Manhattan's far west side is about to become one of the busiest construction sites in the country. Last Tuesday morning, officials gathered at the corner of 9th Avenue and West 33rd Street to celebrate the second major groundbreaking in the Hudson Yards District, Brookfield Properties' trio of new SOM-designed towers comprising the Manhattan West development to be built over a large rail yard serving Penn Station. The $4.5 billion project's first phase, construction of the north portion of the railroad-spanning platform that will eventually support development, is now underway, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speculated that the second half of the platform could be underway in coming months. Excavation has been ongoing since the fall of 2012. "From Battery Park to Riverside Park, it's just amazing how much development there has been all along the west side; an area everybody thought did not have the potential to become a hot neighborhood." Bloomberg said. "Manhattan West will be a prime location in which to live or work, a vital piece of the mixed-use community we've envisioned for the Hudson Yards area, which is beginning to take shape." He noted the project's proximity to Hudson River Park, the High Line and its cultural connections in Chelsea, and ease of access via Penn Station. Bloomberg was joined on stage by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Port Authority's Patrick Foye, Hudson Yards Development Corporation President Ann Weisbrod, Brookfield chairman John Zuccotti, and Brookfield executives Dennis Friedrich and Ric Clark. Bloomberg attributed the success of the west side to a 2005 rezoning of the Hudson Yards district and the 7-line subway extension. "Let me remind you," he noted. "A subway line paid for by city dollars when the state wouldn't come through." He said over $6 billion has been invested in the area since 2005. Brookfield has owned the Manhattan West site since 1984, and Friedrich noted that the current economic conditions made it the right time to build. Twin office towers with retail space will anchor the corners of the site, each with two million square feet of office space, and a third residential building will be built along West 31st Street for a total of 5.4 million square feet of space. The cores of the office towers will be anchored in bedrock adjacent to the new platform and the residential tower will be built to the side of the rail yards, adjacent to the new platform. In addition to the three towers, Manhattan West also calls for a 100-foot-wide swatch of new public space between the office towers built on the new platform. High Line designers James Corner Field Operations will design the new 1.5-acre landscape, which is imagined as a recreated 32nd Street forming a pedestrian link with Hudson Yards and park amenities farther west. "The open space at the center of the development will form a pedestrian-friendly link between those mass-transit hubs and Hudson Yards, the High Line, and the Hudson River Park," Bloomberg said. The existing 16-story tower built in 1970 and already spanning the yards is also being redeveloped, and the Observer reports that Brooklyn-based firm REX will be handling the updates to the building, which, based on new renderings from Brookfield, includes a new facade. The structure was originally designed by Davis, Brody & Associates. Initial work includes building the northern platform over the west side rail yards, work that is expected to be complete by late 2014. Friedrich said office construction will start thereafter once financing is secured, remaining optimistic that initial tenants could be on site in the first tower by 2016. Financing for the $680 million deck is already in place with a $340 million construction loan. Brookfield is paying for the remaining $340 million. The deck consists of 16 prefabricated concrete bridge structures covering 60 percent of the five-acre Manhattan West site. "Initially we planned a platform that involved a very elaborate system of structural steel down at the track level," Friedrich said. "We challenged our engineering teams and they came up with a new plan called a 'segmental precast bridge system,'" that minimizes the disruption to track levels, reduces costs, and speeds up construction time. A sample segment of the platform was on display, which Mayor Bloomberg and spectators signed after the ceremony. The large "launcher" that will set the platform pieces in place (see video above) is currently being fabricated off site.
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A proposed 57-story residential tower designed by SOM's Roger Duffy at the corner of Manhattan's East 57th Street and 2nd Avenue is seeing new life after laying low through the recession. The Observer reported today that the 250 East 57th project, announced in 2006, will begin construction this year now that developer World Wide Group has filed new construction papers with the city and began clearing the site. AN previously reported how the project is a partnership with the New York City School Construction Authority to extract the air-rights value beneath the city's school properties. In this case, developers of 250 East 57th paid the Department of Education $325 million for a site lease and agreed to rebuild P.S. 59 adjacent to the tower's site, including roof terraces and a large astroturf play area. Roger Duffy told AN at the time, "A lot of school sites in New York remain underdeveloped in terms of FAR (floor-area ratio)." The school opened in September 2012. The 715-foot-tall, 270-unit tower is the latest addition to the 57th Street corridor, which has seen many new skyscraper plans unfold in recent years. To the west, Extell's One57 by Christian de Portzamparc continued construction, and the same developer recently announced that Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill will design a new 1,550-foot-tall tower near Broadway. Additionally, Cetra Ruddy is also designing a skinny skyscraper at 107 West 57th, Rafael Viñoly's supertall 432 Park tower is under construction, and Bjarke Ingels is moving forward with his plans for a pyramid-shaped tower at the Hudson River. While SOM remains the architects for the project, developers told The Observer that an updated design is in the works, which reportedly sheds the towers crisp angles for a more undulating facade. Roger Duffy previously designed the Toren Tower in Downtown Brooklyn.
