Christian De Portzamparc - Prism Tower
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Prism Tower

Christian De Portzamparc

Housing / Completed
Christian De Portzamparc

The two-in-one tower, Prism, is an apartment and condominium skyscraper with a part of affordable housing in Midtown, Manhattan. This interaction of prisms at the corner of Park Avenue and 28th Street in Manhattan is designed to provide many of the housing units with long distance views. None of the angles is “purposeless”.
After the opening of the LVMH tower on 57th Street, I received several requests from property developers who wanted me to design buildings for New York. They told me that Amanda Burden, chair of the New York City Department of City Planning, aimed to foster architectural creation and enhance social quality and street life by providing an incentive. The developers would be free to negotiate air rights with the local authorities at the district level, this allowing them to build beyond city regulations at the condition that they would propose a creative project. This procedure was called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Developers saw me as someone who could design a building in line with this new approach, since my work for LVMH.
Albert Kalimian wanted to built according to the affordable housing rules that framed his family activity and to share the project with another promoter. As he expressed to the chair of City Planning, his parents were “brick builders” of social housing, and following this tradition, his ambition was “to be a hero” by bringing a landmark in Manhattan. I produced a study including advices from Michael Parley for the zoning code.
The building consists of two main intricated pieces, and two additional vertical pavilions on either side as a connection with the adjacent buildings but without touching them. The building is a “viewing machine” from its interior spaces. The prismatic design of the volumes optimizes views to the far distance and takes into account the necessary recess from the avenue. Each corner or oblique line creates perspectives that optimize the light. On Park Avenue, the continuity of the facades with the one of the historic 1930s buildings is maintained, including with its large neighbors the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building and the New York Life Insurance Co, with which it establishes a dialogue on the New York skyline. At the ground floor are restaurants, and I integrated the subway entrance at the corner into the building, thus enlarging the passageway.
After some presentation of the studies a final design was approved by Amanda Burden and I was given authorization to enter into negotiations for an additional 17,000 sq.m. in 2003. Gary Handel was the Architect of record.
As an European, I didn’t believed neighbors could accept more height in front of their home. But surprisingly, the Community board blessed the project, considering it will bring a new value to the neighborhood! Great positive example of the urban democracy in NYC. The project was delayed when Albert Kalimian requested us to study a big project on Amsterdam Avenue mixing housing and the New York City Opera.
Suspended in 2008 as a result of the economic crisis, it was only taken up again in 2011 by Equity Residential and Toll Brothers, who retained the initial project unchanged, asking us to only modify some interiors.
The bottom 22 floors, with 269 rental apartments developed by Equity Residential have an access on 28th street and the top 18 floors with 81 condominium apartments developed by Toll Brothers have an access on Park Avenue. The rental tenants and condo residents share the lower level amenities, which include a pool, fitness center with a sauna, and a lounge.


 New York City
 Equity Residential and Toll Brothers
 Frederic Binet / Bruno Durbecq / Renaud Magnaval
 Wade Zimmerman


Executive architect Gary Edward Handel & Associates
/ Zoning consulting Development Consulting Services, Inc – Michael Parley / Zoning council Greenberg traurig LLP – Jay Segal / Urban planning W Architecture / Environmental and planning Allee King Rosen & Fleming, Inc (AKRF) / Structure Desimone Consulting Engineers / Façades
Gordon H. Smith Corporation / Fluids Cosentini Associates

Community Wish List Special Prize

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