Axis Mundi … remember that firm? Back when controversy surrounded Jean Nouvel’s proposed tower for the MoMA’s expansion, the firm offered an alternative stacked design highly different from Nouvel’s metallic creation. It seems Axis Mundi is back for the shock value as the firm has just released images for their version of the new Whitney Museum of American Art. The current design, led by Renzo Piano, utilizes his characteristically light and technical aesthetics (check out his Shard which is under construction) to create an elegant addition critics have challenge may be too “timid” – Axis Mundi’s design is anything but. Their proposal incorporates a loud exoskeleton that not only seems completely out of scale, but also fights with its neighborhood for attention rather than settling into its context. The geometry, which has been shaped by the sight lines and street grid of the city, intends to reference Breuer’s Whitney on Madison Avenue. As The Architect’s Newspaper Blog noted, the proposal mentions nothing of cost – one of the biggest obstacles Piano is facing.
Check out more images of Axis Mundi’s proposal after the break.
“Bolder” is certainly fitting to describe Nouvel’s Torre de Verre which is planned for 53 West 53rd Street. The 1,250 foot tower will offer approximately 40,000 sq feet of new gallery space for the MoMa, in addition to 150 residential apartments and 100 hotels rooms. The tower’s unique silhouette will dominate the Midtown block, rising higher than the iconic Chrysler Building. Its irregular structural pattern has been called “out of scale” on numerous occasions by opponents of the project. Some complain that the tower will “violate the area’s integrity” noting that its height will obscure views and light. Shadow studies show that the building may plunge apartments in the area and the ice-skating rink at Central Park into darkness.
The aesthetic is definitely foreign to Midtown and, yet, while most are quick to reject change, the tower will sit in an area surrounded by highly revolutionary buildings. Its new neighbors include Philip Johnson’s “Lipstick Building” at Third Avenue; Hugh Stubbins’ Citicorp Building at Lexington Avenue, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and SOM’s Lever House at Park Avenue. At some point in time, each of those buildings exemplified a change in style, and yet now, they are staples in the area’s heritage.
With controversy still surrounding Nouvel’s design as it moves through the city’s review process (ULURP), John Beckmann and his firm, Axis Mundi decided to do something about it. A few short days ago, Axis Mundi unveiled a conceptual alternative design for 53 West 53rd Street. The alternative features a 600 foot, 50 story mixed use building that ”rethinks the tall buildings that have become synonymous with New York City’s identity.” Beckmann explained, ”Historically, the skyscraper was a unitary, homogeneous form that reflected the generic, flexible office space it contained…The Vertical Neighborhood is more organic and more flexible–an assemblage of disparate architectural languages. It reflects an emerging reality for tall buildings as collections of domestic elements: dwellings, neighborhoods, streets.”
More images and more about Axis Mundi’s alternative after the break.