All posts in East

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Screen Time

Architecture Office reimagines the cubicle for a new coworking flagship in Syracuse
From the sublime sea of Judd-like boxes in Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967) to the endlessly adaptable furniture systems of today, the cubicle has long been at the center of the office environment. For ShareCuse, a new flagship coworking space in downtown Syracuse, New York, Austin-based studio Architecture Office reimagines this typology as a layered and diffused interior element that connects rather than separates. Throughout the 3,200 square foot space, the firm placed three freestanding cubicles that act as anchors for surrounding seating areas, conference room, telephone booth, and private offices. Inspired in part by the ethereal work of artist Robert Irwin, these elements function “as a series of minimal objects that occupy, frame, and define regions by inhabiting a larger room,” noted Architecture Office co-principal Jonathan Louie. Frames made of 1-inch square aluminum contain custom desks with integrated task lights to provide room for four users within each unit. Black mesh scrims, connected with a custom system, wrap each side to create semi-transparent veils within the overall space, punctuated with a series of 3-by 7-foot openings, allowing for access into the cubicle as well as encouraging exchange between those working within. According to Architecture Office co-principal Nicole McIntosh, the aim was to “design a flexible organization [with] workers moving around the objects and interacting within the shared office landscape.” Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Old Bay, New Bay

Johns Hopkins unveils design details for its Renzo Piano-designed Agora Institute
Last September, Johns Hopkins University announced that they had hired Pritzer Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano to design a home for The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at the university’s Homewood Campus in Baltimore. Yesterday, the first glimpse of these plans were unveiled to city officials and according to The Baltimore Sun, elicited mixed reviews.  The project was established in 2017 through a $150 million dollar gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, an interdisciplinary academic forum “committed to strengthening global democracy through powerful civic engagement and informed inclusive dialogue.” Piano stated in a press release that “The building is designed to reflect these priorities, in design, materials, and accessibility.” Accordingly, the design currently features two “floating” glass hemispheres that are said to embody the institute’s commitment to transparency and open dialogue. While intellectually stimulating, the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel voiced concern that the large glass cubes might have the opposite effect on those outside of the campus community.  However, the University is hopeful about its new addition to Wyman Park Drive. “This new building promises to be a gathering place for scholars and citizens to model the robust exchanges of ideas that are essential for healthy democracies,” said Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels. It is expected to house faculty offices, labs, and graduate student spaces as well as coworking areas. Reflecting on the spirit and purpose of the Greek Athenian Agora (Piano took a similar Grecian approach with Columbia's Forum), the building will also feature community space for conferences, art exhibitions, and a rooftop terrace.  Partner Mark Carroll is leading the project on behalf of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, who have partnered with the Baltimore-based firm Ayers Saint Gross. The architects will attempt to meet, at minimum, LEED Silver Certification for their sustainability target. Lee Coyle, Hopkins’ director of planning and architecture told Baltimore Fishbowl, “we think it’s an opportunity for Johns Hopkins University to make a statement about commitment to sustainability as a true world issue.” Construction is expected to begin in Fall 2020 and conclude by Summer 2022. In addition to the Agora Institute, Hopkins is also planning on giving new life to the nearby old Baltimore Marine Hospital. An architect has yet to be selected for that undertaking. 
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Blinded me with Science

