Category Archives: Moneymaking Machines

says it all

Moneymaking Machines #5: 100 East 53’rd Street

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The building known as 100 East 53’rd Street stands behind the hallowed Seagram Building which, at $36 mil. (not inc. tax) was the most expensive building in the world when completed in 1958. This is $300 mil. in today’s money. $36 mil. construction cost ÷ 830,000 sq.ft lettable  area = $43/sq.ft. and is equivalent to $360/sq.ft today even though 2,376 sq.ft recently rented at $125/sq.ft.)

penthouse

Property developers develop property – they don’t care what kind. If office space gives higher profit then office space it is. If residential does, then it’s suddenly all about lifestyle. Forgetting the $8,100/sq.ft for the penthouse and the $5,300/sq.ft for the duplex,

the average price per square foot at 100 East 53rd is $4,000

This studio apartment is 13.7% circulation space which is not bad, but the bathroom has additional area with no known purpose other than giving an excellent view of the backside of the Seagram Building. That space represents 2.9% of the floor area and a similar percentage of the purchase price.

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The planning is okay if you don’t mind entering into the kitchen. However, there is a hallway as the entrance area closet recreates the conventional public-to-private sequence of spaces even though it severely cramps the living area.

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Surely it would have been better to enter this space where the bedroom closet is, into a small hallway with the bathroom directly in front, the bedroom where the current bathroom is, and the living/dining/kitchen where it is but larger? Something like this. You can now lie in bed admiring that crazy space. 11.5%. Max.

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Notice those little operable vents permitting natural ventilation and allowing occupants to savour those New York street noises? Imagine something like these vents in Keck & Keck’s 1957 Hohf House.

Keck & Keck 1957 Hohf House

Cross ventilation must complicate the wind loading but is a good idea if there aren’t  balconies. These vents may even be a market-driven innovation for even rich Middle Eastern folk don’t like living in sealed environments all year round.

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Anyway, the percentage of floor area used to access every space in any apartment increases with area because larger apartments have more places that need getting to. You have to pass by more rooms to get to other rooms. One fifth of the area of this apartment is used to get from one place to another.

1 bed

Again there’s that strange window space but this time it’s an extension of the kitchen and represents only 2.3% of the apartment’s floor area. The living area is poor, and poorly located. This apartment is all about waking up and getting a coffee.

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Here’s that coffee.

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That living area is inexcusable. It’d be better to forsake the east-west light thing and have the bedroom, bathroom and entry the same as the previous apartment and to put the kitchen/dining in that space restricted by the structure. It’s not ideal, but the living area is larger and the circulation is around it, not through it. 16.4%.

2-BED

26.1% – more than a quarter – of this next two-bedder is circulation space. There would have been more if I hadn’t taken that short-cut through the kitchen.

2 bed

Again, the living area is tiny. e535.png

There’s not much that can be done to improve this, apart from put the kitchen immediately in front of the hallway, so that one passes by it, the dining table and the living area to get to the master bedroom. 24.9%. It’s not much less, but the kitchen is now neither thoroughfare nor obstacle. With windows on two sides, the living room is now in the best corner of the apartment. There’s no wall for a flatscreen though. Alternatively, just do without the stupid island, treat the kitchen like the sideboard/bar it is, and do with the rest whatever.

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The two floors of the penthouse average circulation space of 34.2% – a third! – and not counting the double height lobby twice, although I’ve counted both ways to get to the dining room. Nothing can be done to improve this. It is what it is. Making the central core space into a feature and selling it as some sort of grand lobby is probably the best option. Sad.

penthouse

The kitchen is the same as we saw for the 1-bed, and now we can see that those weird spaces are behind the service elevator which is outside the grand structural plan.

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As a sequence of spaces it’s not horrible but there’s not that many places for maybe five people to be. A third of the space is used to get from A to B, and C and D, etc. but it doesn’t matter. Who’s to say an owner-occupier wouldn’t get pleasure from going from A to B? If circulation is The Forgotten Function then why not make a fetish of it? It’s been done before. Every room on the lower level has more than one door so perhaps in some weird revival of Victorian country house planning, the apartment has been designed for the host’s pleasure in showing off the apartment to visitors. It makes an impression. Realtors also like this. It’s easy to imagine a realtor stepping out of the elevator and saying to prospective purchasers “Let’s view the living room first” and opening those double doors that exist for no other purpose but to be opened.

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The plans can be better but it’s pointless wasting time getting indignant over what other people spend their money on, or worry about where they consider value to lie. Some people spend an enormous amount of money on Swiss watches but who’s to know if it’s to tell the time or to brazenly carry small fortunes through customs? We know these buildings are giant moneymaking machines. I’m interested in the priorities and the sequence of decisions that produced such poor layouts.

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Basically, the problem is the building is too thin, or ‘slender’ as we now say. The fire escape stairs and elevators are in the middle off to one side and each floor has an almost central corridor in front of the elevators. This leaves insufficient space for a room and an internal corridor on the other side. No matter how large the apartment, all the action gets pushed towards the ends of the building.

penthouse

With its central fire escape stairs and core, 432 Park Avenue was starting from a far better position in terms of structure and planning.

And because its floorplate is square, WSP the engineers were able to propose a tube external structure as the main stiffening element. [It’s a beautiful solution, and beautifully unclad!]

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The engineers of 100 East 53rd were DeSimone. They don’t have much to say about it apart from “the structure primarily consists of a rigid central core with eight perimeter columns in the tower.” One third of the building is core, in other words.

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DeSimone solved the structure with brute force rather than the elegance WSP were able to show at 432 Park. The first nine levels are podium with the usual retail and amenities.

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If we look back along Lexington we can see evidence of some height vs. setback tradeoff. Someone in Battersea made the decision to have a tall skinny building. 

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I don’t think this decision was made for the views across Queens, or to facilitate apartment layouts. My guess is it was made because Foster & Partners have a problem with setbacks. F&P’s default way of designing is to determine volume by a single, rigid, extrudable structural concept.

Out of these, the least successful visually is the last one, Deutsche Bank Place in Sydney. It’s another attempt to force a structure onto something that can do without one – the sky, in this case. In Manhattan alone, Foster & Partners’ proposal for 2 World Trade Center was a vertical extrusion fine at the time but ultimately dumped in favour of BIG’s structurally and volumetrically messy 14% larger volume.

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It’s swings and roundabouts as F&P did win the 425 Park Avenue Celebrity Shoot-out. With an office building and a property developer client, it would have been suicidal to not follow setbacks and maximise lettable volume. F&P tried their best to tame the setbacks within a unifying structural concept. It’s a dog.