Last month AN reported that SOM had won the commission to design the new $400 million federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Today, designs for the new facility were unveiled (via our friends at LA Downtown News and Curbed LA), showing a cube-shaped structure with a porous white surface. So far only two renderings have hit the web, but SOM has promised to share more with us soon. Located at 107 S. Broadway, the project will contain 550,000 square feet (scaled down from an original 600,000). Completion is planned for 2016. Other finalists for the job included Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps; Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy; and NBBJ with Mortensen. The GSA began taking solicitations for the project back in January. SOM recently opened a new LA office—currently working on a new medical education building at UCLA, the San Joaquin student housing complex at UCSB, and the new superior courthouse in San Diego—so things seem to be starting out pretty well for them in Tinseltown. SOM's LA office will work with their San Francisco office on the courthouse project.
AN has been anxiously awaiting official news of an architect for Los Angeles' long-awaited Downtown Federal Courthouse, and we've picked up the scent of a promising rumor. Brigham Young's DTLA Rising blog has heard from a "source at a large architectural and design firm in Downtown LA" that SOM has won the commission, beating out a short list of teams including Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates, Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects, and NBBJ Architects. The new $322 million courthouse will be located on a 3.7-acre lot in Downtown LA at 107 South Broadway and will contain 600,000 square feet incuding 24 court rooms. The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency in charge of building the new courthouse, hopes to have the project completed by 2016. The former art-deco courthouse at 312 North Spring Street will be sold to help pay for the new structure, drawing criticism from some politicians. The GSA is expected to make an official announcement soon, and we'll be sure to keep you updated as news comes in.
The neighborhood around Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal is about to undergo monumental change as the Bloomberg administration pushes to upzone areas around Park and Madison avenues. Already, Norman Foster recently unveiled his plans for a new 425 Park tower, viewed as a precursor to what's bound to be a taller neighborhood and the NYC Department of Transportation announced intentions to close Vanderbilt Avenue to automobile traffic to help with already-overflowing sidewalks. But in anticipation of Warren and Wetmore's Grand Central celebrating its centennial next year, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) asked three firms—SOM, WXY, and Foster+Partners—to re-envision the Beaux-Arts masterpiece and its surrounding midtown neighborhood with an eye toward the train station's next 100 years. The results of the Grand Central…The Next 100 project were unveiled at this year's MAS Summit for New York City, which wrapped up on Friday and included both down-to-earth and fanciful visions for the future of Manhattan. Each of the three firms used the existing Grand Central as a springboard to create infrastructure that stimulates and interacts with the public realm, connecting the terminal to the street and larger neighborhood. These connections are vital considering the terminal handles up to a million visitors on peak days. Foster & Partners put it succinctly in a statement:
The result is acute overcrowding; connections to the rail and subway lines beneath the concourse are inadequate; and the arrival and departure experience is poor. Added to that, the surrounding streets are choked with traffic and pedestrians are marginalised. The rapid growth of tall buildings in the vicinity has all but consumed the Terminal.All three proposals recognize the importance of the pedestrian realm and push for expanded public space, not only along Vanderbilt Avenue, but also along the terraced Park Avenue weaving around the terminal and along diagonal corridors carved through surrounding buildings. The three teams also proposed different ideas of layering spaces, connecting the street level with a terraced viaduct surrounding the terminal and connections to the activity happening underground. WXY peeled away portions of Vanderbilt Avenue to reveal the subterranean infrastructure that makes Grand Central tick, providing both interesting view corridors and easier access to the train station. The new pedestrian plaza is bookended by an proposed new super-tall tower at its southern terminus and a reimagined MetLife building planted with trees and repurposed as residential, office, and hotel uses with an ambitious cultural anchor at its base. The Park Avenue viaduct has been divided to provide separate automobile and pedestrian / bike access. In addition to turning Vanderbilt Avenue over to pedestrians, Foster reimagined the streets surrounding Grand Central as shared spaces where pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles share space in a slow-moving environment with faster traffic bypassing the area through an underpass. Through a series of small-scale interventions, Foster sought to provide "breathing room" around the terminal that allows visitors to linger and experience that place rather than simply rush through, accomplished in part through a series