Skinny skyscrapers are squeezing their way into Manhattan’s skylines to meet demand for luxury suites with premium views in a city where space is scarce.
It’s a trend in today’s built environment that is not only evident in New York but also in other dense cities such as Hong Kong, Tel Aviv and Vancouver.
Last year, British Columbia developer Jon Stovell completed a 350-foot tower that has 4,850 square feet of floor space. Stovell told the Wall Street Journal that “if you can build more slender and higher, you can get more units with good views – and height is valued.”
The latest project to be approved is a residential skyscraper owned by JDS Development for 111 West 57th Street in New York City. While the tower will rise 411 metres, it is only approximately 13 metres wide, giving it a width-to-height ratio of approximately 1:30.
JDS commissioned SHoP architecture firm for the design and structural engineers WSP Cantor Seinuk for the 74-storey tower, which is set to house 100 luxury apartments.
The dimensions mean the project - also known as the Stairway To Heaven - could be one of the skinniest residential towers in the world according to SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli.
In its central location, the skyscraper is perfectly aligned between the iconic Empire State building and Central Park, with every apartment in the upper part of the tower set to take up an entire floor. The breathtaking 360 degree views could lead to the tower housing New York’s first $100 million apartment.
Approval for the project was required by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as the building will neighbour New York’s iconic Steinway Hall, which dates back to 1866.
There were initial concerns because parts of the hall required removal to make way for SHoP’s skyscraper, but the architects secured approval through a design that showcases the interior of the hall via a huge glass curtain wall which runs along the North façade of the tower.
While the tower will feature modern structural technology and materials that will allow for its unconventional dimensions, the building’s external aesthetic actually echoes designs of surrounding Manhattan skyscrapers.
“The design aims to bring back the quality, materiality and proportions of historic New York City towers, while taking advantage of the latest technology to push the limits of engineering and fabrication,” explained SHoP of the design. “The façade is designed to read at multiple scales and vantage points; the shaping of the Terra Cotta that clads the east and west façades creates a sweeping play on shadow and light from the city scale, as the texture provides richness up close.”
SHoP’s tower will soon join other slender Manhattan skyscrapers, including Rafael Vinoly’s 432 Park Avenue (currently under construction), Christian de Portzamparc’s topped out One 57 tower and 217 West 57th Street, which has just received cantilevering approval to overhang over the American Fine Arts Society (AFAS) Building landmark.
Similar to SHoP’s tower, these skyscrapers reach dizzying heights while leaving a minimal footprint: 8,250 square feet for 432 Park Avenue, 6,240 square feet for One 57 with 217 West 57th Street yet to be disclosed.
The slender structures have also raised concerns for their potential to sway at such huge heights. This is being solved by engineers installing a "mass damper" towards the top of these buildings. Dampers work like giant pendulum counterweights to reduce the effect of wind and can also help prevent damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Just last month, the city of Tokyo announced a plan to install six mass dampers atop the 39-year-old Shinjuku Mitsui Building to prepare for the earthquakes that continue to affect the city. The developers are then planning to stall them in all existing tall buildings.
With that safety issue addressed, each of these skinny scrapers shares a common vision: a central location, boutique living and spectacular views that can only be achieved at the highest points in a dense city.