 

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The columns of the top box align with those of the base box but unfortunately, the columns of the middle box are off-grid. Hello-o? Something’s fundamentally wrong with this idea. The middle box could have been supported by an extra line of off-grid columns (appearing like the middle dots of five on a dice) but that’s not what ‘premium office space’ looks like. Besides, at ground level, those columns would block our way instead of a classy Calderesque stabile.

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What can we conclude from all this as we wander in our minds three blocks south from 425 Park Avenue to 100 East 53’rd Street?

  • Foster & Partners did a simple structural object because that’s what they do. It’s how they think. They think any deviation from that looks less like a F&P building.
  • The extruded structure made for one of those tall slender buildings that are all the rage now. To not make a statement behind the Seagram Building was unthinkable.

And that’s about it. The rest falls into place. Poor layouts don’t reduce value. Good layouts don’t add value. Why bother?

It’d be nice to think somebody at Foster & Partners would’ve tried to get it right even if they knew no-one was ever going to notice or, if they did, care.

But perhaps we’re/I’m wrong to think that because a buyer is paying an average of $4,000/sq.ft they might want to make the most of that space? After all, the greater proportion of buildings known as the history of architecture are prized for the display of excess, not the display of efficiency or value for money.

Besides, we did learn to appreciate the unusable space of double-height living rooms as a new kind of luxury so maybe in a few years we’ll come to appreciate unusable slivers of space the same way. Inefficient layouts and poor layouts could just be a new type of decadence – in which case these ones are perfect.

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• • •

  1. therealdeal article discussing pricing
  2. new york times article
  3. plans from curbed
  4. photos on dezeen
  5. marketing site
  6. floorplans
  7. listing on skyscrapercenter.com
  8. seagram building
  9. seagram building office space
  10. East 53rd looking west towards Lexington, circa 1960Lexington

 

Moneymaking Machines #4: 2 World Trade Center

BIG’s design for Two World Trade Centre came online June 9 on WIRED, cascading onto YIMBY, Dezeen etc. Comments were mostly negative, clustering around the “universally reviled” end of the scale. I’m unsure why. At least it’s not a humungous numeral 2.

Those BIG people certainly keep the stories coming, don’t they?! I wondered what it would be this time. Vernacular 3.0? Hedonistic Placemaking? Turns out there’s no great idea, just a whole chocolate box of narratives that fail to synergise into an air of inevitable appropriateness.

The first thing that strikes me as odd is the huge disparity between the density of the various narratives and the sheer volume of them. Something’s being overstretched. Never in the history of architecture has there been a building with a different narrative for each corner and surface of its shape. The elephant in the room of course is volume that that shape defines, but let’s start with the corners and work our way around.

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The south-west corner of the building is presented as a major design feature. It’s not much to hang a building off of, especially when it’s being called upon to represent an appropriate dignity, solemnity and respect at the same time. It’s simply too much to expect a mere corner of a building to do all this.   

BIG are masters at generating reasons that, though not lies, are red herrings. This corner is presented as the z-axis that generates an angled setback at ground level,  that setback angle being determined by its vertex and, since sunlight is involved, that vertex happens to determine a vertical line all the way up.   

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The performance condition of (symbolically laden) light penetration is thus responsible for the vertical line and not the result of it. What’s happening is that a mandatory performance criteria is being presented as clever aesthetic decision.

That single vertical links between vertical buildings on one side of the site and stepped ones on the other, “stitching two different neighbourhoods together.” Below, the image on the left is a collaged composite illustrating an assumed diversity. We’re led to believe different tenants occupy different buildings. The middle image illustrates the return-on-investment performance we associate with “boring” corporate buildings. The two good things of 1) an organically-occurring diversity and 2) efficient enclosure of space have been reduced to aesthetic choices before being stitched together and reduced to an architectural proposition in the image on the right.

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There’s some additional slight-of-media at work in these following quotes from the video release.

“The completion of the World Trade Center will finally restore the majestic skyline of Manhattan and unite the streetscapes of Tribeca with the towers downtown,” said Ingels in a video explaining the project.

This will create a visual link between the old and new districts where “the heritage city blocks of Tribeca meet the vertical towers of the World Trade Center,” Ingels added.

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I don’t know who’s actually wanting the streetscapes of Tribeca united with the towers downtown, or a visual link between old and new districts. I’m wary of this sudden importance of Tribeca. My gut feeling is we’re being made to look the other way while something shifty happens elsewhere.

“From Tribeca, it will appear like a vertical village of singular buildings each tailored to their individual activities stacked on top of each other, forming parks and plazas in the sky.”

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I’m also not comfortable with having to place so much trust in that vision – especially since the vision of a vertical village of singular buildings each tailored to their individual “activities” is a fiction we’re being led to believe. Two World Trade Center is not going to be let “box” by “box”.

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The southeast corner is the stepped one on the right in the image below.

It's strong here,

We’re told this stepped outline is generated by the volumes allocated to the seven different volumes that allow for different types of tenant.

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I’m not buying this either. Even if there were seven tenants for seven boxes, would they really have different length-to-breadth preferences for their office space floor plates? Can seven different tenants for premium Manhattan office space at this particular location even be regarded as diverse? Again, a false performance criteria is being claimed as the justification for the decision to step the building on the east side and overhang it on the north. A diversity dubious to begin with, is being replaced with the representation of a diversity.  

The project’s redesign was warranted since financial firms had since migrated away from the Financial District, making leasing out the new buildings a struggle and further prolonging the World Trade Center’s redevelopment.

The fiction of the diversity narrative is proved in this quote from Curbed NY.

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Half the 80-storey building (40 stories or at least three differently-sized usage blocks) is to be allocated to a single tenant.

And so we come to the south-east corner. 

“Two World Trade is almost like a vertical village of bespoke buildings within the building, that also can be seen as a single tower. It actually has an inclination towards One World Trade Center, so the two towers — even though they’re not twinning — by having a mutual relationship, the space between them is parallel, although at an incline.”[WIRED]

Parallel lines are contained in parallel planes and the only parallel plane of One World Trade Center is the isosceles triangle of the east façade. The parallel line is its southern edge. It’s shown correctly here.

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The “mutual relationship” magicked by this effect will be apparent from anywhere those two lines can be seen simultaneously, but preferably against the sky. This means a maximum view angle of 225° determined by the facade angles in plan of One World Trade Center. From this, we must subtract those 90° which the “diagonal” of 2WTC can’t be seen, as well as the angle for which 2WTC obscures 1WTC. I think too much is being made of an effect that at best can only be seen from 125° out of 360°.

