Manhattan Above
Alexandru Dan

Due to their economic growth and technological innovation in 1880 the New York City and Chicago introduced a new building typology: the skyscraper. In Manhattan the fast and multiplied constructions of high rise buildings lead to a problem of congestion in a short period of time. The first visionary scenarios to solve the problem of congestion came from Hugh Ferris and Harvey Wiley Corbett. In the early 1920s, they envisioned Manhattan with a secondary elevated layer of pedestrian space. The street level below, should be used only for vehicular transport.1

Winnie Hu states in August 2016 in The New York Times article “New York’s sidewalks are so packed, pedestrians are taking to the streets”2. It has been stated that Manhattan has a growing pedestrian congestion problem and the streets are at certain times too crowded to be used. New York City is a walkable city, where the streets play an important role to the quality of the public space.

Harvey Wiley Corbett proposals were aiming to solve the congestion problem with which Manhattan still struggles today. Nevertheless, since 1923 there has been only one project built that relates to their vision: The High Line by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

With the goal to find a possible solution to ease the congestion in Manhattan, this thesis explores the possibilities to enlarge the public space in Midtown Manhattan. It also seeks to understand how Manhattan is similar or
different from Corbett vision today.