Go Big or Go Home

The western hemisphere’s second tallest tower may soon rise in New York

Architecture Development East News
A rendering of the future New York skyline, with Tower Fifth, center right, joining several unbuilt towers. (Courtesy Gensler)
A rendering of the future New York skyline, with Tower Fifth, center right, joining several unbuilt towers. (Courtesy Gensler)

Move over 432 Park Avenue. In conversation with the New York Times, prolific developer Harry Macklowe revealed that he had filed a preliminary application with the NYC Department of City Planning for a supertall skyscraper in East Midtown that would reach 1,551 feet. That would make it the second-tallest in the city and the hemisphere after One World Trade, which reaches 1,776 feet.

Tower Fifth, set to rise directly across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue between East 51st and 52nd Streets, is, as the Times notes, likely to be Macklowe’s last great building. He has plenty of projects under his belt. The 82-year-old developer was behind the rise of 432 Park Avenue—the city’s current second tallest building at 1,396-feet-tall—the glassy Apple Store cube on 5th Avenue, and the renovation of the General Motors Building directly behind it, but Tower Fifth will require a slew of special permits, zoning permissions, and permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The tower, if built as proposed, would be 66 percent larger than the zoning for the neighborhood would permit.

The 96-story office tower, a joint effort between Gensler and local firm Adamson Associates Architects, is facing complicated siting conditions and is currently planned to cantilever over two separate landmarked buildings. According to the Times, Tower Fifth would hang 100 feet above the modernist Look Building at the corner of Madison Avenue, and 300 feet above the John Pierce House. An 85-foot-tall, marble-clad glass lobby would frame views of St. Patrick’s, while the tower proper would step back from the base and only begin to rise 400 feet above the ground. The Times notes that the tower will rise on two shafts or stilts.

Rendering of Tower Fifth's marble lobby and church

The 85-foot-tall lobby would use a glass curtain wall to frame views of the adjacent St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Courtesy Gensler)

The massing of the tower seems similar to that of the rectangular 432 Park Ave., until reaching the top, where Tower Fifth will displace and cantilever its floor slabs, a move similar to Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard downtown.

Macklowe also revealed a slew of amenities and promised that the tower’s perforated facade would be extremely energy efficient. The city’s tallest observation deck (Tower Fifth’s roof would rise above that of the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower), a 60-foot-long corkscrew slide, multi-floor running track, and a glass-faced public auditorium that would sit above the lobby and look out over St. Patrick’s Cathedral have all been proposed.

If Macklowe is serious about assembling the development rights necessary for Tower Fifth to reach 1,551 feet, the Times notes that he still needs to buy 580,000 square feet of air rights. While St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been looking to sell its unused development rights to fundraise for its maintenance, it remains to be seen if the owners of the Look Building and John Pierce House will be amenable.

Related Stories