It ought to be strongest between the two buildings but it’s hard to tell. The right edge of the reflected triangle in the image below is the important one but if the effect is underwhelming in a publicity image then it doesn’t bode well for the reality. Perhaps we’re just being trained to see it. After all, we have to imagine this fantastic diagonal anyway.

023_2 WTC HeroShot_Image by BIG-thumb

When done right, The Parallel Diagonal Effect is strong and compelling. The only other instance I know of is the 2009 Sama Tower in Dubai. Its west facade is a partial isosceles triangle and its east facade an inverted one – making diagonally opposite corners parallel. Seen against the sky and especially from a distance, we perceive those corners more strongly than those not seen against the sky.

Sama Tower

Sama Tower works this effect across a mass but Two World Trade Centre sets it up with One World Trade Centre across a void. Whether there’s any poetry to be found in this I don’t know. What I do know is that to take One World Trade Center and appropriate it into a new visual composition involving a notion of “twinning” is a highly intrusive thing to do. But why even bother to draw our attention to an effect so weak and partial? I’d appreciate it more as a happy coincidence.

We’re reassured the footprint is the maximum permissible. Whew! In the diagram below, the red rectangle at the top is what’s left after various vertical setbacks are applied to the extruded footprint. It doesn’t tell us much other than that an infinite number of volumetric arrangements are possible. Why this one?

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I’ll update this when I have more information on setbacks. An environmental impact assessment hasn’t yet been filed with the New York City Department of City Planning.

For now, the setbacks and overhangs are new surfaces created by this stepping of blocks and they too can’t be left unjustified. 

Trees are good. There’s nothing to say except “Why?”, “Why not?”, “Why now?”

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There’s also some newly created undersides in need of a story. “Hey, anybody got a story for those undersides yet?” “Høld it – I’ve just had an idea! Let’s have News Corp headlines tickering over them!” News Corp headlines eh? Have you already imagined it? I have.

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BIG’s team seem to have kept the same viz. people for the money shot but someone may have insisted upon this to continue the deception it’s all about looks.

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The angle and foreshortening, by the way, are legit if you’re an X50 telephoto lens positioned midway along Port Jersey Boulevard. 

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As of 23/06/2015, the Two World Trade Centre Wikipedia page stated as follows:

200 Greenwich Street (Foster+Partners): The total floor space of was anticipated to include 2,400,000 square feet (220,000 sq.m) of office space and another 130,000 sq.ft (12,000 sq.m) for retail shops and access areas to the underground World Trade Centre station. That’s a total of 2,530,000 sq.ft (235,000 sq.m).

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Two World Trade Centre (BIG): The first three floors of the 2,800,000 sq.ft (260,000 sq.m) office building, including the ground level, will feature about 100,000 sq.ft (9,300 sq.m) of retail space. That’s a total of 2,900,000 sq.ft (270,000 sq.m).

That’s a 35,000 sq.ft (3,251 sq.m) difference or, to put it in terms a property developer can understand, the BIG proposal provides 14% more leasable space!

F+P’s website claims an area of 290,000 sq.m but gives no breakdown. On the other hand, it must be mentioned that Two World Trade Centre’s Wikipedia page has been revised five times a day since 19:38, 9 June 2015‎ 96.250.109.248 (talk)‎ . . (22,748 bytes) (+480)‎ . .  (WIRED Magazine reported on 6/9/2015 at 9am, the new designs for Two WTC. The article details the exclusive first look at the designs as well as a video and interviews of all relevant parties associated with the change) (undo)”.  A few more revisions might be in order.

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Here, Ingels speculates that the sky lobby in the F+P design “may have contributed to the old design not getting built”. Wikipedia presents this speculation as fact.

Financial firms were the intended occupants for Foster and Partners’ 2 World Trade Center, and the original proposal’s sky lobby design was not attractive to media tenants, who have been the leading tenants of the new WTC towers and are now expected to occupy BIG’s redesigned building.

Changing elevators is a bore for anyone, regardless of what type of company they work in. Not having a sky lobby would make the upper half of the building more attractive to any office tenant. Large and regularly shaped floor plates would also be attractive to any office tenant.

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Instead of being seen as a design feature people were already attuned to by the masterplan,

000209the diamond-shaped features of the Foster+Partners design are now being presented as cramping floor plate performance. What a difference 15 years makes! Property development is like Nature in abhorring a vacuum, relentlessly working to fill empty spaces.

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It must be said, F+P do have a history of highly contrived and inefficient floor plates.

We’re told the client wanted a bank-like building when it looked like one would attract a bank tenant, but changed their mind when they saw nearby buildings filling up with media types. It’s true that F+P designed 200 Greenwich as a bank building. There’s a mammoth trading floor that gives it away.

The mystery is why no-one went back to F+P to redesign it in line with the changing market. In this story, it’s wrong to see UK tax-exile architect Baron Foster of Thames Bank as some sort of victim. It was a battle of business development departments.

But Two World Trade Centre is much more than a redesign because construction of 200 Greenwich had already begun! This gives us another obstacle and consequently another comic-hero narrative of ultimate triumph.

Many structural elements of the skyscraper came predetermined by the intricate underground architecture of the property, which was set in place by Port Authority and Libeskind’s master plan. Mechanical equipment, like air vents for Calatrava’s station, are positioned on the existing foundations and had to be incorporated into Ingels’ building. [WIRED]

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BIG used the same engineers as F+P. I’d insist on this if I were the client-side project manager or property development manager. Continuity of structural teams is good, especially when there’s suddenly an asymmetrical loading creating a rotational moment usually countered by an extra thick and heavy core. The fun of Twister is to resolve your rotational moment before it reaches your hands.

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I’m no engineer but I think this means a big block of concrete resting on the foundations of another building. We’re told this is “expressive architecture” rather than something useful that stops the building twisting itself off its foundations.

The engineering is of course possible but it’s not cheap. The 14% MORE must come at an acceptable price. The WIRED article covers points ignored by other articles – namely the apparent instability thing.

Silverstein was initially skeptical of the architect’s stack-of-blocks concept. From some vantage points, such as North Brooklyn, the structure will look a little off-kilter—almost as if it is leaning. At the World Trade Center, the force of gravity is the last thing that an experienced developer like Silverstein wanted to bring to mind. 

“Rupert Murdoch, still the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to his companies’ business, initially shared the developer’s concerns. “Once it was fully explained to him how the building works so well, so efficiently—brilliantly, I would say—then he got very comfortable,” Silverstein says. “As a result, quite honestly, I became comfortable too.”

