Here are some photos of Greenwich Village in Manhatten. I took the photos when I went to NYC to give a talk before Christmas. What is interesting is how all the buildings shown incorporate traditional proportion. Usually this is reflected in different sized windows as you go up the building, with the smallest at the top. Proportion reflects the natural harmony of music in which combinations of threes predominate. So, even if there are far more floors than three, the architects have grouped together the floors into three sections, with a large ground floor, then a string of floors that are the same size, but smaller than the first, and then the top floor or floors smallest. Using decorative features, the architect connects each section visually. This usually means that in multistorey buildings, the middle section is the largest. Then when one views the building from a distance, these three sections (each subdivided) obey the rules of traditional proportion.
Much of NYC, even the great skyscrapers built before the second world war, follows this traditional proportion and it is one of the reasons that I love to visit. I also like the fact that these are lived in and worked in buildings. If I was going to point an architect to how a city can be elegant and have all the ordinary activities of city life going on, I would be as inclined to point people here, rather than to the centre of any European city that has become a preserved museum of gift shops and cafes only.
While I was here I was staying at the Dominican church, St Joseph’s (below, where I was very well looked after by the friars!). Here is the exterior of their church with its Palladian facade. This part of NYC shows how using proportion allows for a tremendous variety in design. They all sit happily together because they participate in the same standard – which is the beauty of the cosmos, and which ultimately points to the same invisible standard, the beauty of heaven. So we can say, perhaps, that Jerusalem was builded here, amongst these city houses and offices.