A new show at Cooper Union bridges architectural research and fabrication
As architects further blur the lines between science and design, lab and studio, and academia and practice, the experiments that arise from architect’s labs are changing the way the profession operates. With new digital fabrication and design tools and the university-fueled facilities to play with them, architects are able to reach in and engage with the physical construction process of their buildings more than ever before, altering a professional cultural divide that has been occupied by stonemasons, engineers, and contractors for millennia.  “Really, this is an opportunity for architects to get back a lot of power they’ve lost over the last century,” said Fabio Gramazio, “We finally have the tools to take these risks.”  Gramazio is a cofounder of Gramazio Kohler Architects, along with partner Matthias Kohler. But in 2000, the firm expanded into Gramazio Kohler Research (GKR) with the support of ETH Zurich, where the two both teach. The duo started tinkering with industrial robots, like those found in automobile factories, in the early aughts when they adapted the programmable arms for specific, repeatable building tasks like stacking bricks. However, they’ve come a long way since 2000. How to Build a House, an exhibition on the future of digital architectural fabrication, opened at the Cooper Union last Thursday and showcases a body of research at GKR and their partners from the renowned DFAB House, Benjamin Dillenburger and Mania Aghaei Meibodi. The four architects walked me through the exhibition space, where pieces of their experiments on architectural robots, large-scale 3D printers, and VR visualizations were curated by Hannes Mayer. Displaying a sensuality through its intense realism, the exhibition breaks new ground and questions the role of the architect in the profession of architecture as well as in the traditional context of a construction site.  The technologies on display were adapted by these architects and tested for the first time in the real world with the construction of DFAB house, which was built on the third tier of the NEST building in Zurich. The inhabitable three-story structure is the first to be built almost exclusively with robots and digital technologies, designed from the computer screen up.  “But there’s no repetitiveness anywhere—except for maybe the screws,” said Dillenburger.  For the designers, the process of building the house itself was also a process of changing perspective and expectation. The new opportunities for digitizing age-old building methods like pouring concrete slabs, assembling timber structures, and shaping formwork further an already pressing question the profession is facing. As Kohler asks of his colleagues, “Is research the future of architecture, the core of the profession?”  But the technologies themselves, and their presentation, reinforce their reality and existence in the "now"—this is not a futuristic exhibition. Mayer has adroitly positioned standout pieces of text, like “Architect” and “A Robot” amidst 1:1 models of digitally fabricated, full-size mullions, real-time process videos, and even a complete piece of a detailed, 3D-printed concrete slab.  “It evokes an attractive industrial logic, as well as suggests a recipe,” says curator Mayer, gesturing to the thick black text that accompanies the eye as visitors travel around the non-linear exhibition floor, including the larger-than-life title type of How to Build a House.  And this recipe is still being tinkered with. “Concrete, like architecture, is only limited by convention,” Dillenburger told AN as he gestured to 3D-printed concrete details. “It can be freed if we change our ideas about what it should look like.”
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Neighborhood of the Moving Image

Bjarke Ingels designs an Astoria film production campus for Robert De Niro
It's no secret that New York's film and television industry is booming, or that there's been a recent real estate push for investment in spaces for the creation of shows, movies, and more. Robert De Niro has thus enlisted the help of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design a “vertical village” for film in Astoria, Queens. Initial renderings were released this week, unveiling a 650,000-square-foot facility dedicated to film, television, and AR/VR atop the former home of a Steinway & Sons Piano Storage Facility. The $400 million project was first announced in July when a group of investors, including the actor and his son, purchased the five-acre plot along Steinway Creek in the northwestern edge of Queens. Promising to bolster the city's fast-growing production economy and provide over 1,000 daily union jobs, Wildflower Studios will be a “true destination film campus,” said Adam Gordon, president of the company, in an interview with The New York Times BIG’s grand vision for the grounds, sited at 87 19th Avenue, so far includes a singular structure that will house interconnected spaces for offices, production-support, stages, and lounges. Because the building will be located within a rather industrial part of Astoria and overlooks part of the East River, Wildflower is required to provide public water access and land conservation where necessary.  In a statement, Bjarke Ingels said the spatial constraints made it tricky to design the project: “We were challenged by Wallflower to distill all the physical, logistical, technical and experiential aspects of film production into a one of a kind vertical village for film."  Most studios in the city, from Steiner in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Silvercup in Long Island City, are located on large plots of land within warehouses that have long-existed as the homes of manufacturing outlets. These unassuming properties include open floor plates, ample oversized doors and elevators, as well as little access to light—perfect for film production. BIG's design for Wildflower is clearly seeking to strike a different tone as it uses natural light spilling in from exterior cutouts, greenery scattered from the lobby to the lounge, and views of the adjacent water. For De Niro, this strategic focus on design symbolizes the studio's commitment to production spaces where creatives want to work and are proud to be every day. “Completion of this project ensures that future generations of producers, directors, writers, and storytellers will play a vital role in filmed entertainment in New York for years to come,” he said in a press release. So far, no date for completion has been announced but the plans are now being filed with the New York City Council. 
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Fat Pockets