• • •

Through the eyes of a Manhattan property developer, unexploited permissible envelope must appear like translucent green boxes in the sky. The F+P site layout no doubt provided the maximum possible footprint but only as determined within the constraints of multiple symmetries based on the edge of the wedge. This fixation with symmetry created two mini-wedges of light on the south-west and north-west corners. Nobody asked for those.

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Silverstein may well have approached F+P for a re-think and F+P, sensing a PR disaster, may have refused. It’s a terrible thing to be accused of failing to have predicted the future. Enter BIG. Their design occupies these mini-wedges. The south-west one becomes that sombre vertical and the north-west one is filled with boxes tracing the imaginary diagonal.

F+P’s design was resolutely vertical apart from its large trading floors where the BIG design now begins its climb. This is where most of that 14% added bigness comes from. As it rises, the building contracts in one direction but extends in another, thus maintaining that gain for longer. The overhang is a logical consequence of maximising leasable area. It’s no aesthetic decision.

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Even if the achieved areas were the same, it would still make more sense to overhang the building towards the top and achieve more premium-office space, rather than step it back from the bottom and more sub-premium office space with yet more gardens.

“My first reaction, my second reaction, and my third reaction were: ‘Will this work?’” Silverstein says. “Will it be respectful of the other buildings? Will it be respectful of the memorial below?” 

Here, Silverstein is referring to the PR aspect of the problem, not its aesthetic one and certainly not any functional one. Like Nature filling a vacuum, the building designs itself and engineers itself to fit. What’s really needed is experience in winning over public opinion.

BIG step up to the plate.

Bjarke Ingels

Much skill must have gone into redesigning this building to monetise every cubic foot of permissible envelope and then engineer it so it stands on foundations constructed for a different building. This is nothing to be ashamed of yet we’re told none of it. In the new architectural dysfunctionalism, performance is completely detached from architecture even when it’s generating it.

The media star architect is a new form of architectural ornament. Their function is to invent and present decorative yet empty narratives. The actual building is conceived of and made possible by others. The only time the media architect is of use is to divert our attention away from the sordid political and economic machinations responsible for the building in the first place.

  • Talk about shape rather than volume is a classic example of how a dysfunctional architecture disguises real performance criteria as an aesthetic decision
  • Talk about vital engineering solutions as “expressive architecture” is another example
  • Representing diversity rather than encouraging it in any real sense, is merely architecture in motion. It’s the same process by which space and light were turned into aesthetic commodities.
  • It’s now possible to identify what exactly it is architects do to sustain this situation
  • Because of this, it’s now possible to explain the mechanism by which architectural fame is created. It’s a reward, basically. This explains not only the actual function of starchitects, but why they exist. The more an architect can get away with not justifying their buildings in terms of any aspect of real performance, the more value they have to a certain type of client. This is the source of many diseases presently plaguing architecture.
  • It now makes sense why media fuss and controversy of aesthetic appropriateness and symbolism is welcomed and encouraged by media, architects and clients alike. Everyone works overtime to confine the “debate” to aesthetics.
            “it’s none of my business” (Zaha Hadid)
            “the Building of The Year Award is about architecture not politics” (Deyan Sudjic)
    The more intense the debate about how a building looks, the more attention is diverted from how buildings are used for economic gain and political prestige. Architecture of this kind is The Shock Doctrine applied to economic and political exploitation.

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In his presentations, Ingels spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy talking about Tribeca. There must be translucent green boxes hovering all over it.

ENDGAME:
1. Convince people the diversity of Tribeca can be represented in a high-rise building.
2. Replace Tribeca with representations of Tribeca.

Moneymaking Machines #3: 625 W57th Street

We saw in Moneymaking Machines #1 how New York by Gehry for Forest City Ratner received the financing to make it possible in its present form only one month before the 2008 financial crisis. This window of opportunity would have closed if more time had been spent wrangling over rights of light and other issues.

w57-15The Durst Organization, the developer behind 625 West 57th Street made its planning application in 2010, when financing was still difficult and so had to resort to less conventional forms of financing – technically, to what’s known as the EB-5 visa program. Basically, investors who stump up $500,000 per family and create 10 jobs receive a green card.

durst Here’s a pdf brochure targeting potential investors. We don’t know how successful it was. It couldn’t have been sufficient for, in October, 2014, loan

“It was a complicated transaction and all parties cooperated to make something that was seemingly difficult relatively easy to get done,” said Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs for Durst.

Here’s the link to the nyc scheme review online folder. The community impact analysis is based on an assumption of 863 units. Apartment floor plans are absent from designboomdezeen and ArchDaily. I found this plan here.

w57-9 It’s one of the lower floors and seems to be mainly 1-bedroom apartments although the regular pattern of walls leaves open the option of converting a one-bed into two studios, or three one-beds into two twos at the last minute if doing so has advantages and the approved total doesn’t change. That decision will be made after sufficient expressions of interest have been received. It’s as instant as accommodation demand and supply gets.

“We haven’t set the rents yet, but we think at the top of the building we can touch $90 a square foot,” he (aforementioned Jordan Barowitz) told MO [Mortgage Observer].

  • Another interesting thing about the plan is a corridor more than half a city block long.
  • The main elevator lobby is in the top right corner – as you’d expect if you wanted your elevators to go all the way to the top. The garbage chute must close by for the same reason.
  • The two long, truncated sides of the building complicate fire escape requiring four fire escape stairs on the W58th side and two more on the W57th side.
  • The single-loaded (lower) W57th wing of the building gets out of the way pretty quickly to add value to the profit-dense (upper) W58th wing. For the amount of accommodation the lower wing contains (15 x 1-bed or 30 x studios max?) the complications it causes and the value it subtracts in terms of view and shadow, I can’t believe it was worth building. Shape.

  • From this photo, the building is shading itself but not that much more than the building immediately south already is.

Notice the building immediately behind? It’s time now to talk about The Helena. The Helena is an apartment building by the same developer in the south-east corner of the development site. fab things like this

Most of The Helena’s apartments are studios but, if you check availability, here’s what $4,100 per month gets you.

The Helena is marketed as a green building – which is nice.

greenWhat’s more interesting is how the developers applied to have the entire block re-zoned so the entire block could be considered a single development. As far as I can work out from these documents, this meant that

EIS

  1. the new portion of the development could exploit any newly created development capacity as well as any development capacity unexploited by the existing buildings
  2. rights of light issues internal to the site could be ignored
  3. loss of view internal to the site could also be ignored

Nos. 2 and 3 “don’t matter” if the existing building’s tenants are renting from the same developer.

