Jeanne Gang is about to make her New York debut, as the Chicago-based architect just unveiled the latest project planned to border New York City’s beloved High Line. The 180,000 square-foot office tower with ground level retail will replace an existing, disused meatpacking plant along 10th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets. It will feature a “gem-like”, glass facade that is intelligently shaped to avoid the disruption of light, air and views from the High Line.
Architect: Studio Gang Architects
Owner: William Gottlieb Real Estate
Location: New York, USA
Size: 186,700 sf
Height: 213 ft
Project Year: 2015
Dubbed the Solar Carve Tower, the mid-rise structure is currently pending city approval and is planned for completion in 2015.
New York City’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, which required that skyscrapers be set back from the street as they rise upward, was the first American law to address the tall building’s relationship to the space of the city. By putting rules in place to ensure the public’s right to sunshine and fresh air without explicitly limiting the height of the highrise, early planners and elected officials were able to prioritize public benefit over the private interests of unlimited floor area and bulk. Ralph Knowles, a professor at the University of Southern California in the 1980s, extended the concept of solar access as a zoning principle by introducing “the solar envelope” as a guide to shaping building form. When a new building adheres to the boundaries developed by Knowles’ research, solar access for neighboring properties is maintained during the key energy-receiving times of day and season. Sunlight is treated as a valuable resource, and everyone’s right to harvest it is ensured.
While these ordinances and envelopes are specific to latitudes and times of day, every city nevertheless produces spaces that defy their logic. In New York, that space is the High Line. Opened to the public in summer 2009, the High Line is the fortuitous result of a grassroots effort to save an abandoned elevated rail line in Lower Manhattan and the vegetation that spontaneously overgrew it. Now converted into a popular linear park, the High Line is a public phenomenon that lies not in the realm of the street but in the center of the city’s block structure. While this unique condition makes it an extraordinary urban green space, it also means that it is endangered rather than protected by the setback zoning regulations.
Our Solar Carve Tower employs a surprising twist to traditional zoning logic to resolve this condition. Designed for a site that borders the High Line on the east with the vast openness of Tenth Avenue, the Lincoln Highway, and the Hudson River to the west, the project proposes inverting the light and air setbacks from the already well-exposed street to the High Line, in order to prioritize the inner-block park. Geometric relationships between the building form and the sun’s path, as well as the viewshed between the park and the Hudson, guide the shave and shape of the tower. The result is a gem-like façade that displays the exciting architectural potential of expanded notions of solar-driven zoning—and a skyscraper that enhances the public life of the city in ways that a stand-alone icon cannot.