The MTA proposes its largest capital plan ever
Signal modernization, line extensions, and upgraded subway cars may not sound like riveting headline news, but the recently released blockbuster $51.5 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget proposal is targeting the woeful state of New York City's public transportation network. If approved, the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan projects a 70 percent jump in funding from the previous budget cycle.  The capital plan was proposed on the heels of major criticisms of the city’s subway system. In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the subway system after an A train derailed in upper Manhattan. Other common complaints included delayed service, overcrowded cars, and sweltering platform temperatures. Accordingly, well over half of the funds have been allocated for the subway system alone.  The program made major promises to MTA riders, including faster service, 70 new ADA accessible stations, and the completion of the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway. More specifically, the capital plan committed to modernizing signaling for 50 percent of passengers by reaching 11 train lines, and a total of 80 miles in track replacement. The transit system could also see sweeping upgrades like 1,900 new subway cars, 2,400 new buses, and over $4 billion spent for station renewals.  The capital plan would require billions of dollars worth of concerted federal, state, and local funding. The plan asked for $3 billion in federal funds for the Second Avenue Subway alone, which President Trump has already tweeted his support for, seemingly unprompted (Governor Cuomo was puzzled and denied reaching an agreement with the federal government). Another $3 billion is expected each from state and city authorities. While Cuomo has already committed to sending the state funding, the Governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio have notoriously disagreed over who is responsible for paying for the subway’s state of disrepair. The capital plan faces a lengthy approval process, including an upcoming MTA Board review and a review by the Capital Program Review Board. A major portion of the funding, $15 billion, is expected to be generated from the newly approved, but yet to be implemented, congestion pricing in parts of Manhattan. 
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Beautiful Brut

DIGSAU brings prefabricated concrete formwork to the Philadelphia Navy Yard
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The Philadelphia Navy Yard, similar to other waterfront areas across the country, is undergoing a two-decades-long transformation from a declining industrial district to a burgeoning office park. A significant number of businesses have located to the adaptively reused warehouses, while others are opting for entirely new construction. 351 Rouse Street, which is the U.S Headquarters of medical research laboratory Adaptimmune, is a recent addition to the area designed by architectural firm DIGSAU and clad in prefabricated concrete panels. DIGSAU, who are located a few miles north of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, are not unfamiliar with the site, having completed a similarly prefabricated concrete office building just down Rouse Street in 2015.
  • Facade Manufacturer Universal Concrete Centria YKK JE Berkowitz
  • Architect DIGSAU
  • Facade Installer Turner Construction EDA Hutts Glass Co.
  • Facade Consultant RDWI
  • Structural Engineer ENV
  • Location Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Custom assembly
  • Products YKK YCW 750XT & 750SSG Guardian SunGuard AG 50 on clear, fabricated by JE Berkowitz Centria Silversmith Aluminum
Irregular sites require thoughtful and straightforward design and structural solutions; the project is located adjacent to an electrical substation, underground utility lines, and a nearby lot slated for future development. In response to this setting, DIGSAU developed a low-slung and, at certain moments, cantilevered massing for the nearly 50,000-square-foot structure. The overall character of the massing is extenuated by the horizontal impressions of the wood formwork. The light-gray surface is semi-reminiscent of a striated archeological section; the extruded and recessed finish alternates between rough and smooth grain and is broken up by ribbons of fenestration. The economy of the facade impression was significantly influenced by the budgetary and timeline constraints of the project, and the total tab for the project was an impressively tight $10 million. "The precast spandrel panels and ribbon windows are market-driven development approaches that have proven to be highly effective for controlling costs and speeding up construction timelines," said DIGSAU principal Mark Sanderson. "We were intrigued about how we might both embrace and deny these techniques simultaneously: the repetitive precast patterning is interrupted with vertical joints that increase in density where the ribbon windows are agitated." Installation of the panels had to be fairly straightforward to meet the tight timetable of the project. To this end, weld plates were cast into each facade unit which were then subsequently hoisted into place and welded to the steel frame. Once in place, the panels simultaneously function as both external cladding as well as support for the high climate-controlled YKK framing of the ribbon window. DIGSAU Associate Elizabeth Kahley will be joining the panel “Medium-sized and Mixed-use Projects: Opportunities for Creative Mix of Materials and Scale" at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.
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A "Temple" to Books

