Solar Carve demonstrates how contemporary commercial buildings can be good neighbors and enhance dense urban conditions through meaningful consideration of their users and context.
Solar Carve’s project site is strongly defined by its adjacency to the repurposed High Line, which extends diagonally across the easternmost portion of the site. The site was the last undeveloped parcel surrounding the Washington Grasslands, one of the High Line’s lushly planted and distinctive gardens. New York City zoning regulations make no provisions to protect midblock public spaces like the High Line, and Solar Carve’s ambitious design necessitated close collaboration with the New York Board of Standards and Appeals. The scheme required approval for a variance to invert the light and air setback from the street side to the High Line side, allowing the building mass to be shifted to the west. Daylight modeling demonstrated that, when compared to an as-of-right scheme, Solar Carve’s shape and position will nearly triple the annual hours of direct sunlight for the park. In its decision to grant Solar Carve’s zoning variance, the NY Board of Standards and Appeals stated that "the proposed design is more compatible with the surrounding area than a complying building would be.”
Shifting the building’s massing to the west opened up space for a terrace adjacent to the park and produced a building with narrow floorplates that could be flooded with natural light and offer 270-degree views. As part of Studio Gang’s “solar carving” strategy for enhancing connectivity in tall buildings, the southeast and northwest corners of the building were “carved away” according to the incident angles of the sun’s rays to maximize sunlight, fresh air, and river views for the public park. In addition to allowing as much natural light as possible, the strategy’s careful consideration of the project site works to passively minimize energy consumption. These carves also allow for private terraces on many of the office levels that are angled to provide views down to the park and up to the sky. Native and adaptive vegetation on the 2nd and 11th floor roofs further connects the building and its users to the vitality of the park while decreasing stormwater runoff.
The building also has frontages on 10th Avenue, 13th Street, and 14th Street, and Solar Carve’s floor-to-ceiling glass capitalizes on this western exposure and openness—gathering daylight to reduce energy use, providing expansive views in all directions, and forming a strong visual relationship with adjacent buildings. Zoning regulations dictate no additional effective buildable sites on the streets opposite Solar Carve, meaning that the natural light, fresh air the building provides the High Line and the expansive views it gives its own users will be preserved indefinitely.
Solar Carve’s glazing system has been geometrically optimized into a pattern of three-dimensional facets that articulate the carved sections of the tower. The curtain wall unit is composed of a central diamond-shaped panel tilting downward, surrounded by four triangular pieces that are perpendicular to the slab to achieve standard stack joints. The carved curtain wall not only blocks sun glare and heat gain but also creates dynamic corner workspaces. The facade features high-performance glass with 8% reflectivity, an amount well within the recommended range outlined in New York City Audubon’s Bird-Safe Building Guidelines. The angling of the carved areas’ tilted facets and the bird frit across rooftop windscreen work with the low-reflectivity glass to significantly deter bird strikes, allowing Solar Carve to help preserve migratory bird populations that are consistently threatened by the highly reflective glass that often covers tall buildings.
Founded and led by Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice headquartered in Chicago with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Paris. We are driven to engage contemporary issues that affect our shared human experience and environment; through projects ranging from cultural institutions to mixed-use towers and strategic framework plans, we make architecture that resonates with its specific community, culture, purpose, and environment. Working as a collective of more than 100 architects, designers, and planners, we create innovative projects that bring about measurable positive change for their users, communities, and natural ecology—a mission we refer to as “actionable idealism.” Guided by this approach, our studio has produced some of today’s most compelling work; named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2018 and 2019, Studio Gang has been internationally honored, published, and exhibited.