One of the many things that makes New York such a vibrant city is the different styles of architecture to be found here. Styles range from the Art Deco of the Chrysler Building to the Beaux Arts of the Metropolitan Museum to the thoroughly modern style of the Guggenheim Museum a few blocks down the street. Here are some of the different architectural styles of New York City.

Set Back Style

The set back is as much a zoning ordinance as it is a style. In 1916, the city required buildings of a certain height to be built in tiers that were set back from the one beneath it to reduce the oppressiveness of the building’s shadow on the street. The majestic Empire State Building is the most famous of these buildings. This 102 story building also has touches of Art Deco in the fan-like decorations above some of the windows. It sports a stepped cornice and a flat roofed parapet, flush windows, and a lightweight cladding of limestone and granite. At the top there’s a stepped plinth that supports the Art Deco lantern, which in turn supports the radio mast.


A visitor will find the Italianate style all over Manhattan, especially in the attached brownstones in areas of Harlem. This style has arched, hooded, pedimented, or bracketed windows. The doorways are often as elaborate as the windows and have large pane glazing. Cornices often have beautifully carved brackets. Italianate buildings are always made of masonry, with belt courses and quoins at the corners.

International Style

International style buildings, such as the Seagram Building, are known for their flat roofs, flush windows, and unadorned walls. One feature that makes the International style stand out is that the exterior walls are not used for support but are curtain walls hung over a steel skeleton. The interior walls are also non-weight bearing and are simply there to partition the space. This allows for a great freedom of design, including window walls and rows of windows that sometimes wrap around the building.

Beaux Arts

These buildings can be quite elaborate. They’re often residences, such as the Ansonia or De Lamar House, or buildings that wish to make a statement, such as Grand Central Terminal or the New York Public Library. The windows are decorated with ornamented keystones, shields, and stone flowers. There are swags, balustraded window sills, balustrades on the roofline, and acanthus leaf brackets. Roofs are often flat or mansard, which distinguishes types of Beaux-Arts buildings from each other and from the similar Neoclassical style.