Washington's Technicolor Dream Coat
MVRDV’s first U.S. project breaks multicolored ground at the top of Manhattan
A flash of rainbow is set to touch down in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, as MVRDV’s first project in the United States broke ground earlier today and released a swath of new renderings. The technicolor 22-story Radio Tower & Hotel will be sure to stand out for better or for worse once it’s finished, as it’s springing up in a neighborhood mainly known for blocks of low-slung, turn-of-the-century brick Renaissance Revival–style buildings. Rotterdam-based MVRDV is no stranger to stacked, staggered, and carved forms and bright splashes of color, and from the renderings, it appears that Radio Tower will keep true to that tradition. The mixed-use tower, described by MVRDV as a “vertical village,” was designed to “pull” office, residential, and hotel space off of the ground level and onto a single building. Each of the staggered volumes, about the size of a typical building in the neighborhood, has been assigned a different color and corresponding unique use. For instance, the horizontal blue box at the tower’s center will be reserved for event space. The 234,000-square-foot building is set to rise at the base of the Washington Bridge on 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, right where the street grid drops off into Harlem River Park. Because the site is at the edge of the Harlem River and none of the adjacent buildings come close to reaching the same height, Radio Tower should contribute significantly to Washington Heights’ skyline. MVRDV has used colored ceramic brick for the building’s facade, and the firm states that the color of each box is a reference to a typical fixture in the predominantly-Hispanic neighborhood—a design diagram cites brick, murals, supermarket and bodega canopies, and local restaurants as informing their palette. The staggered massing will also preserve views for residents and guests, as well as carve out rooftop terraces atop each of the volumes. A coffee shop and community garden in the building’s communal internal courtyard will be open to the public, as MVRDV has wanted to create both a “welcoming beacon for people entering Manhattan” as well as a community amenity. Still, it remains to be seen how the Washington Heights community will react to the announcement. A proposed rezoning of Inwood a bit further north drew furious protests from uptown residents, as has the Columbia University Medical Center’s previous expansion plans. No information on the affordability of the complex's residential portion has been revealed as of yet.