VIA 57 WEST is a hybrid between the European perimeter block and the traditional Manhattan high-rise that creates a new typology: the “courtscraper.” VIA combines the advantages of both: the compactness, density, and intimacy of a classic 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 467-ft peak, the courtyard opens views towards the Hudson River, bringing low western sun deep into the block and graciously preserving the adjacent tower’s views of the river. 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.
VIA 57 WEST resolves issues inherent to its challenged site: an uneven plot in a flood-evacuation zone, bounded by a power plant, sanitation facility, heavily-trafficked highway, and a residential tower owned by the same client. Originally, the block was zoned for a low-rise industrial building. However, by working closely with the Department of City Planning, NYC Planning Commission, Community Boards, the NYC Council and Mayor through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the team secured modifications to existing zoning restrictions in order to develop a high-rise residential tower that satisfied the density of units desired by the client. By successfully rezoning the site to add hundreds more residential units, it became possible to re-imagine large-scale residential buildings in New York City—known for its stacked “wedding-cake” skyscrapers that bring neither daylight nor fresh air into the interior, nor do they typically provide apartments with a terrace, daylight, fresh air, or sufficient outdoor space.
VIA also succeeds in creating a unique and desirable residential environment that most New York City residential buildings lack: an inner green oasis. By allowing VIA’s inner facades to frame nature on all four sides, residents are provided with direct access to nature; by incorporating VIA into the Manhattan grid, green space is allowed to invade the urban fabric. Like a metropolitan backyard, the courtyard is framed by all the amenities of the building. Amenity space ceilings slope upwards to the courtyard so the spaces are stimulated by the ever-changing sunlight throughout the day. From above, residents can look into this urban oasis, their very own Central Park. Coupled with 48,800 SF of retail space at the ground floor, VIA is a compelling and lively new addition to its neighborhood.
VIA sets a new paradigm for environmental responsibility, both in its design and throughout its construction. VIA was constructed with recycled, renewable, and locally-sourced materials wherever possible; the stainless steel facade is 100% recyclable with no down-cycling. The façade also maximizes natural light, while low levels of volatile organic compounds contribute to excellent air quality, which runs on a demand-controlled ventilation system. EnergyStar-rated appliances and low-flow fixtures are installed in residential units, and a highly efficient mechanical system utilizes energy-saving techniques such as VFD's. High-performance glass, occupancy sensors for lighting in common areas, and a hybrid water source heat pump system further contribute to energy savings. The design enables rainwater collection for irrigation and cooling towers.
During construction, optimized diversion of material debris from landfill was established via packaging studies with each Contractor whereby options for reusable, recyclable, biodegradable or reduced product packaging were reviewed. A pilot program was instituted at West 57th Street, whereby gypsum wallboard scrap was separated from other debris onsite during installation, and recycled by USG into new wallboard. To minimize overall contamination during construction, indoor air quality control measures were implemented, sanitary and storm sewers were protected, and residual water was treated prior to disposal.
VIA is a construction achievement. The team approached the facade by thinking of it as both wall and roof, and applied and developed sophisticated technologies to solve challenges related to the sloped façade’s constructability, maintenance, and water management. Part of the solution was to use the north edge of the roof as a rail, from which a small crane could run to transport a custom platform for the building maintenance unit that slopes down the facade. This slope had to be regulated for safety against wind and gravity; to do this, the team defined “gravity lines” by simulating the freefall of several spheres along the facade and tracing their movement. The gravity lines, in turn, identified the ideal tracks for the platform to glide along and bound the cockpit (terrace) openings.
A prefabricated system was determined to be the best construction solution due to the thousands of unique pieces that comprise the facade: in total, the facade consists of 1,207 unique megapanels and 6,000 unique stainless steel panels. In order to develop and test pieces prior to installation, the team used 3D laser tracking which allowed them to scan prefabricated pieces, make digital and physical models for comparison, and approve or change the piece as necessary. Through this process, the team was also able to label and track every piece from its conception in digital software to its final installation on site.
VIA was completed in March 2016. The project has been successful in translating the design vision into an integrated architectural, engineering, and construction process. By combining these methods of communication—from paper to screen to physical—it became easier to accurately explain the facade design process, and thus better translate the design vision into reality.
BIG is a group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, interior design, landscape design, product design, research and development with offices in New York City, Copenhagen and London. BIG has created a reputation for completing buildings that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious. In our architectural production, we demonstrate a high sensitivity to the particular demands of site, context and program. Like a form of programmatic alchemy, we create architecture by mixing conventional ingredients such as living, leisure, recreation, working, parking and shopping to realize imaginative and responsible solutions. The office is currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. In 2016, BIG was recognized as a leader when TIME Magazine named the founder, Bjarke Ingels, one of the 100 Most influential People in the World.
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