139532924.ZLgNkRut.p4 Nevertheless, this view won’t exist any more. Is that a Noguchi coffee table?

HELENA VIEW Not everyone was pleased.

  • The CB4 Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use and Zoning Committee of Manhattan Community Board 4 voted unanimously to recommend denial unless the project includes permanent affordable housing. (Noland)
  • “The City Planning Commission should not allow the project to proceed without a guarantee of permanent affordable housing. It would be short- sighted to affix an expiration date to the affordable housing component, forestalling an adverse socioeconomic impact of this development, but not mitigating it. We understand there are unique challenges to achieving permanent affordable housing on this site. But we cannot support a project that provides an indefinite benefit to a select few with exceptional wealth while offering only temporary benefits to the community.” (Duane/Nadler)
  • “The project should provide affordable units through the 80/20 Housing Program if the mini-storage facility is converted to include residential uses.” (Stringer)

“The applicant has agreed to enter into the 80/20 program and would provide 20 percent of the 835 residential rental units on projected development sites 1 and 2 (or up to 167 units) as affordable housing units for a period of 35 years.”

  • There should be more than 35 years of permanent affordability. (Restuccia)
  • My objection to the Durst pyramid is the fact that the affordable housing unit will be affordable only for 35 years. (Brender)
  • The community needs permanent affordability. A high concentration of affordable housing will expire in the next five to ten years. (Klein)
  • Community District 4 wants and needs permanently affordable housing. Without permanently affordable units, it cannot maintain its mixed-income residential character. (CB4)
  • One thing the community absolutely needs is permanent affordable housing. (Bloomberg)
“The project will be a welcome contribution to the city’s ongoing needs for mixed income housing. It represents an opportunity to add 750 units, approximately of which about a hundred fifty would be set aside for low income households for 35 years. It is a significant commitment that should not be taken lightly, since the site itself could remain under its existing zoning and be developed for nonresidential uses. This would be an unfortunate option, given the significant benefits of residential use at this location.” (Perine, Lamberg) “It’s far better to create housing that will be affordable for 30 or 35 years as opposed to building nothing at all.” (Lamberg) “The applicant also understands how important permanency is to the community, but is unable to offer permanent affordable housing on the project site, as the City’s inclusionary housing program requires permanent affordable housing units, and the applicant controls the site pursuant to a 99-year ground lease, of which 87 years are remaining. That ground lease requires that the site be returned to the fee owner at the end of the lease term, free of any leases or tenancies.”
  • “The lease requirements should be renegotiated with the landowner to allow for permanent affordable housing.” (Brewer, Noland, Restuccia)

“While the applicant recognizes the need for affordable housing in the community, it is not possible to renegotiate the lease.” 

G A M E   O V E R

Now that’s a done deal, let’s talk about The Shape.

Durst’s property is designed to take advantage of most of the available square footage permitted under a recent rezoning. It will fit within the envelope of the site and help preserve the views of another Durst family building next door, known as the Helena.  [New York Daily News]

Let’s deal with that first sentence first. 2010 Spring: BIGs website says they were commissioned 2010.  purple 2011 February: The project began to appear in the architectural internet. 

2012 July: A document outlining the scope of work of an Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment is uploaded to the nyc.gov site.

743 iso

In the Key, the text corresponding to the blue hatched area reads “EXISTING BUILDING TOWER REGULATION AGGREGATE SQ. FT. NON COMPLIANCE WAIVER PURSUANT TO ZONING RESOLUTION 74-743(a)(2) EXISTING CONDITION APPROVED PER SPECIAL PERMIT C010151 ZSM, WAIVER CURRENTLY REQUESTED TO REFLECT CONDITIONS IN CURRENT LARGE SCALE GENERAL DEVELOPMENT.”

“Takes advantage of a recent rezoning” should read as “rezoning was applied for after the design was completed. The “recent rezoning” could refer to a 2001 rezoning but the 2012 rezoning was so recent it was in the future. read all about it! I think everyone is caught with their pants down here. Perhaps going back to the BIG site will give us some clues. Point block meets perimeter block, the story goes. really The previous setback limits didn’t change along the length of the site. Given that they were relaxed in order to accommodate this building, I can’t see what advantages a tetrahedrish building has over a long slab building directly in front of The Helena. It’s not a question of maximising the number of apartments because that’s already fixed at 853. site section A long slab building would:

  • Have more efficient access and shorter corridors that would, in turn make for more efficient servicing and simplified fire escape.
  • Be less vulnerable to possible future development on the north side.
  • Be less vulnerable to possible future building on the south side. The site is currently a car park. (Given this precedent for “large-scale general development’ any new neighbours might well want a huge wall of apartments on their northern boundary – or their southern. Or both.)
  • Have preserved more views (and thus rental values) for more apartments in The Helena.
  • Have meant more expansive (albeit still oblique) views west to the river and a more egalitarian distribution of that view.
  • Have meant more people have brighter apartments. Nothing much can be done about direct sunlight into the north facing apartments but having them closer to the centre of the site means they can at least see more sky.

It might have been a bit boring and maybe that’s all it comes down to. Here’s that second sentence again.

It will fit within the envelope of the site and help preserve the views of another Durst family building next door, known as the Helena. 

It’s always good for buildings to fit within their site boundaries but we now know that those were adjusted to accommodate the design. As for preserving views from the Helena, here’s a plan of its 14th-33rd floors. views Apartments D face the Hudson River and you’d think it’s these people who’d stand to lose the most as those apartments have no windows facing other directions, unlike the C and  E apartments. 5424969173_6e175c25e1_b Allowing views for (half of the) D apartments) is good but it completely blocks oblique views from all of the north side apartment types E thru M. Half the building, basically. And for what? SITE215305727619_e388bed17b_bThis development gives new meaning to the term “view corridor”. There are many, too many, construction pics on skyscrapercity.com. cherry I’m sure the Dursts would prefer the tenants of The Helena to not move or ask for rent reductions, but they have been sold out for the sake of this new development.

• • •

We’ve come to the end. I still don’t know why this building is the way it is. Nobody seems to be telling the truth. Here’s a statement from the BIG website. The developer approached us and asked up to introduce a new housing typology into New York. Any or all of these words could be false. Perimeter block meets point block seems to have taken the worst of both for little apparent gain. “The 800,000-square-foot polyhedronic behemoth, which will mainly have studio and one-bedroom apartments, is an almost entirely self-contained Epcot-like mini-city. Renters will rarely have to leave the building. And they’ll pay for the privilege. Prices have not been announced, but Durst thinks he can push $90 a foot for the top-floor pads. That means a large one-bedroom will likely go for more than $5,000 a month.” [therealdeal]

• • •

But man, that’s one helluva fugly corner streetwise. I got the tetrahedral blues.