Snøhetta's swooping Charles Library opens at Temple University
Snøhetta’s eleventh library has opened its doors for the fall semester at Temple University in Philadelphia. The new Charles Library is just one of many construction projects initiated by a $300 million dollar investment in the 2014 Visualize Temple campus master plan. The 220,000-square-foot, 4-story library boasts more than double the amount of space of its brutalist predecessor, Samuel Paley Library, which was designed in the 1960s by Nolen & Swinburne and will soon be renovated for the School of Public Health. Sited at the intersection of the campus’s major pedestrian pathways (Polett and Liacouras Walk) and one block over from the city’s major thoroughfare (Broad Street), the building acts as a new social and academic hub to not only the school but for the North Philly community at large.  Designed and developed in collaboration with Stantec, the building’s base is vertically clad in split-faced granite, a choice that references the campus’s surrounding context. A cedar-clad arched entrance is cut into the stone volume and welcomes visitors to the south side of the building. The swooping wooden arches continue past the glass facade and into the interior where they form a three-story domed atrium, which serves as a zone that's open 24/7 and offers workstations that are available to all Philadelphia residents. An oculus allows light to pour in from the top floor. To accommodate the growing student body of 39,000, the design needed to utilize the latest technologies while reinterpreting the traditional typology of a university research library. In the atrium, at the base of the steel-clad main staircase, is what students and staff lovingly call the “BookBot”—a fifty-seven-foot tall automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) for the library’s collection of over 1.5 million volumes. The BookBot drastically reduced the space needed for book storage (the system takes up just five percent of the total square footage) and thus enabled more areas to be developed for individual study, collaboration, and other academic resources such as digital fabrication, and writing and tutoring labs.  While the BookBot frees up shelf space throughout the library's four floors, the book itself hasn’t completely disappeared from sight. Roughly 200,000 volumes can still be accessed in the library’s browsable collection on the fourth floor. On this level, floor-to-ceiling glazing lets in ample sunlight for studying and offers a moment of respite and connection to nature as students can look out onto views of the building’s lushly planted green roof.  The 47,300 square-foot roof garden is one of the largest in Pennsylvania and covers over 70 percent of the building’s roof surface with over 15 different species of native flowers and grasses. Designed to meet Philadelphia Water Department guidelines, the roof is a key part of the site’s stormwater management system, which also includes two underground catchment basins that store and process nearly half a million gallons of water.  The library is already being filled with students socializing in the ground floor cafe, soaking up some sun in the stacks, and diligently working on their laptops anywhere there is an open seat. Given the notoriety of the firm, it is sure to draw attention from more than those cramming for tomorrow’s exam—the university is expecting over five million visitors to stop by the building annually.
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A Tree Grows in Westchester

Historic Rockefeller Orangerie will become a net-zero art center
Lush, gated properties are not out of the ordinary in the Westchester village of Tarrytown, New York. However, set back upon the Rockefeller family’s former estate lies something entirely out of the ordinary—a stately greenhouse for growing oranges. Built in 1908 by architect William Welles Bosworth, the building served as a winter greenhouse for orange trees, an orangerie. More than a century later, New York-based architecture firm FXCollaborative wants to give "the Orangerie," a building on the estate, a new purpose, with plans to adapt it into a public arts center with net-zero carbon emissions. Plans for the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center began in 2015 at the Pocantico Center, a conference and community resource center developed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) on the former Rockefeller property in Tarrytown. The new center will include multipurpose performance spaces, a gallery, and a flexible art studio that will also accommodate community programs. “The repurposed building will give us space to elevate and nurture the creative process," said Judy Clark, executive director of the Pocantico Center, “for both emerging and world-class artists, and local community groups alike.” With an emphasis on sustainability from the very beginning, FXCollaborative’s designs include a rain garden for stormwater control and habitat restoration as well as on-site solar panels that will generate more energy annually than the building will consume. The firm will also seek LEED Platinum certification for the Orangerie in alignment with RBF’s “decades-long commitment to promote sustainable design,” as described by Sylvia Smith, a senior partner at FXCollaborative. “Our approach will elegantly fuse arts-drive and net-zero energy design,” said Smith. “The result will be a laboratory for creative production and a model for sustainable transformation.” The regeneration will present a new chapter in the Orangerie’s unusual history on the Rockefeller estate, which has played home to four generations of the family. Post-World War II, the building was used as a storage facility before ownership was transferred to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1979. Today, it operates as part of the larger RBF amidst terraced residences and gardens. “The goal of this project is to see artists and their work as a dynamic work in progress, instead of a static, finished project,” said Smith. “We know Mr. Rockefeller believed art changes the way one perceives the world, and we’re excited to play an important part in facilitating that change in New York.” Construction for the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center is set to begin later this year and conclude in the spring of 2021.
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FAUR-SKOW

