New York is a center of creativity that consistently attracts forward thinking individuals. An energetic city that is constantly evolving, contemporary architects innovate new, dynamic spaces that mark the New York City skyline. Check out our guide to ten incredible buildings that demonstrate the diversity of contemporary architecture in New York City.
In 2006, Diane Von Furstenberg merged two original 19th century red brick warehouses in the Meatpacking District for what would become her headquarters, flagship store and potential living space. The facades were preserved and the space was decorated with a ‘stairdelier’ (a combination of a chandelier and a staircase adorned with Swarvoski Crystals and mirrors) a crucial element in joining the warehouses with a contemporary, geometric recycled glass rooftop apartment. Mirrors placed within the glass dome capture and reflect the sun throughout the main space, thus allowing for natural light and decreasing electricity consumption. The rooftop garden mimics the neighboring High Line and absorbs rainwater for reuse. With a contemporary roof design set atop historic warehouses, this building perfectly embodies the spirit of its surroundings by honoring the neighborhood’s historic past.
The HL23 building is an example of the incredible architectural structures popping up along the highline, as architects have recognized that the raised park serves as a perfect stage to present their work. The HL23 building serves as both a sculptural addition to the highline and an artistic contribution to the gallery-filled West Chelsea neighborhood. Its base is used as the Chamber Art Gallery, while the rest of the floors are condominiums. In classic Neil Denari form, the architect has played with the bending of materials to create a space that transitions from a narrower base to a wider top as it bends over the adjacent High Line park. Constructed with a geometric glass pattern that is outlined with a metal structure, it allows for dynamic views both for the inhabitants and High Line’s visitors. Check out the gallery, but make sure to see the incredible architecture from the High Line Park.
Frank Gehry is a world-renowned architect, best known for works such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain or most recently, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, France. The IAC building is located at Chelsea’s waterfront in downtown Manhattan and the company hired Gehry to create the 62 million dollar, 10 story office building. The IAC chairman and yachtsman Barry Diller had wanted a white, glass building inspired by a sailboat. Silkscreened white enameled dots were placed on the glass, but a space was left open at eye level in order to allow for natural light and water views. An up close view makes the angles appear much more defined and the sailboat image becomes muted, the way the image in a pointillist painting becomes less apparent up close. At night, the white spaces become darker segments in contrast to the lit up glass, creating an appearance of rectangular crystals on a sculpture. The best view is from the Chelsea Piers, where the building truly looks like sails on waterfront.
Frank Gehry won the Emporis Skyscraper Award in 2011 for this building and for some, it look as if its melting away and others might see it as a vertical wave. It is similar to the IAC building in that he uses glass and steel to create a dynamic design. The building is 870 feet tall and the façade is comprised of 10,500 steel panels that differ in shape. Additionally, the windows beneath the steel drape are fitted together in different angles, thus in combination with light reflections, as you change perspective the image is ever changing. The spirit of the building is summed up perfectly by Gehry himself: ‘I designed a building I would want to live in as a New Yorker… You could say this is my love letter to New York City’. Gehry has created another New York City icon, paying homage to the traditional skyscraper form and seemingly melting it away, reflecting New York City’s constantly forward thinking nature.
This contemporary structure reflects New York glamour, while referencing the past through the combination of unique materials and treatments. The upper levels have floor to ceiling windows that are fastened with metal fixtures from the outside and then surrounded by green tinted tubes that the architects referred to as ‘bells’ due to their curved shape. The ‘bells’ are also covered in fritz that fade away at the center allowing the aluminum to shine through at certain vantage points and at others it disappears, creating a façade that appears to be made completely out of glass. The duplexes at the base are behind graffiti inspired gates, referencing the areas grittier past , before gentrification took hold. The complexity is exposed through thoughtful details likethe layering of materials and the result is a beautifully understated building that pays homage to the neighborhood, while reinventing it for better and for worse.
The Hearst building is literally a case of past meets present, as the original 1928 Art Deco Hearst building sits at the base of the tower completed in 2006 by architect Norman Foster. William Randolph Hearst was the founder of the Hearst Corporation, which now includes over 300 magazines worldwide, television stations and newspapers. Its façade is comprised of a diagonal grid that combines four story glass triangles creating a dynamic façade that allows natural light and views on each floor. In the lobby, there is a set of escalators that run diagonally through a waterfall, imitating the diagonal lines of the facade. The waterfall is just one example of its many environmentally efficient characteristics. Rainwater is collected from the roof, and stored in gallons, which then provides a natural cooling and humidifier for the lobby. From a distance in Central park, the triangles sparkle with the sunlight, and in the snow it sits a fading sculpture in the sky. A great example of Norman Foster’s ability to not just create works of art, but functional spaces that recycle a cities history into more innovative imageries.
The Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) were given a difficult challenge: to design a museum that was both versatile and bright within a relatively cramped space. They succeeded by designing a structure that involved stacking different sized cubes at different positions from the building’s spine. The entire building is covered in a mesh cover that unites the separate cubes and softens the angular façade. Whether you’re a contemporary art fan or not, the building is worth a look, as its contrast to the historic surroundings adds a unique spectacle that plays with the dynamic nature of its interior. This building creates a dialogue between history and contemporary voices, which is truly what makes the Bowery a unique area.
Thom Mayne is a venturesome architect known for his aggressive urban facades that often incorporate the layering of materials, as seen in Cooper Union’s newest academic building. The building was designed inside out, inspired by the institutes original vision to foster social interaction across both the fine arts and more formal disciplines. A grand staircase serves as the heart of the building and as the common social area that leads to a naturally lit atrium. The building itself is a concrete structure with a large window and the façade is predominately covered with a perforated steel mesh that lets light seep in, reduces heat radiation and insulates when needed. The large slash in the façade also adds to the unorthodox form as well as allowing for more natural light and, in turn, less electricity usage. This is truly a grand statement about the institutions innovative identity as it heads into the future.
Located on famous fifth avenue in Manhattan is the iconic Apple technology symbol within a 32 foot glass cube made of 15 glass panels, complete with minimal steel fixtures and the minimalist view from the street. When you enter the cube, there is a glass staircase that wraps around a glass cylindrical elevator and both act as the centerpiece for the store. It is open 24 hours a day and during the day, the cube dissolves into the background, exposing the buildings behind it and acting as a skylight for the underground space. At night, the cube lights up and the Apple signature becomes more prominent. Apple has accomplished a unique feat, turning a retail space into a landmark, as it is now one of the most photographed places in New York. Once again, Apple is ahead of the game by creating an architectural wonder that acts as an incredible advertisement for the company and perhaps even for the city.
‘While the memorial, carved out of the earth, speaks of the past and of remembrance, One World Trade Center speaks about the future and hope as it rises upward in a faceted form filled with, and reflecting, light.’, say Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). The kaleidoscope structure is created from eight glass isosceles triangles and stands 1776 feet tall, commemorating the year of America’s independence. It is now the tallest building in the United States and one of the top five buildings in the world. It has now reclaimed its place on the cities skyline and its glass façade adds a dynamic experience inside and out, mimicking the city’s dynamic nature. When you are downtown, it is always present in the corner of your eye, glistening in the snow and shining bright in the sun. It is a reminder to everyone that it is the New Yorker’s resilient nature that mainly produces that contagious New York City energy everyone talks about.