The architect at work: 425 Park Ave

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A few months ago we informed you about a competition to re develop the massive “wedding-cake” style building at 425 Park Ave in NY, near Mies’ Seagram Building and SOM’s Lever House. The objective of the developer, L&L Holding, was to turn this project into the next iconic building of the city, and for that they invited a group of eleven renowned practices, including ten Pritzker laureates.

The shortlist was announced in October, and included OMA, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Architects and , which was later announced as the winner of the competition a few weeks ago.

Over the last days, the presentations of the architects to the clients appeared on YouTube, and now we have the opportunity to see these interesting group of architects doing a fundamental part of their work. In the videos we see each architect using their own presentation style, either a PPT, video or just physical boards, connecting it to the practice’s research and discourse, projecting their passion about certain features of their projects and engaging with the client around their main objective: to turn this into an iconic project.

Four videos that take us further into how we understand projects, showing insights that we often don’t have access to, turning the competition into a particular moment of architecture this year.

Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners presentations after the break:

Zaha Hadid Architects


Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Cite: Basulto, David. "The architect at work: 425 Park Ave" 05 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • Blaise Cannon

    Of course the “best” design doesn’t always win the competition, but it’s still a bit heartbreaking that the OMA twist-tower did not take the win. I struggle to think of a building built in the 21st century that is more visually arresting than it would have been. I gasped the first time I saw the renderings.

    • Tomek

      The Foster building is actually rather conservative and I don’t see how it can become a future landmark for New York.

      The Hadid proposal is on the other extreme of the spectrum—it’s just too extreme and while I appreciate that it pushes our boundaries of comfort, imagination, engineering and notions of “building” it appear to totally ignore the setting and its immediate context.

      My initial reaction to the OMA building was not a gasp at all but the more I think about it the more sophisticated and deep the design appears.

  • Ruud van der Koelen

    Indeed too bad the OMA structure didn’t win…except for the extravagant Hadid proposal (a ‘pussy’ answer to a ‘phallus’ question?) the OMA building is the only proposal introduces a new typology the the New York skyline….stunning

  • SecondRate

    Is it just me or does this seem like a huge missed opportunity? None of these propsals are at the level of Seagram relative to the time of inception…none of the approaches seem to reflect contemporary culture and, though really not important, reflect on architectural discourse. Well on second thought, maybe they do…pastiche, soul-Less, serving only the clients needs…perhaps I’m missing something.

    • post

      Totally agree – missed opportunity. You have three of the leading ‘star’ architects covering the three standard paradigms of contemporary architecture. Foster presents well, but his proposal offers nothing, nothing, beyond some stepped blocks and a literal interpretation of the grid. He was maybe also clever (characterless) to mention what we don’t want i.e. Hadid or Koolhaas.

      I think this is a tragic missed opportunity for NY. Foster is good at delivering buildings and designing building systems. But that is all you get from them….Maybe that’s all the client wanted – a dull, soul-less, irrelevant, retrograde and meaningless structure….

  • Scledon

    I do have to say that this is such a great post from ArchDaily. It ain’t easy to find the perceptions of those four architects. Based in NY, a city that almost every citizen of the world relates or knows something about, we’re able to watch here how each one of those architects relate within the context of the project. Thanks for the post. Always good from AD.

  • Jason Wagner

    I don’t see the appeal of the OMA proposal. The top part was rotated to face Central Park, and the result is a cool looking crystalline form. Frankly, with that kind of form making approach you will always be able to find something to justify twisting the tower around and I think his (and most people’s) justification is mainly an excuse to make a building that shape.

    It was painful to watch Hadid’s presentation of flipping through the slides and saying what the slide is. It’s like watching a first year arch student realize during their crit that they don’t have anything to say about their project.

    Foster won because he addressed the client’s issues. They’re making an office building and he framed his presentation around why his design is a good office building. The way he talked about and solved the typological issues was simple and elegant.

    They’re definitely not getting a Seagram Building or a Lever House, but those buildings came about because of genuine changes in architecture, technology, and the ideal office space. Decades long building lull + radical changes in the world during that time + great architects of the day = dramatic innovation. It’s not something you can order like a steak.

