A BIG New York Debut: West 57th

Courtesy of

The awkwardly shaped large site at West Side Highway and 57th Street is about to get a whole lot more attention. and BIG will finally make their architectural debut in North America, with an unusual apartment building design in none other than New York City. The asymmetrical peak almost pyramid in shape is the result of blending the mismatched forms of a typical Manhattan tower podium and a low-rise apartment block European in style.

BIG’s reinvention of the ‘New York apartment building’ somehow is able to check all of the boxes, providing a connection to the waterfront and the Hudson River Park, acknowledging the surrounding context both in relationship to building size and neighbors’ views, and alleviating traffic noise. The leafy green courtyards that pop up within this new residential typology help to balance a steeply sloped facade, 450-feet at its peak. Designed for client Durst Fetner Residential, the building offers both a cultural and commercial program and will accommodate 600 residential units varying in size.

Follow the break for the architect’s description and more photographs.

Architects: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels
Project Leader: Beat Schenk
Project Architect: Sören Grünert
Project Team: Thomas Christoffersen, Celine Jeanne, Daniel Sundlin, Alessandro Ronfini, Aleksander Tokarz, Alessio Valmori, Alvaro Garcia Mendive, Felicia Guldberg, Gabrielle Nadeau, Ho Kyung Lee, Julian Liang, Julianne Gola, Lucian Racovitan, Marcela Martinez, Maria Nikolova, Minjae Kim, Mitesh Dixit, Nicklas Rasch, Riccardo Mariano, Stanley Lung, Steffan Heath, Thilani Rajarathna, Xu Li
Architect of Record: SLCE Architects
Landscape Architects: Starr Whitehouse
Structural: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP: Dagher Engineering
Civil: Langan Engineering
Construction Manager: Hunter Roberts
Transportation: Philip Habib & Assoc.
Building Envelope: Israel Berger & Assoc.
Marketing: Nancy Packes
Vertical Transportation: Van Deusen & Assoc.
Acoustical: Cerami & Assoc.
Wind: CPP
Environmental: AKRF
Client: Durst Fetner Residential
Project Area: 870,000 sqf
Renderings & Animation: German Glessner

Courtesy of BIG

BIG has taken a step back to survey the rules of the system in Manhattan and is introducing a European typology: the perimeter block. With an efficient layout and a sense of intimacy, the perimeter block meets demands for density and security. In this project, we have married it to the traditional Manhattan high-rise, creating a unique shape which combines the advantages of both: the compactness of a courtyard  with the airiness and the amazing views of a skyscraper. The form of the building shifts depending on the viewer’s vantage point. From the West Side Highway, it appears to be a pyramid; from West 58th, a dramatic glass spire.

Courtesy of BIG

By keeping three corners of the block low and lifting the north-east portion of the building, the courtyard opens views towards the Hudson River and brings the low western sun deep into the block. While the courtyard is a private space for residents, it can still be seen from the outside, creating a visual connection to the greenery of the Hudson River Park. The slope of the building allows for a transition in scale between the low-rise structures to the south and the high-rise residential towers to the north and west of the site.

Courtesy of BIG

The eye-catching and highly visible roof consists of a simple ruled surface perforated with terraces—each one unique and south-facing. Its closed appearance is in contrast with the building’s perimeter.

Courtesy of BIG

The building is predominantly residential units of different sizes with cultural and commercial program at the street level and the second floor. By slightly angling the interior walls, all units are oriented towards the Hudson River and the sun. The fishbone pattern of the walls can also be found in the elevation. Every apartment has a bay window to take advantage of the site’s spectacular views. In addition, the balconies encourage interaction between the residents and the passers-by.

Courtesy of BIG
Cite: Minner, Kelly. "A BIG New York Debut: West 57th" 07 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=109832>

35 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    I have not seen any of their building in person, but as yet i am not convinced from the images and descriptions that this is any different to any other standard apartment building. I’m very cautious about it all..

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very formally ambitious, but I wonder about the spatial qualities of the rooms. Would be nice to see a few plans to understand how they resolve circulation in such a unique form.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Totally.
      I hope I’m not pointing out the obvious but my guess is that the residential floors are actually L-shaped with double loaded corridors that end with suites. The corners are probably where exit stairs and circulation shaft are.

      I think most of the wow factor comes from the slope. Apart from the big formal gesture this building seems generic and looks slightly gaudy. Kudos to the simple rational but the aesthetics are questionable.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        It seems pretty simple, I don’t understand why people are so confused by the rectilinear footprint…

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The 8 building is quite dissapointing. Besides Shangai’s Pavillion, I think most of their good works were made as PLOT. This is just another not-so-cool diagram that could eventually be built.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I hope this one stays on paper…
    The double curved surface is poorly managed… a shame to NY city grid.

    a new yorker

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i am not convinced by the images shown… i think the firm is talented, but should step out of their comfort zone in the future… until then their work will be greatly limited.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    As a scheme, most of the criticism here is probably valid. I agree with the fact that the actual detail planning could be questionable, BUT I think you guys are spoilt. Where I come from, architecture like this will never see the light of day. Everything is the same-old same-old and this building is really a breath of fresh air… in my humble opinion anyway…

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    This “style” that big i using. sorry to say it, but its just plain WRONG.

    come on, get into the game and get an approch to the _kontext_ other than the same 5 diagrams.

    yes your mother will understand this, but that really do not make this great.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Nice for the residents. Pretty dreary for anybody in the shadow of this beast. They missed that diagram.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    It is clear by now that in both BIG’s renderings and actualized building there will be a host of imperfected details (depending on your definition of perfection)… or least apparantley sloppish details. But this is a rather juvenile criticism given the propulsion that BIG is providing for themselves and other contemporary architects. That this NY project has some strange and even possibly unnessecary moments is so utterly unimportant compared to the potential of infusing into American a piece of architecture that makes no apologies for being a piece of architecture, meaning an architecture that responds to all of its nascent demands without disregarding its cultural purpose. Specifically, it is not obvious why the top must be a ruled surface as opposed to a stepped terrace other than that as a response to the desires of the office, whether they be for marketing, branding, or genuine architectural belief… but despite the subjectiveness that can be applied to this “top” it cannot be denied that BIG is also solving the client’s demands and offering qualities above these demands that speak not only to marketability of buildings but also to the progression of the discipline.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I think I’m more seduced by the artistry of the video than I am by the actual apartment building itself.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is quite ingenious. The courtyard is what I find architecturally interesting. It helped to animate the beast.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think that the fact that they do not show any plans but a lot of renders show how BIG is looking to present himself in the US. He is looking for the approval of New Yorkers, nothing else!

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Don’t quite get you guys. Not each and every one of BIG’s project is good, but this one is fine! Exploits the possibilities in an unorthodox way, is unlike any other in NYC and still – it can be build (can’t say anything about the flats’layouts though).

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think this project does not meet my expectations as the other projects of BIG, I agree with the comments given by some on how it works within, the plans can help compression. The videos and 3D are good but only give an outside perspective not show their inner development. I also agree with the comment about how the New Yorker architecture suited and safe.
    Note that in my country, the architecture is only the creation of living spaces, and always the same boxes of concrete, was interesting to see such a project located in the Dominican Republic.

  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i have lived in the hood since it was a hood…1992…it used to rough and few people came over here especially at night…i am glad that financing has loosened up a bit and jobs are being created…construction and all others..when the banks stopped lending only the mercedes building on 54th and 11th was under constuction…4 years later and they are almost done…i live on the 38th floor in the area and thought i am technically losing my views..in reality they are just changing..i think for the better…it is good to create and build..this is good for us

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