New York's new breed of super-thin condo skyscrapers aren't much to look at.
While almost all architecture is driven by real estate and profit, the proliferation of slender residential towers on the Manhattan skyline has been exacerbated by two facts: 1) they're blatant money-grabs aimed at the dubious pocketbooks of (anonymous) international clientele and 2) in the words of Curbed, they lack "an iota of the aesthetic élan."
They are, in short, ugly on many levels. One look at the future skyline reveals generic vertical extrusions, with some sculptural variations, clad in the same glass curtain walls. Even Raphael Viñoly, author of the 432 Park Avenue's rigorous 1,400-ft concrete grid, seems to have copied his design for another Manhattan residential tower — but with more-of-the-same glazing this time around. As Jean Nouvel's design for 53 W. 53rd St. hints, surely there's a more dynamic way to design these towers? A new concept by Perkins+Will suggests so.
Image Courtesy of Perkins+Will / Illustration: MIR Crossroads
The 700ft-tall tower, projected to built from 2016–2017 on East 37th St., was the recent recipient of a Future Projects Award from MIPIM Architectural Review. Two aspects of the 65-story, 150,000-square-foot skyscraper, set it apart: Firstly, five communal park spaces that occur at regular intervals along the building's height. This was in response to desire of project's the Turkish developer, Nef, for residential amenities and large common spaces. The architects have a related ambition of their own: To re-imagine how we live in dense vertical structures. The sky parks, which feature a range of amenities from cinemas to fitness centers and gardens, were the result. Using these new social and shared spaces, says lead architect Robert Goodwin and project lead designer W. Scott Allen, "we could begin to create a new type of architectural ecosystem in residential high-rise design (or even a commercial high-rise) to help evolve the way we understand vertical city life."
An outdoor cinema space. Image Courtesy Perkins+Will.
What enables these open spaces is the building's other unique aspect: a highly visible steel diagrid. This enabled Perkins+Will to shrink the skyscraper's stabilizing core, which must get thicker as tower's grow taller, by 50%. This meant wider plates and more open spaces. More importantly, much like Chicago's John Hancock Center, this concept translates its unique structural system in an expressive visual pattern. Unlike the anonymous curtain wall, this skyscraper may yet have a sense of identity on the formidable Manhattan skyline.
Image Courtesy Perkins+Will.
Granted, this concept by no means addresses the major policy issues of taxation, affordable housing subsidies, and economic inequality that such projects invoke. However, if architects must build such structures, at the very least they can at least be pleasing to the eye and a fitting tribute to New York's high-rise tradition.
Top Image: Courtesy of Perkins+Will / Illustration: MIR. Bottom Image: Courtesy of Perkins+Will.