Tauranac deals with subjects that guidebooks usually ignore and passersby ordinarily overlook. There’s a statue of Belgium that was originally Germany, and a buffalo hunt depicted on the Manhattan Bridge, and a clock in a sidewalk. A sarcophagus stands in a public park, and the stones from the donjon that had incarcerated Joan of Arc now serve as the base for a statue that honors her. An architect’s like-ness is worked into the statuary of a building that he designed (and, no, it’s not Cass Gilbert in the lobby of the Woolworth Building), a Star of David adorns a Baptist church, and there’s an apocalyptic vision of a collapsing Brooklyn Bridge on a cathedral wall.
“Although the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest building in the world (or even in New York City), it remains mythical, iconic. This entrancing book is at once an appreciation of the structure as a practical work of art and an exploration of the building’s role in the city and the world.”
–The New Yorker
An unofficial aspect of my assignment was to go up in a helicopter with Yann Arthus-Bertrand, ostensibly to point out subjects that might be interesting. The first time I went up with him I was under the assumption that he would roll down a window. No. He removes the side, puts one foot on the "running board," and hangs out. I was so tightly strapped in I could hardly breathe.
It took John Tauranac three years to complete the first draft of “Manhattan Block By Block,” and you can understand why when you learn that he walked every block in Manhattan to prepare his cartographic masterwork. You must also remember that he can be punctilious to the point of being a Type AAA.