The New York City 1916 Zoning Resolution was a measure adopted primarily to stop massive buildings such as the Equitable Building from preventing light and air from reaching the streets below. It established limits in building massing at certain heights, usually interpreted as a series of setbacks and, while not imposing height limits, restricted towers to a percentage of the lot size. The chief architects of this resolution were George McAneny and Edward M. Bassett.
Architectural delineator Hugh Ferriss popularized these new regulations in 1922 through a series of massing studies, clearly depicting the possible forms and how to maximize building volumes. "By the end of the 1920s the setback skyscraper, originally built in response to a New York zoning code, became a style that caught on from Chicago to Shanghai," observe Eric Peter Nash and Norman McGrath, discussing the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, which rose in isolation in Brooklyn, where no such zoning dictated form. The tiered Art Deco skyscrapers of the 1920s and 1930s are a direct result of this resolution.
By mid-century most new International Style buildings had met the setback requirements by adopting the use of plazas or low-rise buildings surrounding a monolithic tower centered on the site. This approach has been criticized for its hostility and, among other issues, led to the codes being reformed in 1961.