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In the Canyon of Heroes

A landmark engineering achievement as a skyscraper, the Equitable Building was designed by Ernest R. Graham and completed in 1915 in the part of Broadway commonly known as the 'Canyon of Heroes'. A striking feature of the building by modern standards is that it has no setback from the street beyond the depth of the sidewalk, rising vertically for all its floors. The controversy surrounding its construction contributed to the adoption of the first modern building and zoning restrictions on vertical structures in Manhattan.

Opponents of the buildings were outraged at the unprecedented volume of the building, which cast a 7 acre (28,000 m²) shadow on the surrounding streets. Many New Yorkers feared that further construction of buildings like it would turn Manhattan into an unpleasant and dark maze of streets.
In response, the city adopted the 1916 Zoning Resolution which limited the height and required setbacks for new buildings to allow the penetration of sunlight to street level.

Specifically, new buildings were afterwards required to withdraw progressively at a defined angle from the street as they rose, in order to preserve sunlight and the open atmosphere in their surroundings.

As a consequence of the new restrictions, the building remained the largest office building by volume in the world until the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931.


The stretch of lower Broadway where the building sits has since become the traditional route of ticker-tape parades in Manhattan. The route past the building is known as the Canyon of Heroes, in part because of the sheer verticality of the building and others around it.







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    I am Cedric, discoverer of things that would go unnoticed in the streets of Paris, historic haven of fashionistas and city of lights ('lights' as in 'enlightenment', not street lights).
    But seriously: I'm an expat from Luxembourg (the country, not the garden), living in the center of Paris (hence 'Paris 2nd arrondissement'), and currenlty studying architectural history...

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