West-57th-Street-by-BIG-ARCHISCENE-net-06

Moneymaking Machines #2: New York by Gehry

This post is the first of a new series about the seamy underbelly of architectural delight – where architect Tinseltown meets developer Chinatown. Expect sordid tales of greed, ambition, power, influence and betrayal. And that’s just the architects.

Property developers are one of the two significant species of client not yet extinct. Clients with money, property and a desire to build are the basis for all building activity. Architects naturally want a piece of the action. It’s time to shine some light on their marriage of convenience and see what’s in it for whom.

• • •

Before I go further, let me say I’ve no problem with the concept of housing as moneymaking machines for living in. Property developers don’t either – they develop property. It’s what they do. They don’t care if it’s residential, commercial or retail.

The architect’s job is to add value to that property and they don’t care either whether it’s residential, commercial or retail property. My only problem – and it’s a sign of The Great Dysfunctionalism – is that they won’t, can’t admit to either of these things.

santa_monica_place

Frank Gehry, Santa Monica Place, 1980. (“Get a reputation as a local architect. Choose your catchment area strategically.”)

My choice of Gehry’s not-so-early* Santa Monica Place shopping mall prettification to illustrate this point is no accident. (the Big G was 51 in 1980)

• • •

Thirty five years on, it was the size of the apartments that gave it away.

I’m talking about this dysfunctional building.

Residential Residence House Houses Housing

8 Spruce Street, originally known as Beekman Tower and currently marketed as New York by Gehry contains only rental apartments.

The 898 apartments range from 500 square feet (46 m2) to 1,600 square feet (150 m2), and consist of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. All units are priced at market-rate, with no low or moderate income-restricted apartments. It does not contain any units for purchase.

Let’s have a close-up.

12

M0A is on Renthop already for $2,815 per month.

6a62729c16d55ed4d03e3aa4648a134d

You’ll always have company in The Big City, never feel alone – but this is what I was really looking for.

A penthouse will set you back 60,000 clams a month. In The Economics of The Ideal Penthouse, I suggested these “luxury penthouses” are loss leaders that add “prestige” and (thus) further value to the lesser apartments below. Once price per square foot becomes inversely proportional to size, IT’S SHOWTIME! – it makes perfect property development sense to build small, and for rental. Building small gives you a greater density of profit. Building for rental means you never cash in your chips unless the exchange is in your favour.

The 76th floor Penthouses at New York by Gehry – the highest residences within the tallest residential building in North America – are among the only individual homes designed by Frank Gehry, aside from his personal residence.These rare spaces offer a once in a lifetime experience above the New York skyline in the most acclaimed building of recent times. Each of the three Penthouse residences occupies its own wing with every detail designed to cater to the most privileged lifestyle by the master himself, Frank Gehry.

* Really? There’s more at http://www.ncmodernist.org/gehry.htm Thank you ncmodernist, for helping us remember it wasn’t always like what we’re being told it is. People forget that architecture is like pop music – people never just “burst onto the scene”. There’s years of hard graft before their various treks to stardom.

In New York by Gehry, I reckon the first studio apartment (a few galleries back now) has a gross floor area of 350 sq.ft. If the living area is 16′ across, then the 15’3″ vertical dimension is to the window glass, not the wall! (Oh those property developers are such rascally scamps!) What we’re looking at here folks, is micro-dwellings.

Untitled

To be fair, New York by Gehry wasn’t always going to be rental. According to re-review, the developer, Forest City Ratner, decided to switch from condominiums for sale to apartments for rent. This meant a change in the floor-to-floor height. Those ceilings aren’t looking terrifically high here. A one foot height reduction over 76 floors would, hmmm, give another six, seven floors of apartments.

©2011 PHILIP GREENBERG   917 804 8385 pjgreen4@aol.com   July

Other than the penthouses and this apartment, we’ve never been given the opportunity to think too much about what goes on inside of this piece of architecture. (And who is this person in red* with five friends? Did she receive that sofa and the Arco Floor Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for being first to move in?) Just so the residents don’t for a single day ever forget what they’re paying for, all apartments feature Gehry-designed door handles. [* see comments]

door_handle_landing

Fishy furniture aside, there’s lots of useful history about the planning process and the building here on the website of the Urban Land Institute – they’re thorough! These are the bits I find interesting.

Also,

The first five floors of the 76-story tower house the new Public School 397… By building the school, the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, was able to secure $203.9 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to finance construction.

AND NOW FOR THE MONEYMAKING BITS!

The developer made a series of good decisions.

It’s only natural then, that Forest City Ratner should re-name the building New York by Gehry by way of thanks. The Bilbao Guggenheim could be renamed Bilbao by Gehry, OPUS in Hong Kong Hong Kong by Gehry, etc. But this will obviously work best with residential buildings. Now Gehry has outed himself to Forest City Ratner as an architect who delivers practical, efficient and manageable buildings, the team and the formula are in place to roll out a succession of like buildings across North America and, then the world. What are the odds on Miami by Gehry?

I don’t how Gehry could square the commercial lucrativeness of such a venture with the artistic cred needed to sustain it, but he’s managed so far. This is his true genius.

8-spruce-street-gehry

Moneymaking Machines #1: 432 Park Avenue

tumblr_mhtx88IkEi1s3r80lo3_r1_1280

432 PARK AVENUE has its detractors. A certain type of web forum frequenter finds it “boring” and seems to think these things are built to entertain them. True, there’s not much of an architectural statement other than stating it’s arrived, but this very absence annoys aesthetes who admire skylines as a Jane Austen character would a landscape.

VF6STR1261CJ70.pdONE 57 is already there, with its quiff and gradated glazing suggesting to residents (and onlookers) the direction in which they should (or would like to) be looking.

P1020246I can see how 432 PARK AVENUE appears superficially uninteresting and temporarily prominent but, like Edward, take pleasure in ordinary things done well. Most of what I like about 432 PARK AVENUE is related to its economics. I’ve always taken it as fact that buildings occur when the three elements of land, money, and a will to build are in place. Much of the time, the will to build comes from anticipated return on investment. With NYC’s recently more promiscuous attitude towards supertall buildings, there’s obviously a return to be had.