    • Elena Pavlova

      I agree with Jason Wagner. Foster won because he presented well, and it is really disappointing to see that the stars can not speak or address the clients. I really agree eith you, it was like watching a first year student… a missed opportunity

  • Boguslaw Barnas


  • B X B

    Here we have 4 different proposals that we can put into two categories. Nornam Foster and Richard Rogers proposals strongly refer to the context, sustainability, high quality technology. Rem Koolhas and Zaha hadid proposals are rather great sculptures than clever buildings for the people that works in terms of context, sustainability, function.
    We have as well different level of presentation in a ability to deserve the right product to the clients needs. Only Norman Foster managed to convince in a very elegant and confident way to his own proposal. Norman manage to say personaly about the beauty of the design. Zaha and Rem presentations was like showing some slides from the last years trip. The glased box that presents Rem is a glazed box since 80′s and it seems that a simple twist of the box is just not enought to create new iconic building.
    The amazing, and really beutifull sculpture of Zaha is not really a functional organizm that works differently from the south, differently from the north etc. It’s probably not what contemporary democracy, economy etc. needs…
    For me the jury decision is totaly understandable. Norman Foster and Richar Rogers created the contemporary buildings, but Norman presentation was much better.
    If I am not an architect, If I am let’s say a fashion designer I would choose Zaha Hadid design for sure. But if I look much wider in context of contemporary architecture (design, economy, sustainable, function, context, beauty) I would choose Foster scheme.
    Finaly it seems that none of the design will have a chance to became a New York brand new iconic building. But in my opinion the jury decision was right.

  • Ninah Briggs

    This is proof…’keep it simple’…always keep things simple. Foster focused on the Client’s need for an office space, and presented accordingly…simple

  • camiloP

    Loved this post!
    Hope you can show more similar stories of what happens behind the curtains… Cheers!

  • Luisa López

    Foster won! Excelent!

  • flytoget

    Jason , you nailed it. Just measured by the frequency of inserted “sort ofs” and “kind ofs” by some presenters, one does get a pretty clear picture of what proposal is the best. Hadid´s argumentation was extremely lame. OMA´s was intellectually confused. Rogers just wasn´t clear enough. Foster was consistent, simple and precise.

    • Adrien Desport

      I couldn’t agree more with you !
      The work of OMA had a great potential, but at this stage and with what we can see in the video of the presentation it appears as a hesitant potential. His renderings and especially the study of lights reflection on the facades were not all convincing (indeed, why are the facades all dark? Something went wrong in the preparation of the presentation, as recognized by Koolhaas in the second round).
      On the other hand Foster came with a less contrasting yet smart concept that is much more under control.
      The work of Rogers was nice but missing personality compare to Foster.
      The presentation of Hadid as shown in the video was nonsense and awful: Guys, you haven’t done anything new in NY since a long time, here I come, and look it is beautiful… What an argumentation!

  • Mobius Man

    Some interesting comments posted here. But the problem to be solved, was and always will be making a grid based tower block look interesting. Zaha’s team tried the form making method, OMA tried the Delerious (twisted) route, and Rogers expressed structure. None of those offered the potential of iconic status. However Norman Foster is a master of this kind of building.
    For those of you who may not have engaged with Foster and Partners work, their buildings are immaculate, well crafted, understated, beautifully functional and suitably crisp. A bit like an iPhone.
    He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, he offered the client a superb product that will fit beautifully into the grid and be of exceptional quality.
    Rational really, he knows what’s needed and does it well.

    • Tomek Piatek

      Well summarized.

      I guess some of us feel disappointed because we are dreamers, poets, artists and seek the unattainable ideal. We were hoping for something poetic, timeless and engaging. Instead we go something that’s just good for business.

      Tip o’the hat to Lord Foster and his crew for winning the competition.

      I still wish OMA won. Their work speaks to me. Just goes to show you how subjective architecture is.

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  • Jide Yusuf

    Foster won because he talked to the audience, made himself believable and his design realistic. A design competition is however a pathetic way of making a choice of best design.

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  • bryan

    I would have liked to see some American firms present, who understand our culture, especially New York. Foster did well and I like his modern/contemporary clash, just wish some American firm could have given him some competition because the other European stuffies did not.