The Past’s Future of New York

Ah, what fun we could be having in New York if only our zoning laws were a wee different: bridges between buildings, buildings on top of bridges, bridges on top of other bridges, and little trolley cars whizzing in and out. Some of the visions going up in the Skyscraper Museum next Wednesday put Jules Verne to shame (although they were less prescient). The exhibit, “New York Modern,” is the first of three shows to trace the history of the skyscraper city from the New York that early 20th-century artists imagined to Shanghai as it is being built today.

“By 1900, the idea of unbridled growth and inevitably increasing congestion was lampooned in cartoons in the popular press and critiqued by prominent architects and urban reformers,” the museum says.

Not even William R. Leigh, who drew up this picture of a Garden of Urban Delights a century ago, could imagine how the Zoning Resolution of 1916 would really crimp our style.