Situated in the vibrant, yet dense theater district of Manhattan’s Midtown West, ARO (242 West 53rd Street) demonstrates a keen awareness of its surrounding urban context, offering an organic exterior expression that reflects the vitality of the surrounding city. The building embraces sustainable design techniques while utilizing distinctive approaches in massing, organization and exterior expression to create a thoughtful approach to contemporary urban living.
At 62-stories tall and reaching 786’, the massing responds to various site and zoning constraints, revealing inventive solutions that maximize the adaptability of the building through increased floor area, outdoor access and amplified views. Shaping of the form reflects changes in unit mixes, with larger units occupying the top and smaller units occupying the bottom.
A deceptively simple envelope pattern provides a singular graphic that emphasizes the shifts in building form, visibly expressing its complex programmatic, contextual and structural challenges at a macro level. The facade experience at the micro level is composed of a collection of details that give scale and proportion while animating the facade. Six module types shift the building skin’s two layers both in parallel and independently, creating additional opportunities for occupiable space and differentiating living experiences throughout the building. The façade’s organized aesthetic is backed by sustainable features. The overhangs have become a multi-functional element, as an aesthetic feature and balcony space, as well as a passive shading component. The curtain wall embraces high performance low-e coated insulated glass that varies its reflectivity according to cardinal orientation: the south incorporates highly reflective glass to reduce solar gain, and the north, clear floor-to-ceiling glass increases exposure to natural light and desired views. The low-e glass insulates the structure, minimizing heat transfer along with the thermal breaks that are incorporated throughout the façade.
For residents, the building has brought a welcomes sense of community to a bustling urban environment. The complex encourages interaction between residents, creating a hill town in Midtown. The building intersects with the language of formal shifts established throughout the design. The result is a series of cascading layers whose extended sightlines and diagonal movement provide unexpected connections. Multi-level openings puncture the horizontal datum and create further opportunities for engagement. The outdoor terraces enrich residents’ experience at the human scale, strengthening the continuity and movement between spaces while offering a variety of green spaces to complement the nearby Central Park.
Founded in 1987, CetraRuddy is an award-winning architecture, planning and interior design firm driven by design excellence and one-of-a-kind experiences. For 30 years, the firm has led with a guiding principle that architecture and design must engage context and enrich the human spirit. The 100 person firm’s thought leadership stems from shared passion and spirit of creating, as well as the firm’s diversity of backgrounds and cultures. CetraRuddy’s core beliefs begin with the idea that Architecture Is Home, always seeking out the story behind each building site, their deep historical context, and fresh opportunities to craft innovative solutions and lead clients on their journeys toward building a new legacy. Founded by Principals John Cetra FAIA and Nancy J. Ruddy, and led by seven distinguished principals, the firm works throughout the USA and abroad at varied scales and across typologies including multifamily housing, hospitality, education, cultural and commercial projects.