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SHoP Architects, a young New York firm, has grand designs. The firm’s seven partners say they won’t be content to merely leave a mark on America’s most important skyline; they also want to transform the business of creating buildings. “Sometimes we joke,” says one partner, Vishaan Chakrabarti, “that the nearest precedent is McKim, Mead & White.”

It’s a nervy comparison for a New York architect to make, even in jest—a little like a pop group invoking Mozart—but SHoP has begun to back its ambitions with big commissions. Over the past few years, the firm has become the city’s go-to designer for complex, civically important projects. In November, when the owner of a controversial Manhattan waterfront scheme unveiled plans for a 50-story hotel and marina, SHoP was his architect. When Michael Bloomberg, the city’s previous mayor, announced a $1.1 billion mixed-income housing development, SHoP partners were at his side. There’s also an ultra-luxury midtown condo tower, 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building; a dockyard redevelopment around an old Brooklyn sugar factory; and even an outlet mall in blue-collar Staten Island, to be adjoined by the world’s tallest Ferris wheel.

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