Drawing All the Buildings in New York
Illustrator James Gulliver Hancock hails from Australia, but he’s made it his mission to draw every building in New York City.
“I’ve always used drawing as a way to understand what’s around me, and New York was pretty overwhelming when I arrived so I thought I’d do that here and drawing buildings helps me make a map of the place for myself and understand it better,” he said.
The first building that he drew was the one he first lived in upon arriving in New York in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. While Hancock feels that New York and New Yorkers – as well as admirers around the world – have a particular romance with city architecture, he doesn’t have a favorite building himself.
“They’re all my favorites when I’m drawing them…it’s the one that I’m in front of that I’m in love with at the particular time,” he said.
Drawing New York City’s buildings started as a personal project for Hancock, but the attention he’s received after the publication of a book earlier this year has launched it into a new dimension. He’s been commissioned to draw numerous buildings, which has left him with far less time to draw the buildings he’s attracted to but also leads him to areas he might not have visited otherwise.
“One lovely story where a couple were moving into an apartment together and they both had really romantic ideas about the apartments they were moving out of, so they got me to draw both of their respective apartments that they used to live in and the one that they were moving into so they had this triptych of their relationship with architecture and their relationship. It was really sweet,” he said. “It’s no longer my private journal, it’s me mapping New York for everyone.”
Hancock isn’t quite sure how many he’s drawn so far – over a thousand for sure – but he’s undaunted by the prospects of his project.
“I have no idea how long its gonna take to draw all the buildings but if you did the math I guess - someone said there’s like 900,000 in… just Manhattan or something like that – so if I’m doing one a day it’s 365 buildings a year times however many, I don’t know its like 3,000 years or something, so we’ll see.”
You can see more of Hancock’s buildings, sortable by borough and building type, at allthebuildingsinnewyork.com.