of cuts in the pedestrian plaza leading to retail zones. SOM similarly addresses the ground plane with more nuanced pedestrian space, also turning over the entire Park Avenue viaduct to pedestrian use. Their plans turned monumental with several large towers proposed flanking Grand Central with a moveable ring connecting the two floating over the station. SOM also reached out into midtown with a series of POPS, privately owned public spaces, forming diagonal pedestrian streets modeled after the recently opened Holly Whyte Way that connect to surrounding landmarks like the New York Public Library. As a major transportation hub, a historic building, and a commercial space, Grand Central is among the most important anchors in all of Manhattan, and MAS President Vin Cipolla emphasized the need to acknowledge the public experience in the midst of the ongoing rezoning initiatives. Foster added that MAS’s focus on the next century of Grand Central “represents an important and welcome debate that will help shape the future form of the city. The quality of a city’s public realm reflects the level of civic pride and has a direct impact on the quality of everyday life.” The results of The Next 100 will help the MAS is compiling its forthcoming report,The Future of Midtown.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat held its 11th annual awards symposium Thursday, bestowing architect Helmut Jahn and structural engineers Charles Thornton and Richard Tomasetti with lifetime achievement recognition and awarding Doha Tower the title of 2012’s Best Tall Building. Ateliers Jean Novel’s cylindrical landmark for the burgeoning Qatar capital is the first tall building to use a diagonal grid of reinforced concrete columns in a cross shape. This innovation leaves open the central core, creating a stunning space at the tip of the tower that makes perhaps the best use of the building’s intricately detailed facade. In the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Hermann Hall, CTBUH also awarded one building in each of four geographical regions with Best Tall Building awards, with each recipient presenting their work. The Absolute World Towers in Mississauga, Ontario took home the Americas award. Architect Ma Yansong remarked that high-rises increasingly resemble machines, but his work aims to make tall buildings more human. See AN's past coverage for more on all the award-winners. SOM’s Al Hamra Firdous Tower in Kuwait City and Progetto CMR’s Complesso Garibaldi Tower 2 in Milan received honors as featured finalists. Jahn, whose 40-year portfolio of built work includes the Sony Center in Berlin, Liberty Place in Philadelphia and the MGM Veer Towers in Las Vegas, said some architects forget that very tall buildings have a responsibility to reflect the character and spirit of the cities whose skylines they alter. During the question portion of the morning presentations, he also lamented the loss of architects “who would just throw their drawings at the client,” calling for less “pussyfooting” and more boldness in design today. In another crowd-pleasing moment, Charlie Thornton said engineering is essentially simple when it is not obfuscated by self-important professors. “We need to get rid of calculus teachers,” he said. “They are destroying future engineers.” “I’m not very popular with engineering schools,” he added. Thornton’s name has become practically synonymous, as has his partner Richard Tomasetti’s, with tall building engineering. Before the days of BIM and Catia, Thornton said, he would calculate building stresses on yellow legal pads during long flights. $5 million of computer calculations later, he said, his longhand calculations would be within 10 percent.
Chicago's collective IQ, no doubt already impressive, may rise a few points even higher this Thursday and Friday. The city is hosting a gathering of international thinkers and innovators who specialize in the tools that enable the creation of some of the world's most high-tech and visually arresting building skins. The conference, Collaboration: The Art and Science of Building Facades, is sponsored by The Architect's Newspaper and Enclos. On Thursday, the conference features a high-powered line-up of speakers on Thursday, including Fernando Romero of FREE as the keynote. Then on Friday, the conference turns practical with a series of hands-on workshops that will lead participants through the very latest tools, programs, and applications. For example, Florin Isvoranu of Austria-based firm Evolute, which has collaborating with Zaha Hadid, Asymptote and others, will host a workshop on parametrically driven optimization of freeform facades, a topic that even has industry experts signing up to learn something new. From students to seasoned veterans, those currently attending include staffers from firms like Sapa, Thornton Tomasetti, Interface, Cannon Design, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architcture, Perkins + Will, NBBJ, SOM, and KieranTimberlake, with roles ranging from engineer to BIM manager, market analyst to company president. PhD candidates, MArchs, and undergrads are flocking in from area universities and colleges including The School of the Art Institute, IIT, and Cranbrook Academy, as well as a hefty contingent of 12 students and three profs from the University of South Dakota State University's new Department of Architecture (DoArch). Collaboration is the industry conference you can't afford to miss. There's still time to sign up! Registration details here.