Faurschou Foundation expands to NYC with a massive exhibition space in Greenpoint
This November 3, the international Faurschou Foundation is set to open a new 12,000-square-foot exhibition space in Brooklyn. The inaugural exhibition, The Red Bean Grows in the South, will be on view through April 2020 and will feature work by artists including Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others.  Established in 2011 by Jens Faurschou, a Danish art collector and philanthropist, the foundation already has two permanent exhibition spaces in Copenhagen and Beijing as well as a biennial pop-up gallery in Venice. Housed in a newly renovated industrial warehouse in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, the exhibition space will allow the foundation to organize a wider variety of group shows such as this one, as well as showcase some of the larger-scale installations and experiential works from the Faurschou’s permanent collection.  As founder Faurschou explained in a recent press release, “Now that we’ve found the perfect venue—raw and industrial in aesthetic and vast enough to accommodate the large-scale installations we often collect and present—we are excited to establish a permanent presence in one of the world’s foremost cultural capitals.” It is exactly this idea of cross-cultural exchange between Europe, Asia, and the Americas that is at the heart of the foundation’s ethos. With a long personal history of studying and collecting contemporary Chinese art, the foundation describes China as a big part of “their DNA”—an identity, of course, also infused with Danish values and aesthetics.  The exhibition’s title itself references a Chinese Tang Dynasty poem by Wang Wei with a title that translates to Yearning
Red beans grow in southern countries. How many would sprout in spring? I wish you'd pick more, my dear friend: The closest bond they would bring.
Just as the four-line poem expresses a deep longing for a loved one, the show will also explore the idea of yearning, whether it be for a person, an escape, or a better future. Desire, however, is not the exhibition’s sole curatorial focus. Works on view will also form a dialogue within conceptual frameworks such as war, violence, and global politics.  Faurschou New York 148 Green Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
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Stripping the Storefront

Storefront's Ministry for All breaks down Brasilia's socio-political infrastructure
Brasilia, the midcentury planning marvel designed by Oscar Niemeyer along Lucio Costa's master plan, boasts monumental civic structures that have long provided a sense of stoicism as the face of Brazil's capital. But what goes on inside those government buildings—like many others around the world—changes from one administration to another, influencing the near future of a country seemingly in constant unrest.  Since Brasilia’s buildings can’t be stripped apart to reveal their inner workings, architect Carla Juaçaba and artist Marcelo Cidade will expose the physical infrastructure of the Storefront for Art and Architecture as a commentary on the social and political foundations of the built environment. This site-specific exhibition, Ministry for All, breaks down Niemeyer’s utopian vision for Brasilia by removing the concrete panels of the SoHo space’s iconic facade and bringing them inside. 
 
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Opening this Saturday, September 21, the showcase won’t look like a typical, polished art installation at Storefront. Instead, construction materials such as insulation foam and plywood boards will line the exterior, while the concrete panels will be rearranged to make new forms within the gallery’s interior. According to Juaçaba and Cidade, “this layered installation extrudes the facade inward and allows visitors to walk through it, providing a different reading of its panels now that they are no longer forming their intended function.”  Juaçaba and Cidade’s interventions will serve as a reminder that spaces are often used differently than they were intended for when originally built, solely because their users vary widely and change over time. It’s both a conceptual and poetic critique, according to the curators, on the resilience of architecture and will force the viewer to think deeper on how societies around the world can ultimately build systems that do work for all.  Ministry for All will be on view through December 14 and is the second exhibition in Storefront’s year-long program, Building Cycles, which explores the differences between building as a place and as a process. 
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Rink On

