Book Review: All the Buildings in New York

All the Buildings in New York: That I've Drawn So Far by James Gulliver Hancock
Universe, 2013
Hardcover, 64 pages

New York City is a great subject for just about any type of book: architecture, art, children's books, and guidebooks, to name a few. Australian illustrator James Gulliver Hancock manages to meld at least these four subjects in the first published collection of the sketches he's been amassing and sharing on his blog. The book documents many of the city's famous architectural icons, making it an architectural guide of sorts, but it also includes many fairly anonymous buildings, which goes along with his unrealistic yet endearing goal to draw all of the buildings in New York. His style also bridges art and a children's picture book; his skewed perspectives, exaggerated details and playful compositions lean to the latter, but his abilities as an artist are clear. Some of the best depictions meld architectural perspectives with two-dimensional paintings, such as the patterned abstraction he uses for the addition to the Guggenheim.

At only 64 pages the book just scratches the surface of the reportedly 900,000 buildings in New York City; one estimate is 500 buildings in the book (some sketches group multiple buildings), making it about one half of one percent of the total. It's an interesting mix of iconic buildings and what many people call background buildings, the ones that even tourists hardly recognize when walking around the city. It's clear that Hancock does not play favorites. A group of three buildings in the Lower East Side is drawn with as much attention to detail and color as the nearby New Museum; if anything the former actually gives a stronger sense of place than the latter, since the New Museum is missing its neighbors. Ultimately the book is a peek into Hancock's mind more than it is an architecture book or a guidebook. His playful and colorful style also make the book suitable for people of any age.


  1. Hey great book for review on public-ally. A unique subject background of architectural guidebook.


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