Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building (68)

If a vote is made to select the most unique building in New York, without a doubt, the Flatiron Building would be nominated to win the title. The reason is obvious: a skyscraper of 87 metres high, built in the form of prism. 

Located on a triangular block right at the intersection where Fifth Avenue meets Broadway, you will recognise it easily by its peculiar shape: a triangular structure that is reminiscent of the appliances we use to iron clothes. Because of this great similarity, New Yorkers christened the building with the name of Flatiron, although originally called Fuller Building, after the founder of the construction company and owner of the building.

Today the Flatiron is a century-old building. Finished building in 1902, this original work bears the signature of architect Daniel Burnham, a disciple of the Chicago School. Risky and innovative, Burnham very wisely used the triangular shape of the plot to create the floor of the building and used a revolutionary steel structure to raise it to 87 metres, reaching a height of 22 floors. Clad in limestone and terracotta, on its narrowest side the work does is no more than two metres wide. This gives it the shape of a keel on a boat, which seems to take an exciting journey into the avenue.

When it was built, New Yorkers were greatly interested in the building, wondering how far the debris would go when it was swept by the wind. The most pessimistic believed that the very shape of the building would create strong drafts that would eventually bring it down. Fortunately, they were wrong. It has been over a hundred years and the Flatiron is still standing, almost intact. But it is true that, just around the corner, the wind blows at a different speed, capable of lifting women's skirts. For this reason, in the early twenties, when the vision of a woman's bare ankles was something exciting, onlookers stood along the side of the street 23 to take a look. Police were sent in to disperse them.

Whether due to its shape, height or drafts, it is undeniable that the building caused a sensation. However, also it fuelled fears that the streets of Manhattan would become dark and gloomy because of the proliferation of skyscrapers in the early 20th century. For this reason, in 1916 the City Council drew up an urban code to regulate the height of buildings and force architects to design echeloned towers.

Over the years the popularity of the Flatiron grew to such an extent that this part of the city was christened "Flatiron District"; a name that, due to the growing number of companies in the IT industry that have settled in the area, is slowly being replaced by "Silicon Alley", in relation to Silicon Valley in California where the most important IT companies can be found, but here, it is fondly known as "Silicon Alley". 

The term Flatiron has become so popular that today it is used to designate the buildings constructed on triangular plots.

But the popularity conceals false myths. And if you want a real insight into this curious building, they must be removed.

One of the myths says the Flatiron is the oldest skyscraper in New York. It is not true. This title is held by the Park Row building, built in 1899 and taller than the Flatiron: 119 metres. Another myth is that the Flatiron was the first building to be built on a triangular plot. This is not true either, as it has two predecessors: the Gooderham Toronto, built in 1892, and Flatiron in Atlanta, built in 1897.

And, after removing the myths, all that remains is to ready the camera and immortalise this unique building, taking a fantastic photo of it from Madison Square Park. Oh, and watch out for the wind!

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