That same day I happened to cross paths with a New Yorker (I'm a tourist) who came up and spoke to me while I was standing, book in hand, looking up at 36 Gramercy Park East in the "Union Square to Grammercy Park" walking tour. He was carrying the very same book. He said he uses it regularly. I'm just saying, carrying this book is not "unthinkable."

The walking tours are efficiently laid out. Sticking to them, I have found, saves steps. It's not easy for me to travel to New York so the days I can get there I start walking early, stay late, and try to cover as much ground as possible. Last Friday (Sept 16 2011) for example, I began the 71-site "Ladies Mile" walking tour at 7 am and finished at 2:30 in the afternoon, a rate of 10 sites per hour including a half-hour lunch. After my (necessary) nap in Madison Square with the pigeons perching overhead I continued on to the 38 sites of the "Union Square to Gramercy Park" walking tour, finishing at 7 pm, again a rate of 10 per hour. So in 12 hours I covered 109 sites and completed 2 of the book's walking tours.

It is so nice to arrive in the morning with one conception of New York and leave at night with a substantially expanded view. That's what this book does really well for me. Especially appreciated is the history-of-occupancy of buildings. Here's an example: "Onetime Manufacturer's Hanover Trust Company branch / originally New York County National Bank / now Nickel Spa for Men." (H14 on page 210 in the "Chelsea" walking tour).

The book contains, by my quick count, somewhere around 1500 sites in Manhattan below 59th Street, 2500 sites in Manhattan as a whole, 900 in Brooklyn, 400 in the Bronx, and 350 in Queens. I'm only counting the numbered sites and not the lettered subheadings that sometimes occur under a number, and I'm not counting Staten Island. Every site is on one of the walking tours, of which there are around 200.

Another Customer Review says, "... there are errors, both of omission and commission." (That reviewer didn't specify any). I can't speak for "omissions" but I do occasionally find minor errors. They have not been bothersome. I haven't found any that couldn't be figured out on the spot. Here are the seven I've found in my first four 12-hour walks covering eight of the walking tours:

Page 75: Site 36 on the "Civic Center" walking tour, 415 Broadway, National City Bank of New York. Should be located between Canal St and Lispenard St, one block north of where this map shows it.

Page 88: Site 8 on the "Chinatown/Little Italy" walking tour, First Shearith Israel Graveyard. Should be located between Oliver St and James St, one block north of where this map shows it.

Page 132: The heading at the top left of this page should read "The Villages" instead of "Lower Manhattan."

Page 206: At the southern end of the High Line, "Horatio St" should be "Gransevoort St" and "Gransevoort St" should be "Horatio St."

Page 207: Site 8 on the "Chelsea" walking tour. Should be located on the south side of West 22 Street instead of the north side.

Page 230: Site 12 on the "Ladies Mile" walking tour, the Westminster, 180 West 20 Street. The entry says the building is located "along 7th Avenue to 21st St" but it is actually located between 20th and 19th Street. The map on the next page shows it correctly.

Page 233: The picture labeled "L24" should be "L26."
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