This presented an interesting challenge for the engineering team, not least because architect Jean Nouvel was also adamant that the building’s complex façade should be a genuine expression of the structure beneath. “Normally we are the ones dictating where the columns go but this was the opposite,” explains Gustavo Oliveira, vice president at WSP in New York. “We couldn’t add diagrids in, we had to mimic what was on the façade, so it was an iterative process with the architect. We had never approached a building that way before.”
Concrete Diagrid Structure
The other unusual feature of 53W53’s diagrid structure is what it is made of. Nouvel’s original design was intended to be built in steel. But the floor-to-floor heights of a steel structure would have limited the number of stories too much, so WSP investigated how to create the same aesthetic in concrete instead – “the first time that a diagrid structure of this magnitude and complexity has been done in concrete,” notes Oliveira.