The 86th floor of the Empire State Building offers a panorama of New York City and the entire metropolitan region that is world famous. There is only one problem with it. Whether you are a native or a visitor, you might not know what you are looking at when you gaze out upon this vast metropolis. If you ask, the odds are pretty good you will be given misleading information by a well-meaning but ill-informed person, or you might simply be met by a chorus of �I don�t knows.�
John Tauranac was made keenly aware of this situation while researching his critically acclaimed biography of the building, The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark (St. Martin�s Press, 0-312-14824-0). Whenever he visited the 86th floor observatory he would would politely interject himself in the conversations of total strangers to set the record straight. Finally the lightbulb went on over his head � create a guide to the view. The result: The View From the 86th Floor: The Empire State Building and New York City.
The idea is simple. Show a full-color photograph of a view, and, on the next spread, show the same view in black and white, with the major buildings, landmarks and geography identified. First you see the view in color, then � in black and white � you are told what you are looking at. Night views of the same scene follow, so people visiting the observatory at night need only flip back a page to identify the sites. Historic photographs then follow to show the changing cityscape.
The views follow eight compass points, and the book is arranged in sequence as if you are walking clockwise around the building, starting with the view north. Close-up views both north and south are included to show some of the details in Midtown and the Financial District. And the last set of photographs shows four views that are looking down rather than out.
What�s Inside The View From the 86th Floor
- Daytime views in color from each of the eight compass points, close-up views of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, and four views looking down from the building.
- Each of the color views is followed by a black-and-white view pointing out all the major places of interest.
- Nighttime views from each of the eight compass points.
- Historic views in color and black-and-white to put the cityscape in perspective.
- On the inside front cover, a map of Metropolitan New York, and facts and figures on the Empire State Building.
- A short history of the building on pages 2�3.
- A map of Manhattan from the Battery to 42nd Street on page 80, and from 32nd to 128th Streets facing it on the inside back cover.
- On the back cover are only some of the records that New York City has held over the years, including records for four of the world�s longest suspension bridges, and nine of the world�s tallest buildings, including, of course, The Empire State Building.
�Just wind him up, put him on a street corner in Manhattan, and he�ll start talking,� says Jane Bevans about her husband, John Tauranac. As the Times reporter Richard F. Shepard said, �John Tauranac knows New York.� Tauranac demurs. He likes to paraphrase Thomas Wolfe, saying �Only the dead know Manhattan, because it takes a lifetime to learn it. I�m still going, still learning.�
Tauranac teaches New York history and architecture at NYU�s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, where he is an adjunct associate professor, he maps the city, and he writes about it.
Tauranac�s books in.clude The Empire State Building: The Mak.ing of a Landmark (St. Martin�s Press); Elegant New York (Abbeville); Essential New York (H olt, Rinehart & Winston); Seeing New York (Popular Library); and New York From the Air (Harry Abrams). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Seaport, New York Magazine, and so on.
Tauranac�s first published maps were the famous Undercover Maps that ran in New York Magazine in the early 1970s. More famous, of course, is the official New York City Subway Map that first appeared in 1979. He went on to design dozens of maps for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and for several Business Improvement Districts. He is responsible for the critically acclaimed Manhattan Block By Block: A Street Atlas, and for the recently published Manhattan Line By Line: A Subway & Bus Atlas, both printed under the Tauranac imprint.
Tauranac�s graduate degree is from New York University, where he studied urban history; his bachelor�s is from Columbia University�s School of General Studies, where he was an English lit major.
Tauranac was awarded a commendation for design excellence by the National
Endowment for the Arts and the U. S. Department of Trans.portation for his design
of the official subway map, and he was named a Centennial Historian of the
City of New York by the Mayor�s Office for his work in history. For Columbia�s
250th anniversary, the Columbia Spectator has ranked the 250 greatest
undergraduate alumni at the Spectator�s Web site. To his astonishment, Tauranac
is number 193.
He lives with his wife, Jane Bevans, and their daughter Maggie on Manhattan�s Upper West Side.