The 432 PARK AVENUE marketing site is a great site. It does what it does and it does it well. It gets straight to the point. Here’s the splash page.

splash

This next graphic shows why the splash page offers Russian, Portuguese and Spanish languages. Including French is traditional. Chinese can’t be ignored. Hindi and Arabic speakers prefer local displays of wealth. Japanese speakers don’t spend.

where-wealth-flows

Not that words matter anyway if you’re an ultra-high-net-worth individual with a net worth of at least US$30 million AFTER you’ve spent what you can on company shares, art, planes, fast cars and a few houses in welcoming countries around the world.

The thing I most like about 432 PARK AVENUE is how integrated all the things I like are. It’s not easy to isolate them, even for discussion, but here goes.

1. Height

If height and the views that come from height are what’s being sold, then the marketing site leaves you in no doubt. The first page after the splash page offers a selection of views from various heights.

Untitled

The implication, of course, is you get what you pay for.

432-Park-Avenue-view-from-1271Meanwhile, views from ONE 57 up the road are being marketed as on axis with Central Park, suggesting that a false definition of quality trumps a false definition of quantity.

The remainder of the website falls into place.

My only quibble is its mention of “Palladian proportions”.

Palladio_villa-cornaro_rys

Views attract windows and preferably big ones. Lots of ’em. The windows of 432 PARK AVENUE are 10 ft. square, implying Palladio found perfection in the number ten as well as squares. However, Palladio used the Vincentine foot which is 13.66 US inches. If our man Andrea had been called on to design 432 PARK AVENUE, he would have made the windows US 12’4″ x 12’4″.

2. The Free Plan

By this I mean free in the sense we understand Corby to have meant, not what he did. 432’s column-free sellable space is made possible by the small depth between the core and perimeter – a span of about 10m. In theory, the floors could be sold as open “loft” space but I doubt that high- or ultra-high-net-worth individuals could really be bothered. The generic plans do all the right things. Here’s the plan of the 91-96th floor penthouses – the 92nd floor one is still listed as available at US$82,500,000.

432

It doesn’t matter. It’s all arbitrary walls. Master bedroom with his and hers bath and dressing rooms. About ten toilets. A fab powder room. Some not particularly large bedrooms. A somewhat tiny kitchen and an unimpressive foyer. None of it matters. Apartments like this are designed around the wow moment when visitors are ushered into the living room. Here’s some SOM examples with furniture artfully arranged around pesky structure that complicates the apartment planning incredibly. SOM does the wow moment well.

With 432 PARK AVENUE, floors 77–84 have two unequally-sized apartments per floor.

Floors 62-73 are split into two roughly equally-sized apartments,

with further variations lower down. It’s easy to imagine living in any of them.

Here’s a live link to what apartments are still unsold, with floor plans. The 28 and 29th floors are studio apartments that, as far as studio apartments go, are window rich. According to therealdeal.com

Developers CIM Group and Macklowe Properties have shoehorned 25 units with an average size of 472 square feet into the building’s lowest residential floors, on 28 and 29.

Here’s some plans. I particularly like the last one with its separate living and sleeping areas, defined kitchen and 200 sq.ft of glazing. Or the top left one with 300 sq.ft of glazing!

When it gets this small, it’s difficult to say “column-free” anymore. I can relate.

The challenge is to incorporate the significant columns into the layout and I’d say Viñoly’s team have done okay. Any studio apartment having more than one place in which to be is an excellent studio apartment.

3. Slenderness

It’s impossible to talk about height without noting 432 PARK AVENUE’s slenderness ratio of 15:1 – well outside the accepted limit of 11:1. It’s its slenderness, rather than its height that makes it so striking. We are unused to buildings looking like this. I mention slenderness after Free Plan because I first thought this slenderness ratio had been achieved by an increasing number of shear walls as one goes down the building. I assumed upper floors would be full-floor apartments, and that below them would be increasingly smaller apartments separated by an increasing number of shear walls affording lateral rigidity. It doesn’t seem so. It’s columns and core all the way up.

4. Structural Stability

I admire structural stability in a building. WSP are the engineers.

432park_structural

Engineered by WSP, the structure consists of an architecturally-exposed concrete tube system, coupled to a central core with concrete strength of more than 14,000 psi.

To control the perception of lateral motion under high wind conditions, a series of openings throughout the structure have been used to improve its aerodynamics, the design of which was achieved by means of wind-tunnel testing.

These are every 15 or so floors whereas if the location of mechanical floors had been determined by the mechanicals alone, there’d be a double-height mechanical floor every 20. Wherever there are these double mechanical floors, there are “outriggers” to tie the core to the columns.

432_park_avenue_outriggers_1

The name implies they’re some sort of open triangulated truss – which they’d have to be to not impede airflow. They don’t seem to be in place yet.

C-427

Whatever they turn out to be, it seems they’ll will work to reduce sway and bring the building sufficiently in line so two tuned mass dampers can deal with the rest.

Page 39 of the structural analysis peer review report reveals the tuned mass dampers to be big tanks of water sloshing around on top. The amount of water is equivalent to (a whopping) 1% of the mass of the building whereas TAIPEI 101’s famous tuned mass pendulum is only 0.1%.

shear

Although the core uses 14,000 psi high-strength concrete (which is getting towards the top end of the scale), the real work is done by the perimeter which is essentially a tube shell with windows punched through it.

Imperial Strength Metric Equivalent
2,000 psi 14 MPa
2.500 psi 18 MPa
3,000 psi 20 MPa
3,500 psi 25 MPa
4,000 psi 30 MPa
5,000 psi 35 MPa
6,000 psi 40 MPa
7,000 psi 50 MPa
8,000 psi 55 MPa
10,000 psi 70 MPa
12,000 psi 80 MPa
19,000 psi 130 MPa
36,000 psi 250 MPa

The floors and outrigger structures link core and perimeter to create yet more rigidity but the peer analysis of the WSP engineering report says that only 12% of the resistance to the “overturning moment” is carried by the core. Nice work, guys.

USB2010114_000_N23_medium

4. Residential terraces

The section drawing contains the text “residential terrace beyond” wherever there is a mechanical level.

We don’t yet know where or how all the mechanical stuff will fit in but if these spaces have to be open to the air for reasons of air handling and wind loading, then why not give the residents a place to feel the wind on their faces and perhaps even have a cigarette if their ultra-high-net-worth partner won’t let them smoke in the apartment? Nice idea.

