Responding to the ever-growing demand for sky-high public spaces and the need for innovative environmental solutions, New York-based studio DFA has envisioned a 712-foot-tall prefabricated timber observation tower in New York’s Central Park that, if built, would become the world’s tallest timber structure.
Combining the principles of “architecture, recreation, resiliency, and tourism,” the Central Park Tower would rise out of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the 106-acre man-made lake that encompasses one-eighth of the total park area and holds one billion gallons of contaminated water.
Currently, the reservoir sits nearly stagnant and fenced off from public use. DFA’s proposal would place a timber tower with a vertical axis wind turbine in the center of the reservoir. The power generated from the turbine would be enough to filter the water below and move people up the structure without drawing from the city grid.
"Aside from supplying water to the pool and Harlem Meer, the Reservoir sits stagnant and fenced off due to its current state as a health threat to millions of New Yorkers, tourists and animals," said Sayigh.
"DFA envisions a temporary landmark that is remarkably of its time to creatively transform the reservoir into one of New York's boldest urban amenities," said DFA founder Laith Sayigh.
The tower would be built from prefabricated Glulam units around a steel core, allowing it be manufactured offsite and assembled in under six months. Anchored to a pre-cast concrete base and stabilized using tensile cables, the tower can achieve an ultra-slender form for minimal invasiveness and cast shadows.
“The first element of the Central Park Tower houses a steel core and a water filtration system,” explain the architects. “From 475-feet to 600-feet the densely configured jointed interlocking woven wood helix continues forming the primary tower. A steel ramp equidistant to a New York City perimeter block, or .42-mile, wraps the interior core from the 375-foot to 500-foot mark of the tower. Wrapping the ramp is a more open, expanded exterior wood helix and skin that stands 500-feet into the air as a single gesture. The porosity of the exoskeleton opens up visibility of the ramp and people from the ground as well as of the city, rivers and park from above.”
The tower’s main attraction is the 56-foot-wide viewing platform, which offers both 360-degree views of the city and inward views to the functional elements of the core. The wind turbine would rise a further 100 feet above the viewing platform, with a 112-foot-tall lighting rod capping the structure.
“This conceptual project pushes the boundaries of what we perceive is possible in a city as dense, historic and environmentally vulnerable as ours,” said Sayigh. “The Central Park Tower has the potential to be a model project for other cities aiming to fix existing infrastructure, build tall to capture views and elevate the urban public realm.”
The project is the latest speculative tall-building proposal for New York City, always a popular location for architectural experiments. Other recent efforts have included a looping skyscraper, a building hanging from an asteroid, and a neo-gothic fantasy structure.