One of the most striking features of 53W53 is its high height-to-width ratio – a feature of many new towers in Midtown. As developers seek to achieve the greatest possible value from very narrow, yet very expensive plots, advances in structural engineering are enabling increasingly slender forms. But 53W53 also lies in three different zoning districts, each with its own permitted densities and shapes. Architect Jean Nouvel’s design is an elegant solution to a complex geometrical problem, with different parts of the building tapering at different angles as it rises from 53rd and 54th Streets.
In New York, getting a project off the ground is not just about finding the right site – the vertical space above it is just as sought-after. To make 53W53 possible, Hines also had to negotiate the transfer of air rights from neighbouring buildings that had not consumed their full entitlement, says Penick. “Then there are other air rights transfers within the project to allow for the intended uses to occur at their correct locations within the building. It’s a very demanding process.”
The plans also had to be signed off by a number of parties including the Museum of Modern Art, which will occupy the lower floors, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the NYC Transit Authority because of the nearby subway tunnels. The project will be occupied in 2018, 11 years after Hines originally purchased the land.
Watch a video about engineering New York's super slender towers