Theses Master's

A Contradiction in Terms: New York City's No-Style Buildings

Engelbert, Corinne Frances

In 1981, with the designation of the Upper East Side Historic District, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission introduced the term "no-style." The term was used to categorize the district's non-contributing structures so that they could be regulated in a more flexible and expedient manner. Most significantly, the term allowed for buildings to be demolished under a certificate of no effect, which meant that any application for demolition was guaranteed approval.
Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission continues to use the term no-style. As of 2014, there were approximately 450 no-style buildings in New York City spread throughout each of the five boroughs. The Landmarks Preservation Commission's designation and regulation of these buildings has generated confusion and controversy. This stems in part from the large range of buildings that are listed as no-style. A handful of these buildings are so significantly altered that they can no longer be defined by a style and are therefore appropriately listed as no-style. Others possess a great deal of integrity and are clear examples of a given architectural style; however, contrary to all logic, they are labeled no-style. Additionally, there is confusion surrounding the Landmarks Preservation Commission's policy towards regulating no-style buildings. This stems from variations that exist between historic districts and differences between policy and practice.
This thesis attempts to clarify the meaning of the term no-style by exploring the origins of the term, characterizing the types of buildings that have been designated as no-style, and exploring changes that have occurred to no-style buildings over time. This thesis also attempts to examine the term's broader use and to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks associated with the Landmarks Preservation Commission's use of the term.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2015