A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 23, 2016
“A skyscraper is a machine that makes the land pay”

"The building is merely the machine that makes the land pay,” architect Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) said in 1900 about the new skyscrapers popping up in big cities. Gilbert would become even more famous for his work on New York’s Woolworth Building (opened in 1913). Gilbert made his remark in the Record and Guide of New York in June 1900.


Wikipedia: Cass Gilbert
Cass Gilbert (November 24, 1859 – May 17, 1934) was a prominent American architect. An early proponent of skyscrapers in works like the Woolworth Building, Gilbert was also responsible for numerous museums (Saint Louis Art Museum) and libraries (Saint Louis Public Library), state capitol buildings (the Minnesota, Arkansas and West Virginia State Capitols, for example) as well as public architectural icons like the United States Supreme Court building. His public buildings in the Beaux Arts style reflect the optimistic American sense that the nation was heir to Greek democracy, Roman law and Renaissance humanism. Gilbert’s achievements were recognized in his lifetime; he served as president of the American Institute of Architects in 1908-09.

Gilbert was a conservative who believed architecture should reflect historic traditions and the established social order

Google Books
30 June 1900, The Engineering Record, pp. 623-624:
THE FINANCIAL IMPORTANCE OF RAPID BUILDING
Not the least interesting feature of the lofty office buildings which are erected in large cities at present is the remarkably short time required in their construction. The hisory of the building of such a structure, the Broadway Chambers, New York, is given by the architect, Mr. Cass Gilbert, in the “Record and Guide.” The building is 50x95 feet in plan and eighteen stories high, and was finished in foundation to roof in less than four months. Mr. Gilbert’s article is as follows:
(...)
“Speaking of such enterprises from the financial aspect, it is a rule that holds almost invariably, that where the building costs less than the land, if properly managed, it is a success, and where it costs more than the land it is usually a failure. The land value is established by its location, and desirability from a renter’s standpoint; hence high rentals make high land values and conversely. The building is merely the machine that makes the land pay. The more economical the machine both in ionstruction and operation, provided it fulfills the needs, the more profitable the land. At the same time, one must not lose sight of the fact that the machine is none the less a useful one because ti has a measure of beauty, and that architectural beauty, judged even from the economic standpoint, has an income-bearing value. In my judgement, the best equation of building and land is that the building should represent about two-third of the land value under normal conditions.”

7 July 1900, The Construction News, pp. 5-6:
THE FINANCIAL IMPORTANCE OF RAPID BUILDING
Mr. Cass Gilbert, in describing the construction of the new Broadway Chambers, recently completed in New York after his plans, points out that rapid building construction is not undertaken for the mere purpose of making a record but for definite financial reasons. Particularly is this true when high office buildings are being erected on valuable ground as was the case with the Broadway Chambers, which Mr. Gilbert describes in a recent issue of the Record and Guide of New York.
(...)
“Speaking of such enterprises from the financial aspect, it is a rule that holds almost invariably, that where the building costs less than the land, if properly managed, it is a success, and where it costs more than the land it is usually a failure. The land value is established by its location, and desirability from a renter’s standpoint; hence high rentals make high land values and conversely. The building is merely the machine that makes the land pay. The more economical the machine both in ionstruction and operation, provided it fulfills the needs, the more profitable the land. At the same time, one must not lose sight of the fact that the machine is none the less a useful one because ti has a measure of beauty, and that architectural beauty, judged even from the economic standpoint, has an income-bearing value. In my judgement, the best equation of building and land is that the building should represent about two-third of the land value under normal conditions.”

varnelis.net
a machine that makes the land pay
In his famed statement on the skyscraper as a machine to make the land pay, Cass Gilbert was not so much speaking of the magic of the skyscraper but rather of the immense value of land in the metropolitan city core.
Submitted by kazys on 10 August, 2013 - 17:00

City Block
A machine to make the land pay
April 2, 2014, 9:54 pm
Cass Gilbert famously defined a skyscraper as “a machine that makes the land pay,” the kind of structure justified (and often required) by high land values. Gilbert’s distillation of the logic behind these buildings is inherently economic (hat tip to Kazys Varnelis):

Twitter
Adam Scott
‏@adamfreestate
Cass Gilbert, Architect of theWoolworth Building in Manhattan, said in 1913
“A skyscraper is a machine that makes the land pay.”
8:31 AM - 11 Jun 2015

Los Angeles (CA) Times
Ride the U.S. Bank Tower’s glass Skyslide with 70 floors of nothingness below you
By Christopher Hawthorne, Architecture Critic
JUNE 23, 2016, 10:18 AM
“A machine that makes the land pay.” That’s how architect and Manhattanite Cass Gilbert defined the skyscraper in 1900, when the building type was — ahem — just getting off the ground.

But the machine doesn’t pay like it used to, at least not when it comes to commercial skyscrapers that hold office suites instead of apartments or condos.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • Thursday, June 23, 2016 • Permalink