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Features of the Flatiron Building

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Anthropology
Wordcount: 1380 words Published: 26th Apr 2018

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Synopsis: This is a 5 page term paper written in MLA format explaining why any designer in the modern era should be interested in the Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902 in New York. The paper gives a description of the most captivating architectural features of Flatiron building that make it unique and admirable. The paper relies on 2 sources.

The Flatiron Building

Eric Nash clearly describes the Flatiron building located in New York City. Its construction was completed in 1902 and it is one of the most popular and best known skyscrapers in the world that derives its name from its iron like shape. It is an energetic combination of renaissance and gothic architectural styles. It is made up of spacious, well designed twenty-two stories which are divided into three parts, namely, the beginning, the middle and the end, just like a classical Greek column. The Flatiron’s striking shape and its exceptional height stretch its classical garb uneasily.1

Picture showing the beginning, the middle and the top of the Flatiron

1 Eric Nash, Manhattan Skyscrapers. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999) 121.

Eric Nash clearly shows that the building was constructed using structural steel frame with extensive wind bracing purposely made to resist sideways pressure from the wind. This reflects recent acceptance of the all-steel skeleton for skyscrapers in New York. The skeleton steel framing of Flatiron building is light and less susceptible to fire damages as compared to iron, hence making the building stronger and more durable. Use of steel skeleton in construction of Flatiron made it possible for the building to be elevated higher up to twenty two storeys as opposed to load bearing walls that previously restricted the height supportable by their loads. The building was constructed on a rectangular wedge piece of land giving it its classic captivating appearance from the ground to the sky. He further argues that unlike New York’s early skyscrapers taking the form of towers that were constructed rising from a lower blockier weight like the contemporary Singer Building, the Flatiron building has limestone and glazed terra cotta faÇade which is divided into a triangular base, shaft and capital.2.

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Eric Nash observed that Flatiron’s ornate but restrained facade was made using terra-cotta panels and stone creating forms that simulate any effects of rustication, making it long lasting. Rusticated limestone is uniformly detailed from the ground of the Flatiron building to the sky to ensure that there are slim chances of Flatiron’s destruction by environmental conditions. The Flatiron’s masonry insulation, its outer skin of stone and glazed terra-cotta protects it from any harsh weather conditions which could otherwise destroy the building. Besides this, the Flatiron’s rustication and heavily prornamented patterns of these walls, as well as the conservatively sized windows, give the faÇades a heavy appearance, this is attractive to the eyes 3

2 Nash 123

3 Nash 125

Picture showing Flatiron’s outer skin

Andrew Dolkart observed that the multistory oriels in the midsection, which are prominent in many of Burnham’s Chicago buildings, are just barely perceptible on the busy, more enclosed skin of the Flatiron. This greater visual weigh of the repartition of the overall design into a distinct base, a repetitive midsection, and a crowning cornice extended to 22 stories, makes the whole Flatiron appear column-like, distinguishing the building from the rest. He further observed that the long, thin triangular footprint of the Flatiron extrudes up through all its twenty two stories. With all three façades facing the streets, this tall, thin building was designed to always have very well-lit office spaces. At the vertex of the Flatiron building, the triangular tower, which is only 6.5 feet (2 meters) wide and a height of eighty seven Meters is seen to describe an acute angle that is roughly estimated to be 25 degrees when viewed from bird’s eye view. The acute angled corners bring out a dramatic, exaggerated perspective which is unique and highly admirable. 44Andrew Dolkart. Architecture Development of New York City and the Birth of Skyscraper. (Columbia: Columbia University 2009). 11

Eric Nash further observed that the most acute angle of the Flatiron points north, making the building to appear like it has a little depth like a wall leaned precariously against the sky, distinguishing it from any other building in the neighborhood. The interior of the Flatiron has strangely shaped spacious offices with their walls cutting through an angle on their way to skyscraper’s famous point. This gives the building quite a beautiful and attractive look. The gravity-defying illusion of the building is further enhanced by the enormous cornice projecting aggressively from the top of the building, giving the whole affair a top-heavy appearance. The elements of Flatiron’s design fit in comfortably with the general development of the firm in which the building was constructed.5

According to Andrew, The unconventional triangular lot coupled with exceptional height transformed architectural conventions of Flatiron into a beautiful unique structure. The building materials used for Flatiron were cost effective, efficient and made it possible for it to be quickly erected. Flatiron was indeed a perfect architectural solution to America’s growing downtowns in the 20th century. It consists of 13,400 square meters of office space and definitely one of the Stockholm’s new landmarks. The striking visual presence of this uncommon vertical mass is what makes the building instantly famous both with tourists and those in the arts grappling with the nature of New York’s modernity.6

5 Nash 136.

6 Dolkart 13.


This paper started by describing the shape and location of the Flatiron building constructed in 1902 in New York. It further discussed in detail the design and architectural features of the building that make it very unique despite the fact that it was constructed over 100 years ago. Its characteristic structural division into three parts, the beginning, the middle and the end gives it a unique appealing appearance. Its unique triangular shape design and the wedge shaped piece of land where the building was erected give it an excellent view hence it is easily distinguished from all other buildings in the neighborhood. The building’s small width of only two meters and exceptional height of eighty seven meters housing twenty two storey distinguishes it from ancient heavy wide buildings. While putting more emphasis on the uniqueness and durability of the materials in construction of Flatiron building used such as the revolutionary steel frame which is less susceptible to fire unlike iron, the limestone covering originating from the ground to the sky to protect the building from harsh weather conditions, and the white terra cotta skin in the Italian Renaissance style which gives the building a highly admirable dramatic perspective. From the findings of this paper, it is evidently clear that the Flatiron building is quite a unique building in both the structure and the design and therefore any architect or designer would be interested in its structure and design.

Works Cited

Nash, Eric. Manhattan Skyscrapers. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999.

Dolkart, Andrew. Architecture Development of New York City and the Birth of Skyscraper. Columbia: Columbia University 2009.





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