REX Unveils Details of Five Manhattan West Development

REX Unveils Details of Five Manhattan West Development

Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX, together with Brookfield Properties unveiled today the $200 Million redevelopment of 450 West 33rd Street in New York. The 1.8 million-square-foot building will be integrated into the Manhattan West Development.

The architectural firm REX designed the redevelopment of Five Manhattan West, including a new pleated glass façade which will create floor‐to‐ceiling windows on every floor, maximizing daylight penetration while reducing solar gain through geometric 'self‐shading.' The interior program includes a redesigned lobby, upgraded and expanded elevators, and enhanced HVAC and other mechanical systems. New retail storefronts will provide a welcoming streetscape. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2016.

More details on the project after the break.

Courtesy of REX

“We believe that maximizing the potential of our urban cores’ existing vitality and infrastructure must be the basis for any definition of sustainability,” commented Joshua Prince‐ Ramus, Principal at REX. “We are therefore thrilled to be involved with the repositioning of this significant, 44‐year‐old Manhattan landmark adjacent to Penn Station and at the heart of several major developments in Midtown.”

Current view of the building / © Brookfield Office Properties

Designed by architecture firm Davis Brody (now Davis Brody Bond) and completed in 1969, 450 West 33rd Street (450W33) is an exemplar of late Brutalist architecture. The edifice’s structure is effectively a steel bridge spanning the Penn Station rail lines leading to Hudson Yards, supporting a cast-in-place concrete column-and-slab frame. The building’s enclosure was originally composed of precast concrete fill-in panels with integrated windows.

Existing Building / Courtesy of REX

During the 1980s, the building’s hard beauty was neutered when its external structural elements were painted beige and its fill-in wall panels clad in brown-colored metal siding. Over the years since, 450W33 has become a bizarre artifact marooned in the no-man’s land of West Chelsea, unflatteringly nicknamed “The Tyrell Building” after the headquarters in the dystopian film Blade Runner.

With Brookfield Office Properties’ development of Manhattan West (500,000 m2 / 5,380,000 sf) immediately to its east, and The Related Companies / Oxford Properties’ development of Hudson Yards (1,180,000 m2 / 12,700,000 sf) immediately to its west, 450W33 has suddenly taken on serious import within Manhattan’s evolution.

Image of existing open plan layout / © Sebastian Jordana

The building’s massive floor plates (ranging from 8,000 m2 to 11,500 m2 / 86,000 sf to 124,000 sf) and unusually high ceilings (typically 5 m / 16.5 ft) provide a huge amount of uniquely dimensioned, free plan “support space” for Manhattan West’s and Hudson Yards’ significant injection of traditional Class A offices.

To advantageously reposition the building within this new context, its exterior required both an aesthetic facelift and an improvement to its energy performance. In addition, the building’s lobby, elevator cores, and building services needed to be significantly upgraded to meet the demands of its new breed of tenants.


In considering how to re-clad the building—simultaneously improving its aesthetics and performance—its geometry posed two fundamental design challenges. First, its shape was, bluntly, unflattering. Second, the majority of its perimeter walls were sloped at an angle of 20 degrees, a pivotal burden in the building’s reconceptualization. 450W33 was erected under the 1968 Building Code of the City of New York. Replacing the façades in 2014 required meeting all building code amendments up to July 1, 2008, including the 2.1 m / 7 ft minimum height for accessible paths of travel (avoiding head strike conditions) necessitated at the building’s perimeter. This would thereby render a significant portion of the building un-leasable!


The obvious response to overcome this code burden would be to create a ziggurat—or step-shaped façade—whereby each floor’s windows become vertical and all leasable area is maintained.

However, this approach would create an unacceptable snow, ice, and guano hazard.


A suitable variation of this approach is to pleat the façade above head strike: views to the exterior are unimpeded, leasable area is maintained, and all hazards are avoided.

