By Ian Volner:
Manhattan is not quite a stranger to offbeat typological experiments: Pyramidal multi-use buildings and sprawling indoor–outdoor complexes were quite popular 40 or so years ago, before developers lost their nerve and started going for anodyne context-iness. So BIG’s West 57th is, in a sense, a return to form—and a big, jagged, twisting V of a form, at that.
Rising from a simple rectangular base, each of the 1.003-million-square-foot building’s four elevations appears entirely different from the next, the effect of carefully contrived cutaways that bring light and views (the Hudson River to the west, the skyline to south and east) to all of the 700 apartments within. This visual dynamism is complemented by a programmatic complexity unusual in a residential high-rise: Public-facing street-level storefronts, art displays, and an improved pedestrian streetscape bring a little action to what has long been a very dull enclave of West Midtown. A grand staircase connects these to a verdant central courtyard on the third floor that echoes the proportions of nearby Central Park, with some apartments opening directly onto the courtyard.
The overall sense of a private building with a public dimension—and one in which the boundary between the two spheres is deliberately blurred—seems in keeping with the Copenhagen- and New York–based designers’ avowed “Scandimericanism,” a blending of their open, socially minded Danish outlook with a rougher Gothamite edge. This hybridization is also expressed in a materials palette that mixes natural elements like cork and oak with decidedly urban ones like blackened steel and exposed brick.
Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
VIA is a hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan high-rise, combining the advantages of both: the compactness and efficiency of a courtyard building with the airiness and the expansive views of a skyscraper. By keeping three corners of the block low and lifting the north-east corner up towards its 450 ft peak, the courtyard opens views towards the Hudson River, bringing low western sun deep into the block and graciously preserving the adjacent Helena Tower's views of the river. The form of the building shifts depending on the viewer's vantage point. While appearing like a pyramid from the West-Side-Highway, it turns into a dramatic glass spire from West 58th Street. The courtyard which is inspired by the classic Copenhagen urban oasis can be seen from the street and serves to extend the adjacent greenery of the Hudson River Park into VIA. The slope of the building allows for a transition in scale between the low-rise structures to the south and the high-rise residential towers to the north and west of the site. The highly visible sloping roof consists of a simple ruled surface perforated by terraces - each one unique and south-facing. The fishbone pattern of the walls are also reflected in its elevations. Every apartment gets a bay window to amplify the benefits of the generous view and balconies which encourage interaction between residents and passers-by.