Since then, as approaches to planning have become more sophisticated, the challenge for developers has only become more complex. “Government approvals are a huge piece of what we do,” says David Penick, managing director of Hines, developer with Goldman Sachs and Pontiac Land Group of the super-tall 53W53 tower above New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “To create a project like this, we spend a tremendous amount of time getting everything in place so we can proceed with construction.”

Penick welcomes the complexity that the city’s detailed planning guidelines bring. “An exciting thing about developing in New York is that there is a great set of rules. It’s not a matter of going to City Hall and saying ‘Gee, I wish I could do this’. Every neighbourhood is precisely zoned, and for each plot, it says how big the building can be and what its use can be. It’s a fantastic challenge, like racing a 12m yacht. You’re always trying to understand the rules and what the possibilities are, and then someone comes up with a clever new idea that everyone learns from.”