• 02.28.14

Turned Upside Down, Images Of New York City Streets Reveal A Hidden Skyline

Buildings Made of Sky shows that the empty space between crowded city streets can be surprising and beautiful–if we’re looking for it.

Just when you thought that New York City’s skyscrapers have been photographed in every possible way, from every possible angle, comes a creative mind that completely turns that preconceived notion upside down.


In artist Peter Wegner’s case, he has actually turned things upside down.

His photo series, Buildings Made of Sky, flips around photos that he’s taken standing in the middle of New York City streets to reveal an ephemeral skyscraper made from the negative air space formed between all of the tall buildings. It’s a side of the city that few if any people have considered before.

© Peter Wegner, used by permission of the artist and Galerie m, Bochum, Germany

The idea came to him while living in New York City, and as he was wandering around downtown, he saw what appeared to be a perfect building “suspended” between other buildings. He started documenting this phenomenon first in New York, and then also in Chicago and San Francisco.

Standing in the middle of the street, the photos weren’t exactly easy to shoot on the busy city streets. “I love it when they tell me what I’m doing: “HEY, YOU’RE STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET TAKING A PICTURE!” I get this a lot. And while it’s true, I’m also standing in the crosswalk with the walk sign on. In New York, drivers get angry and confused when you actually obey traffic rules,” Wegner writes to Co.Exist in an email.

© Peter Wegner, used by permission of the artist and Galerie m, Bochum, Germany

He did survive to tell the tale, and it’s all a little fuzzy in his mind how long the whole series took him. “You could say it took me 1/125 second per image. Or you could say it took me all of my life to arrive at this insight. Or you could say it took almost too long, but not quite, because I didn’t get hit by a truck.”

The negative spaces he captures are ephemeral, in that the idea of “nothingness” can be picture for very long. “You take a step left or right or a cab honks at you and you loose it. The building disappears.” But, more broadly, he wants to make a point that urban dwellers might do well to focus more on what goes on outside their own closed structures. “We’re focused on the built environment when what actually makes the buildings possible and what makes our lives in cities possible is the invisible city that’s wedged in between the buildings.”

The photos are now on display in Los Angeles at the J. Paul Getty Museum and also can be found in his book, Buildings Made of Sky.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.