Architecture Exhibitions International

Museum of the City of New York

Mastering the Metropolis
New York and Zoning, 1916-2016

Nov 9, 2016–Apr 22, 2017
Rob Stephenson, 432 Park Avenue, Manhattan, 2016 © Museum of the City of New York

How tall can New York buildings be? How wide? Where can developers build homes, factories, offices, or stores? Where do New Yorkers live, work, and play?
The character of New York’s varied neighborhoods is governed by a novel set of rules first envisioned by New York reformers 100 years ago – the groundbreaking Zoning Resolution of 1916. Zoning, which was designed to tame the unruly process of free-market real estate development, has continued to shape the city we know today in countless, often unseen, ways.

This landmark law gave birth to the iconic “setback” skyscraper and the modern skyline; to special neighborhoods like the Theater District; to public amenities like pedestrian plazas, and to residential neighborhoods of all shapes and sizes. On the 100th anniversary of America’s first comprehensive zoning resolution, Mastering the Metropolis: New York and Zoning, 1916-2016 will examine the effects of the evolving law and chart the history of the city’s zoning rules and debates to the current day, illuminating how the tools of zoning have reflected a century of evolving ideas about what constitutes an “ideal” city.