Hugh Ferri’s drawings of setback skyscraper evolution according with 1916 Zonning Code. 1922.
In 1916, New York City had passed landmark zoning laws that regulated and limited the mass of buildings according to a formula. The reason was to counteract the tendency for buildings to occupy the whole of their lot and go straight up as far as was possible. Since many architects were not sure exactly what these laws meant for their designs, a series of four step-by-step perspectives demonstrating the architectural consequences of the zoning law was needed. These four drawings would later be used in his 1929 book “The Metropolis of Tomorrow”. The zoning law’s were important because its fundamental effect on the tall office building was that the architect was no longer a designer of mere facades but a sculptor in building masses.
The four illustrations accompanied its respective stage. Stage 1 was described as a shape that the law puts into the architect’s hands. He can do nothing to it, but he can vary it in detail as he wishes. it is a crude form which he has to model”. Stage 2 was the act of cutting into the mass to admit light into the interior. Stage 3 translates the sloping planes of the envelope into rectangular forms which will provide more conventional interior spaces and which can be more economically constructed with steel. Finally, after contemplation of stage 3, stage 4 is entered upon. Steps, because of their small dimensions, would not prove an economic venture to steel. Steps that do not conform to the steel grill should be removed, as well as the uppermost floors, because it was seen as excess rental space, and would not justify the expense of the building. Presumably the end of the fourth stage has to do with the façade, which is where Corbett and Ferriss didn’t exactly see eye to eye.
In terms of this fourth stage, Corbett’s vision was more neoclassical in style, exhibiting columns along the antiquely ornamented façade, while Ferriss’ drawings suggested a soaring, crystalline, machine-like building of steel. Over the years, Ferriss’ prototype became more popular and more frequently used, and subsequently, Corbett abandoned his vision and adopted Ferriss’ in order to create the Metropolitan Life North Building in 1933.
- L. Dieye