If you walk down Fifth Avenue and 14th Street toward Union Square and notice a building under construction with crooked columns, don’t worry—it is not about to collapse. According to NBC New York, the SOM-designed New School University Center, previously detailed by AN, is raising eyebrows from the local community because some of its columns are slightly skewed. But it’s no mistake. “It's the most efficient way to carry all of the different structural loads of the building from the top of the foundation, " Joel Towers, Parsons The New School for Design dean told NBC. The New York City Department of Buildings has confirmed there are no safety issues with the project.
The Municipal Arts Society is celebrating Grand Central's upcoming centenial, by holding a design challenge to reimagine the grand dame for the next 100 years. Foster & Partners, SOM, and WXY have each been invited to revamp public spaces inside and outside the terminal. More DOT pedestrian plazas anyone? The results of will be shown at the society's third annual Summit for New York City on October 18. (Photo: Tom Stoelker/AN)
The National Building Museum's latest exhibit presents a new way to beat the summer heat—12 holes of mini-golf designed by prominent local architects, landscape architects, and developers. But if it’s windmills and castles you’re after, tee off elsewhere. While the course is a challenge, it offers an intriguing (and very engaging) look at Washington’s architectural history and future. The first hole, Take Back the Streets!, is presented by the American Society of Landscape Architects and was designed by students of the Virginia Tech Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. The team built a segment of streetscape with dedicated transit and bike lanes, and players must aim through pedestrians and stormwater management swales that function as traps. OLIN and STUDIOS Architecture created a hole based on their Canal Park project, set to open this fall near the Washington Navy Yard. Putters can aim up a ramp and through suspended cubes that mimic the development's pavilions, and if that proves too difficult, around PVC pipes representing trees to a separate hole. Ball on the Mall by E/L Studio forces players to navigate the iconic cartography of the National Mall. The design team used a CNC mill to map streets and cut grooves through which the golf ball travels. (You can blame l'Enfant for not making par on this one.) Slightly more abstract is Grizform Design's Hole in 1s and 0s, a representation of a smart phone's inner workings. Walls of the very three-dimensional hole are covered with lights and wires and ramps running down either side. Each forking ramp is made up of laminated laser-cut wood. Choose the right ramp and it's an easy hole-in-one, choose the other and you may spend some time chasing after your ball. (Or take a mulligan; we won't tell!) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, biggest name of the lot, presents a pixelated topography of the Potomac and Anacostia basins titled Confluence. The team overlayed an image of Pierre l'Enfant's masterplan for Washington with a recent satellite image, extruding the pixels according to the density of development. Feel up to the challenge of navigating Washington with a golf club? Visit the National Building Museum anytime from now through September 3. A round of mini-golf is $5 per person, $3 with Museum ticket or membership. And don't forget to vote for your favorite design!
We learn from our friends at Curbed that Los Angeles' Sixth Street Viaduct Competition, replacing one of the most famous—and fragile—landmarks in LA, has a shortlist. The 3,500-foot-long, art deco span was recently deemed beyond repair, and the winner will build a $401 million, cable-stayed bridge in its place. The teams, all present at an LA Bureau of Engineering meeting last night, are AECOM, ARUP, HNTB, Parsons, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and SOM. Three of those teams will present their plans in September, with a winner chosen in October.
While the myriad instruments lining hospital walls are revised constantly to promote patient wellness, the building is there to stay. So if design can help heal or comfort the afflicted, hospital architecture is critical. A Skidmore Owings & Merrill masterplan for Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital is meant to have a calming influence on both patients and staff. SOM’s 1.4-million-square-foot project broke ground Thursday, with completion expected by mid-2015. Demolition of a parking garage on the south end of the site will clear way for a new Orthopaedic and Spine Center, whose downtown-facing south side will serve as the new face for the hilltop hospital. This new front facade features a massive “lantern” window, meant to play off the original hospital’s historic cupola. At night, light emanating from the hospital assumes the form of a beacon. By day, it's designed to welcome warm natural light into the hospital. The soothing effect of natural light on Christ Hospital’s hallways and lobbies should be enhanced by a floor plan that aims to simplify typically chaotic hospital circulation. A roof garden tops off the design, a nice touch that plays off the red brick of the existing structures around the hospital. SOM’s masterplan constructs a campus from existing buildings, new public spaces and the seven-story Orthopaedic and Spine Center. If the hospital now feels like a part of something greater, the designers appear to hope Christ Hospital’s patients will too.