Long-neglected North End of Central Park will get a $150 million revamp
The northern end of Central Park is slated to get a major upgrade by 2024. Today the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department unveiled its plans for a $150 million restoration of the long-damaged landscape surrounding the Harlem Meer Envisioned by the conservancy’s design office, led by chief landscape architect Christopher J. Nolan, in collaboration with Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola, the project aims to repair the land, restore the local ecology, and revamp access to a new recreational facility that will replace the 53-year-old Lasker Rink and Pool. Built like a concrete box, the building has blocked views of the Harlem Meer towards the south and diminished the size of the 11-acre landscape since it opened in 1966.  The project is the final piece of the puzzle that is the conservancy’s 40-year renewal plan to update Central Park. In 2016, the group completed restored the Ravine landscape next door to the Lasker Rink, and the Loch watercourse in the North Woods. Pedestrian circulation was improved, infrastructure was updated, and the deteriorating rustic bridges and stone steps that populated the landscape were rebuilt.  The design team wants to build upon that project by further enhancing access to all the recreational activities available at this end of the park. By removing the rink building, they will build a new, sustainable, light-filled facility that shows off the surrounding landscape rather than obstructing it. The building will be embedded into the topography of the site along its eastern slope and feature a green roof that doubles as a pathway and gathering place. It will boast views of the park, pool, and rink below, which will be lowered slightly than its existing location and reshaped into an elongated oval to maximize its impact on the site.   All of these design moves, big and small, will allow for water from the Ravine to flow more easily into the Meer. Visitors will be able to observe this transition as they walk around a curvilinear boardwalk that extends over the freshwater marsh and across a series of small islands. Other upgrades to the project will include a new pool deck, bathrooms, locker rooms, and concessions area.  Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.
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Taking Titles and Stealing Views

Central Park Tower tops out to become the world's tallest residential building
The 1,550-foot-tall Central Park Tower is officially the tallest residential building in the world. After topping out earlier this week, the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed structure now stands nearly complete at 217 West 57th Street, higher than any of its neighbors on Manhattan's Billionaire’s Row.  It’s the second project on that strip of premiere Midtown Manhattan real estate from Extell Development Company, the minds behind Christian de Portzamparc’s One57. The latter project became the first supertall condominium on the street in 2016. Since the original unveiling of that design in 2005, over eight similar projects have popped up and are now either finished or under construction along or near West 57th Street. As the latest to top out, Central Park Tower has broken the height record set by Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, with 131 floors. Though largely residential and boasting 179 luxury condos, Central Park Tower—with its glass-clad facade and stainless-steel, pinstripe-like fins—will feature a seven-story Nordstrom flagship store at its base and three floors of amenities for apartment owners. Spanning a total of 50,000 square feet, these areas include an outdoor terrace with a pool, a wellness center with an indoor pool, and a ballroom and cigar bar on the 100th floor (without a pool, sorry).  At 300 feet above the street, the tower cantilevers slightly to the east and then nearly all the way up to the top floor, allowing views of Central Park from the north-facing apartments. Looking up from the park below, the building has the appearance of a series of extremely thin, elongated towers stacked closely to one another. That design move was intentional to maximize those (multi)million-dollar views. Together, the sections created a textured look that gleams during the daylight in different ways. Despite its fancy features, the supertall project might suffer a similar sales fate like the other towers on Billionaire's Row. It’s been widely reported that 40 percent of the seven buildings in the area are unsold simply because they are too expensive and the Midtown market isn't as favored as some Lower Manhattan or even Brooklyn developments. There's one sign, though, that this could be changing: 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern recently passed $1 billion in sales according to 6sqft, largely thanks to the close on its $238 million penthouse by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. Until Central park Tower hits its expected sellout of over $4 billion, 220 Central Park South will remain the most expensive residential building in the United States.  In an interview with Justin Davidson published this week in New York Magazine, Gordon Gill said that, apart from being another competitive project on Billionaire's Row, Stern’s building posed another challenge for the architects from the beginning. It sits directly in front of Central Park Tower and boasts closer views of the sprawling landscape below. 
“It’s like being at the theater; if everyone’s in rows trying to see the stage, nobody can see anything at all,” said Gill. “The solution is to stagger the seats. When we moved the tower off-center to get better retail spaces, we discovered an opportunity to capture incredible direct and oblique views. That’s why the building is stepped and staggered in every direction — north, south, east, and west — walking all the way up to 1,550 feet. If you look at this building from a distance, it has a strong ethos and a sense of stability. On the other hand, there’s a lot of movement. The trick was managing all that activity without getting overly effusive.”