Daylight as a potent shaper of Manhattan's skyline was the topic of discussion presented at the Center for Architecture in New York City on November 8, 2006, by design historian Margaret Maile Petty, and lighting designer Matthew Tanteri, both members of the MFA Lighting Design program at Parsons The New School for Design. From massing to fenestration, Maile Petty and Tanteri's thesis is convincing: Daylight has directly determined the design of New York City's iconic skyscrapers.
The advent of steel frame construction and passenger elevators in the late nineteenth century, allowed buildings to soar. It afforded the opportunity to be closer to daylight and views, and height became profitable. The standard rule of the era was to limit office depth to 28 feet, because the depth of daylight penetration was twice the head height of a window. The real estate community referred to this as "the economic depth of the office."
Jump to the International Style of the 1950s. Epitomized by the glass box, it brought about a new logic in skyscraper design. Modern amenities including fluorescent lighting and climate control allowed for deeper depths of premium office space--up to 50 or 60 feet--within a sealed environment, and real estate economic necessity for daylight was no longer a factor. Trends today are once again reversing, and the duo plans to extend their initial research to include current building approaches.