Further, this pleated geometry improves both energy performance and visual comfort as compared to that of a planar façade applied to the same underlying sloped building geometry. The over-slung panes of glass are partially opacified, reducing direct solar gain from high angle sun. The under-slung panes in turn receive much lower solar heat gain, since they present an oblique angle to the sun and are “self-shaded” from the over-slung panes. Cooling loads and glare are reduced with the decrease in direct sun.

Section Detail

While the pleating of the façade results in an increase of overall glass surface, the insulation value of the new glazing assembly is significantly higher than that of the original glass, resulting in no net loss of insulation value or energy performance. Meanwhile, the increased area of glazing allows for deeper penetration of daylight into the interior.


To create an exciting geometry that harmonizes the pleated window areas with the vertical regions at the building’s top, the severity of the pleats gradually reduce the higher they go.

To minimize the façade’s cost, the under-slung panes of the pleated façade never exceed 15 degrees from vertical, which allows the system to utilize a monolithic IGU solution, as opposed to the safety laminated glazing required for skylights (defined as glazing angled 15 degrees or more from vertical).


The resulting shape is one that suggests either a shimmering cascade…

Courtesy of REX

…or a beckoning lighthouse Fresnel lens that reflects the sky.

Office view of the Hudson / The new pleated glass façade will provide daylight exposure to the building’s deep floor plates.

From the user’s experience, the “Fresnel” geometry allows for remarkable transparency that opens up the massive floor plates,...

Lobby View from Sidewalk / The new lobby is expanded along 33rd Street to provide ADA access from the street and designed to reflect the neighborhood culture

...renders the building highly transparent from street level, and breaks down its overall mass.

Courtesy of REX

The façade’s unique geometry demands a strategic design for the window washing system. The employed solution features a conventional track, torpedo, and gondola system adapted to move freely over the undulating curves of the façade, to transition easily from vertical to pleated façade, and to glide across stack joint conditions without jamming or inflicting damage. The mullions—designed to incorporate the curved track of the window washing system as a separate extrusion—maintain allowances for thermal expansion and fabrication/installation tolerances commonly associated with unitized curtain wall. The system was verified and perfected through full-scale testing of the track, torpedo, and gondola.

At the core of the building’s repositioning is the owner’s commitment to adaptively reusing a large-scale, urban building. 450W33is to become so wholly integrated into Brookfield’s premiere development that it will be renamed Five Manhattan West. As such, it stands to prove the plausibility of creating contemporary, competitive, LEEDTMCertified office stock from structures that might normally be considered for demolition.

© Miller Hare

Architect: REX
Location: 450 W 33rd St., New York, NY
Client: Brookfield Office Properties
Program: Repositioning, re-cladding, and interior renovation of a 140,000 sqm (1,500,000 sf) Manhattan Brutalist landmark
Enclosure Area: 29,800 m² (321,000 sf)
Budget: $200 million
Status: Commenced 2011; completed Construction Documents 2014; construction commenced 2014; completion expected 2016
Personnel: Cheryl Baxter, Qianqian Cai, Adam Chizmar, Rachel Dao, Danny Duong, Luis Gil, Alysen Hiller, Gabriel Jewell-Vitale, Romea Muryń, Judith Mussel, Kurt Nieminen, Roberto Otero, Se Yoon Park, Justin Piercy, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Ishtiaq Rafiuddin, Lena Reeh Rasmussen, Minyoung Song, Elina Spruza, Yuan Tiauriman, João Vieira Costa, Matthew Uselman, Cristina Webb, Matthew Zych
Executive Architect: Adamson
Consultants: Atelier Ten, Cerami, Cosentini, Edgett Williams, Entek, Front, James Corner Field Operations, Pentagram, Permasteelisa, Philip Habib, SOM, Tillotson Design, William Vitacco
Images: Courtesy of REX, Miller Hare

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About this author
Cite: Sebastian Jordana. "REX Unveils Details of Five Manhattan West Development" 10 Feb 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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