5. Symmetry

Symmetry is good – especially with structure. You never know which way the wind’s going to blow. But also, you never know which direction people might prefer to look. Sure, a majority will probably want to look at Central Park or show people they have a view of Central Park. Of course, for the people with the full-floor penthouses, direction of view doesn’t really matter. However, if you check the north point on the full-floor penthouse plans above, the living rooms face south east which probably means that direction lights up better at night when the proper entertaining and visiting is to be done. In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people like their bedrooms to face east, others any direction but. Me, I’ve always found there’s more of a sensation of height if there’s another tall building close by to look at or into. Another thing I’ve found is that being able to see a long distance only counts on days when it’s possible to see a long way and your windows are clean. This is unlikely to be a day you have visitors.

But treating all directions equally is a good thing. Marianne and Edward show us how people can find the same joy looking at different things. ONE57 assumes that all people must find interest in and see value in visually owning Central Park but that isn’t the case. Although apartment plans may dictate what gets viewed from what room, the shape and surface of 432 PARK AVENUE don’t infer any preference for any one direction over another. This is good.

6. Smoothness

Philip Johnson once said re. tall buildings that, “whatever you do, you get a plaid”. I think we’ve moved on. It’s not about mullion proportions now anymore than it is about load bearing walls. It’s about window openings, columns, slabs and core working as an integrated structure. Reducing the wind load means ridding the facade of decorative protuberances that increase it.

earlymodernmiesdetail

We can expect more refined iterations of this typology to be smoother still, with windows more flush. There’s still room for graphic posturing such as ONE 57 but now we have a structural case for the elimination of 3D ornament. Hurrah!

432_park_ave_4

7. The Absence of a Conscious Facade

It’s no accident that the building elevations look like this, but although the above render looks like cladding, it is actually unadorned concrete. The window units fit into gaps between the structural members. Technically speaking, the entire outer wall is a shell

150524606.DiEcUgvX.hm1and the window units fit into openings punched into that shell.

OB-ZE084_NYcond_H_20131004122553

It’s the elimination of an entire building element because it’s a functional redundancy. I suspect this is what Ludwig Hilberseimer was getting at with his Chicago Tribune project

hilbs-chicago-tribune

although people could only see it in terms of a claimed aesthetic redundancy without realising they were the same thing.

8. Floor Plan Efficiency

Much art went into shrinking the size of the core of 432 PARK AVENUE. Only five elevators for a 92-storey building!

432park4

Skyscraper.org tells us that, because they have fewer apartments per floor, slender buildings have the advantage of requiring fewer elevators.

A compact core is desirable to the developer, because the core represents costs, while all the other floor area that the new owner will purchase represents revenue..

In order to create the most compact service core, the architects developed their own design for a prefabricated switchback scissor stair that utilised the minimal stair height clearances in the most minimised footprint. Working with the stair industry, a shallow steel-framed stair was designed with rated high-impact shaft wall enclosure that achieved the thinnest profile possible.

432park_stairs

9. Vertical Efficiency

Despite its concern for the world of physical forces, 432 PARK AVENUE shows none of its regard for them. It rises resolutely vertical for 420 metres and then stops. It neither narrows nor tapers as it rises, and acknowledges neither gravity nor its own weight. Its shape and structure resist analogies to plants and spires and the metaphorical baggage of growth, faith and hope they carry. Rather than ‘reaching’, ‘climbing’, or ‘striving’ in Deco-gothic aspiration to greater heights, it simply towers.

Importantly, none of its space is wasted on vanity space or uninhabitable spires. CTBUH has had a bee in its bonnet about this topic. Perhaps a sense of proportion and a % breakdown in terms of gross floor area might be more informative.

Vanity_height

Although, I’d respectfully suggest they quit championing tallness for tallness’ sake and stop producing diagrams like this.

740b3021906a3dc212ed99b207fe15d8

10. Marketing Innovation

According to therealdeal.com

Developers CIM Group and Macklowe Properties have shoehorned 25 units with an average size of 472 square feet into the building’s lowest residential floors, on 28 and 29.

Here’s some plans. I particularly like the last one with its separate living and sleeping areas, defined kitchen and 200 sq.ft of glazing. I’ve lived in worse.

The units, meant to house staff for the owners of the apartments above, have seen the largest appreciation in asking prices for any individual units in the last year, information from the New York Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau shows.

And indeed it does. Apartment 28B (546 sq.ft; 50.7sqm) is now being marketed for 50% more than its original offering price a year ago whereas Apartment 39D at twice the size has appreciated in value by only half that. The price of the uppermost penthouse has risen only 15% $82.55 million to $95 million, in the two years since July 2012.

per sqft

What does this mean? Does it mean that rich people want to give their staff the best accommodation possible? I don’t think so. It might just be a way of squeezing some value out of residential space without much of a view. I’ve always been intrigued by this apartment interior by Maya Lin. It was mentioned in on of those Architecture Now! books circa 1995.

maya lin washington

The accompanying text said the owner bought it as a surprise present for his wife to use to rest when on shopping excursions into Manhattan. Much value has been added to this windowless space. The mountain of what I imagine to be travertine gravel is a nice way of saying you have floor space and dollars to waste. Genius! I also admire the photo of a view substituting for a real one. It’s a reminder that one’s in Manhattan but thankfully removed from the visual noise. Much more restful that way. A minus was converted into a plus.

Elsewhere, it’s often the case that gyms and other leisure facilities are on the less desirable lower levels. Other developments are offering lower-level office spaces to residents.

condo

The studio apartments at 432 PARK AVENUE can be marketed in many ways.

Kirk Henckels, director of the high-end-focused Stribling Private Brokerage, said he expected buyers at 432 Park to purchase staff units for uses other than housing their employees.

After decades of promoting size and view, real estate brokers seem suddenly dumbfounded, as if they don’t really know how to market this exciting new real-estate product. Imagine that! A spare room with its own lease! It can be used as an office, boudoir, camera obscura or S-M dungeon. Some people with no shame might even want to buy them to live in! The possibilities are endless.

Whatever happens in these remote rooms, they’re hot property. Given the profits to be made, we can expect to see more of the same. Perhaps we’ll soon see full towers of 500 sq.ft studios for $1.5 mil with only a token full-floor penthouse at the top to supposedly add prestige when it’s really the loss-leader?

11. A New Building Typology

Structural efficiencies mean economic advantages. Viñoly’s outfit is planning something similar at 125 Greenwich Street. This time the engineers are DeSimone Consulting Engineers, PLLC.

125-Greenwich-Street-2

It looks much like 432 PARK AVENUE. And so it should! At last we have a new building typology with known parameters that can be continually improved upon. It’s an opportunity to perfect something for once, to focus on making something better, and without getting distracted by the next diverting thing.

Medieval_Bologna

Much like 12th century Bologna.