/ Urban Culture di: Enrico Tognoni

Evolving Skyline: meet the slim giants that will change Manhattan

New York is growing up. Hardly a day goes by without an announcement of plans for a new tower somewhere in the city. And now, with the arrival of “super-thin” and “super-tall” buildings, our perception of the skyline will change deeply.

Thanks to the latest technological advances (and a new architectural vision), the new towers can reach great height without huge bulk.

57th Street is the frontline of these new slim giants.

One57, the recently opened hotel at 157W, is the first of its ilk. It soars to 1004 feet, and the designer, Christian de Portzamparc, believes  there is no better context to accommodate this slim giant. Is  what he calls “the music of the grid”, a sort of perfect melody that depends on strong contrasts between lines of light and building accompanied by variation in height. He describes the  directionality of his tower as a salute to Central Park, in contrast to other large towers that present similar forms on all four façades.


Rafael Viñoly Architects’ 432 Park (actually under construction) rises to 1396 feet with a square footprint of 94 feet. The tower, with its regular geometry, extends a uniform grid to the sky and its conception is not just an answer to a problem of shape elegance but it takes on the challenges of resisting loads and the climate impact on the envelope. To reduce the sway (30 milli-Gs at the upper floor, enough to compromise the marketability) some unglazed floors let the wind through. The result are six 12-story buildings stacked end to end with a structure (concrete core and boundary columns) that allows  maximum flexibility in the interior spaces with a free width of 28 feet and a generous ceiling height of 12 feet.

© Viñoly  Architects

Property © Viñoly Architects

Shop architects Stainway Tower at 111W will hit 1350 feet, with an even slimmer footprint 60 feet wide. Local materials like Terra Cotta and digital fabrication combine to create a complex and futuristic effect in the facades that can be read at multiple scales and vantage points. The shaping of the Terra Cotta that clads the east and west façades creates a sweeping play of shadow and light from the city scale. The south façade narrows as it rises through a series of uniform setbacks, resembling 13 vertical laminations.

© SHoP Architects

Property © SHoP Architects

AS+GG Nordstrom Tower at 215W will cast a 4000-foot shadow across Central Park, with obvious consequences on public assets like light, views and park space.

Yes, New York is growing up, and up. Growing up, however, involves more than height. If the glassy sparkling facades define the rule of the tower on the new chichly skyline, its footprint changes the streetscapes. That’s why we should look down to the street as well.

Wondering what should be the role of the skyscraper in the city, it is not be definable just in one way, but in many ways. It should be certainly a solution for the exponential  housing demand and obviously  should question advanced fabrication techniques but not only.

It should react within the urban context, create spatial flexibility and possibilities, and most of all, it must aim to redefine social identity.

All actions that take place at the street level.