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May 16, 2013
New York City is synonymous with the great buildings that stand within its limits: the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, and the Flatiron all scream The Big City. Their facades are famous—but they alone don’t make up the eponymous skyline—which is why tourists and New Yorkers alike should consider joining the New York Chapter of the AIA on one of their 32-mile Around Manhattan boat tours circumnavigating the isle of Manhattan.

The sea vessel Manhattan resembles a 1920’s commuter yacht.

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With its spire recently raised, One World Trade Center by Skidmore Owings & Merrill became the tallest building in the city. It joins good company with the nearby World Financial Center and Goldman Sachs.

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The Brooklyn Bridge Park’s greenery encroaches on the East River.

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Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building stands in the distance behind Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street (which will hold the post as tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere until One57’s completion uptown).

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To the left of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Domino Sugar Factory awaits a Rafael Viñoly transformation.

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The United Nations makes a strong riverside presence. In the foreground, the UN Headquarters built with contributions by Wallace K. Harrison, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Sven Markelius. Behind and to the right of the campus, the UN Plaza Offices and Hotel by Roche Dinkeloo.

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Plans are underway to stabilize the landmarked Gothic Revival style Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island.

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After reopening almost a year ago, Wards Island Bridge (aka the 103rd Street Footbridge) offers a 24-hour means of travel by foot or bike between Manhattan and Wards and Randall’s Islands.

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A sister tour focuses on the bridge and tunnel infrastructure of the city. Here, the Park Avenue Bridge connects Manhattan to the Bronx.

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The monolithic River Park Towers by Davis, Brody & Associates loom above the calm waters of Upper Manhattan.

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The George Washington Bridge towers over the Little Red Lighthouse. The lighthouse was popularized by a 1942 children’s book and in 1951, public outcry prevented its dismantling. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

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Riverbank State Park by Dattner Architects and Abel Bainnson Butz serves double duty. The sewage treatment plant below is handsomely masked by the state park overhead. It should be noted the construct is a job well-done, as Riverbank State Park is the most-used park in the state.

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Annabelle Selldorf’s impressive 200 11th Avenue stands above its neighbors – and its occupants’ cars do, too. The building is equipped with a car elevator allowing homeowners to park in an en-suite car garage.

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The sea vessel Manhattan resembles a 1920’s commuter yacht.

Highlighting in excess of 150 Big Apple and Brooklyn buildings (and even a few in New Jersey), the tour offers a fresh perspective of the city’s structures, and by design spotlights those lining the island’s perimeter. Now in their fourth year, the AIA tour guides and partner Classic Harbor Line have hit a stride (or the aquatic equivalent, rather). Departing from Chelsea Piers, the appropriately named Manhattan heads south into the no wake zone and progresses at a fast clip. We attended on a sunny Sunday and tour guide Kyle Johnson, co-chair of the AIA New York Chapter’s Tour Committee, deftly dished out architecture and history trivia to a sold-out crew of passengers. Posed with questions about buildings not featured, Johnson didn’t miss a beat. Three hours later, back on dry land, our sea legs gave us a fresh outlook on an iconic skyline.

For ticket information click here.

Click through for a taste of what to expect on the tour.

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