editorial     Jan 31 2017

An Architectural Design Tour of Chinatown NYC

By Mapos Team

If you’ve recently paid a visit to NYC’s Chinatown, you’ll know that the neighborhood is even crazier than usual. With Chinese New Year starting this Saturday, the whole neighborhood is preparing with red scroll decorations and mooncake preparations. In honor of the holiday, we’ve put together a list of a few under-the-radar architectural design landmarks in the neighborhood we now call home.

A walk through Chinatown manifests a larger narrative of a collision of two cultures and the stories from the vibrant immigrant community that still lives there today. It’s ’s also an exploration of NYC’s rich urban history of architectural design. Let’s get into a few interesting highlights here.

image via Wikimedia Commons



1. Loews Theater on Canal Street

Canal Street is filled with fish markets, Chinese jewelry stores, and souvenir shops. But did you know it’s also home to a famous abandoned theater, a significant architectural design spot in NYC? This now deserted Loews Theater still sits empty at 31 Canal Street, though the theater originally had 2,300 seats.

Image via @itsneilb on Instagram



2. Doyers Street Tunnel

Doyers Street was once notoriously known as the “Bloody Angle” because of a large amount of gang violence on the street. Underground tunnels were sometimes used as escape routes. There is still one that exists today that you can visit, though now it’s surrounded by some of the hotspots in the neighborhood like Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Apotheke. Today, part of the existing tunnel has been converted by a new restaurant called Chinese Tuxedo at 5-7 Doyers Street, which is owned by a three generation Chinese family from Chinatown, looking to restore some of the neighborhood’s history.

Image via @andriizhulidov on Instagram



3. Chinatown Tenements

You can’t talk about architectural design in New York City without talking about tenements. Tenements were run-down, often overcrowded apartment houses, and were a very common theme of the immigrant experience in NYC. In Chinatown, there was an infamous one on the fourth floor of 81 Bowery, which was evacuated in 2014.

Image via @__joselo__ on Instagram


4. The Biggest Buddha in the Big Apple

On a happier note, Chinatown is home to NYC’s Biggest Buddha. You can visit this sixteen-foot Buddha at the Mahayana Buddhist Temple on Canal Street, which is also the largest Buddhist temple in the city. A fun fact that before this temple opened in 1997, this space was called the “Rosemary Theater” and showed adult films. If you’re planning on visiting, just make sure you’re dressed appropriately to visit this iconic piece of architecture and design—basically, wear clothing that covers most of your body and you’ll be good to go.


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