The redevelopment of Manhattan’s West Side is continuing apace, and its newest component will give the neighborhood a glittering lighthouse over the rail tracks leading into Penn Station. The building at 450 West 33rd St. was constructed as a distribution center in the late 1960s and has long been a problematic presence in the area.

REX will oversee the renovation of the distribution center into an office building. During the Feb. 10 press conference, principal Joshua Prince-Ramus noted that the structure’s raked Brutalist envelope earned it the nickname the “Tyrell Building” after the monstrous edifice in the 1982 film Blade Runner. Re-clad in tilted glass with ground-level landscaping by James Corner Field Operations, the building will have a more inviting façade and integrate with its glassy new neighbors when its $200 million update is complete in 2016.

  • A jagged new façade is the most striking aspect of the renovation. Prince-Ramus says that the popped-out windows began with the need, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act, for additional internal headroom so that visually impaired visitors would not be injured on the building’s angled walls.

    Credit: REX

    A jagged new façade is the most striking aspect of the renovation. Prince-Ramus says that the popped-out windows began with the need, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act, for additional internal headroom so that visually impaired visitors would not be injured on the building’s angled walls.

For the proposed glass cladding, Prince-Ramus and company considered a stepped or “ziggurat” formation, but settled instead on a “pleated” look. The former would have meant accumulations of ice and snow on the window ledges—but, says the designer, the latter approach introduced “surprising secondary benefits.”

For the proposed glass cladding, Prince-Ramus and company considered a stepped or “ziggurat” formation, but settled instead on a “pleated” look. The former would have meant accumulations of ice and snow on the window ledges—but, says the designer, the latter approach introduced “surprising secondary benefits.”

Credit: REX

The lower, “underslung” portions of the window angle downward to catch less of the sun’s reflection, making the building appear more transparent from the street, Prince-Ramus says. The “overslung” glass, meanwhile, will allow sunlight into the inner reaches of the interior, cutting down on the need for artificial light.

The lower, “underslung” portions of the window angle downward to catch less of the sun’s reflection, making the building appear more transparent from the street, Prince-Ramus says. The “overslung” glass, meanwhile, will allow sunlight into the inner reaches of the interior, cutting down on the need for artificial light.

Credit: REX

  • To give the façade additional interest, the pitch of the window will vary from floor to floor within a narrow range of zero to 15 degrees from the vertical axis. Why that specific range? Again, building regulations: Any flatter and the overslung sections would have qualified as skylights, which have to meet higher performance standards.

    Credit: REX

    To give the façade additional interest, the pitch of the window will vary from floor to floor within a narrow range of zero to 15 degrees from the vertical axis. Why that specific range? Again, building regulations: Any flatter and the overslung sections would have qualified as skylights, which have to meet higher performance standards.

James Corner Field Operations, which also designed the nearby High Line park, will be planking over the existing train tracks underneath the building. Lush public spaces will cover the planks, meaning the end of 450’s most distinguishing, extant visual trait: its trains-running-under-the-building, early-20th-century-Futurist aspect, which is most notable when viewed from above. Prince-Ramus, however, doesn’t regret the loss. “I’m not a nostalgist,” he says.

James Corner Field Operations, which also designed the nearby High Line park, will be planking over the existing train tracks underneath the building. Lush public spaces will cover the planks, meaning the end of 450’s most distinguishing, extant visual trait: its trains-running-under-the-building, early-20th-century-Futurist aspect, which is most notable when viewed from above. Prince-Ramus, however, doesn’t regret the loss. “I’m not a nostalgist,” he says.

Credit: REX