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Old Posted Feb 7, 2011, 2:14 PM
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http://nymag.com/arts/architecture/features/71213/

Pyramid Scheme
Bjarke Ingels reinvents the New York apartment building.




By Justin Davidson
Feb 6, 2011

Quote:
Architects mature slowly; prodigies are rare. Yet at an age when most of his peers are still sitting in cubicles, laboring over light fixtures and door handles, Bjarke Ingels, a photogenic 36-year-old Dane with offices on two continents and projects on three, is about to revamp one of New York’s basic units: the apartment building. In every growth spurt, rental towers pop up all over the city like architectural acne, a pox of large, unsightly blocks whose creators claim it’s the best they can do, given financial realities and a restrictive zoning code. Ingels has flicked away those excuses. For the desolate juncture of 57th Street and the West Side Highway, he has designed an utterly unexpected form, neither tower nor slab nor even quite a pyramid, but a gracefully asymmetrical peak with a landscaped bower in its hollowed core. It looks wild, but it’s born of logic; true originality is the inevitable endpoint of rigorous thought.

...The new building, he explains, will fuse two apparently incompatible types: a European-style, low-rise apartment block encircling a courtyard, and a Manhattan tower-on-a-podium, yielding something that looks like neither and behaves like both. New York is ready to embrace such a griffin, he insists: “This is the country that invented surf and turf! To put a lobster on a steak—any French chef would tell you that’s a crime.”

...Well before opening a New York outpost, the Bjarke Ingels Group, founded in 2005 and known by its swaggering acronym, BIG, had turned American-style surf and turf into an architectural philosophy. One of the Ørestad projects merged suburban development with dense city living by stacking little houses with yards into a precipitous mound over a parking garage. To emphasize the building’s loftiness, a steel façade displays a perforated image of Everest.

...Now he is bringing the mountain to Manhattan. Durst’s West 57th Street site is a large, unpromising oblong plot pointing toward the liftoff point of the West Side Highway and flanked by an active but largely empty steam plant and a new garbage-truck garage.

Ingels’s design capitalizes on the city’s steady march to the ever-more-verdant riverfront, where industry meets leisure. He and his architects had multiple tasks: turn the building toward the water, leave neighbors’ views as intact as possible, and negotiate a transition from the low-slung silhouette of Hell’s Kitchen to the long-necked towers of Riverside South.

At the same time, Ingels wanted to make a “blatant” connection with Hudson River Park, and pull its greenery into the heart of the architecture in the form of a spacious court. To open up views, the building dips down at its southwestern corner. To mitigate traffic noise, it pulls back from the highway and the sanitation garage, rising along a steep, continuous slope to a sharp 450-foot summit.

...In a gridded city, reason would seem to dictate an architecture of seamless planes and perpendicular lines, but Ingels has found a more efficient eccentricity. Balconies slash the inclined plane. The apartments slant away from the corridor like fishbones so that windows on 58th Street frame westward views. Ingels is a virtuoso of repetitive protrusions: Instead of facing the building with a slick screen of glass, he breaks it into a Cubist expanse of windowed bays.

The design still has a long parade of approvals to win, beginning with a community- board presentation on February 9, but already it’s clear that without giving up a rentable square foot, busting a frugal developer’s budget, or requesting more than minor tweaks to city rules, Ingels has reinvented a type of architecture that seemed immune to innovation.
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