VIA 57 West, by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, is designed for the Durst Organization. It is a pleasing escape in the peculiar form. It introduces a new fusion typology to the city: the Courtscraper, an American skyscraper with the communal space of the European courtyard, posing residential units with a shared lush garden at the core of the block derived from the classic Copenhagen’ urban oasis’. It acts like a green space finding its space back to the urban fabric. The introduction of this fusion combines both typologies’ advantages: the compactness and effectiveness of a courtyard building with the airiness and extensive views of a skyscraper. 

Via 57 West, New York, USA by BIG: Fusion of Typologies - Sheet1
Via with context across Hudson River ©Iwan Baan

Initially, the block was zoned for a low-rise industrial building. But by working jointly with different departments, the team successfully secured permissions to rezone and develop a residential tower through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. These changes made it possible for New York City to re-imagine large scale residential buildings that typically stacked “wedding-cake” skyscrapers fail to bring daylight or fresh air into the interior, nor do they usually provide apartments with a terrace, sunlight, fresh air, or sufficient outdoor space.

The Via block bridges the cluster of low and mid-rise structures to a peak in a hyperbolic paraboloid or a warped pyramid form. The facade appears like an extra-large sailing vessel making its way across the Hudson River. The northern façade of the building features several balconies skewed at a 45-degree angle, a pattern used in BIG’s prior works such as the VM Houses, in Copenhagen’s Ørestad section. Via’s volume deviates depending on the viewer’s vantage point. Keeping three corners of the block lower and lifting the north-east corner lends the Hudson River’s courtyard views, bringing the low western sun into the block and politely preserving the adjacent Helena Tower’s views of the river. 

Via 57 West, New York, USA by BIG: Fusion of Typologies - Sheet2
Concept diagram of ‘Courtscraper’ ©BIG

The building chiefly consists of residential units of diverse sizes with a cultural and commercial program on the street level and second floor. A continuous public hallway acts as a spine to access the apartment units on every floor. This hallway creates double-loaded corridors on the north and east wings of the upper floor and a single loaded corridor on the building’s southern wing. This one hallway grants access to fifty-one apartments on the upper floor plan, giving it a considerable potential to generate social interactions between residents.

The commercial space on the ground floor hosts public amenities like a restaurant from the Livanos Group, a Landmark theatres movie cinema, and the first U.S. retail store for the American Kennel Club. Via also emphasizes an eight-story sculpture by Stephen Glassman anchored on the façade of the adjacent Helena tower entitled “Flows Two Ways.” The lower levels have an enticing relationship with the courtyard. The lobby is linked directly to the courtyard through a grand stair that invites residents into the courtyard space.   

Concept diagram of ‘Courtscraper’ ©BIG

The amenities are all constructed around the courtyard to create a substantial physical and visual connection to diminish interior and exterior communal spaces. The amenities include lounges and events areas, a golf simulator, a movie screening room, a pool, a basketball court, gym and exercise studios, and game rooms for poker, ping pong, billiards, and shuffleboard. The apartments are planned in a fishbone layout at the upper levels, orienting the residential units towards the water’s view. Large terraces are fashioned into the warped façade to maximize views and light into the apartments while ensuring privacy between the residents.  

BIG has worked out in a minimal but luxurious palette of materials. The material concept for the interior design of the project is Scandimerican, another overlay of the European-American hybridity. This blends classic modern Scandinavian material sensibility with local materials from New York. Ingels also designed a chair for the building’s lobby and lounges produced by Danish brand Fritz Hansen. The VIA57 chair was launched at the completion of the Via tower, BIG’s first significant project in the city.

Via 57 West, New York, USA by BIG: Fusion of Typologies - Sheet3
Interior view of the Residential unit © Iwan Baan

Because of the block’s unusual shape, it has no real roof, instead a three-sided façade composed of an undulating exterior wall with high-performance glass and aluminum spandrel panels, which transits into a stainless-steel curtain wall skin. Exterior-facing products were selected such that components could battle the rain and wind storms and keep the entire building safe and dry. The non-rectilinear floor plans and the building’s riverfront exposure were key challenges to overcome without compromising airflow or aesthetics. The sloping roof consists of a simplistic ruled surface perforated by terraces, each unique and south-facing. The facade is unitized consisting of 1,200 curved stainless-steel cladding components, fabricated off-site, abrasive-blasted for a textured finish. Its sizes range from 25 to 30 feet wide, clipped onto tracks that run up and down following the concept of a simple post-and-beam concrete structure. 

Via 57 West, New York, USA by BIG: Fusion of Typologies - Sheet4
View of the courtyard and the river © Iwan Baan

Via is proclaimed as redefining green living with a vision of sustainability that respects nature and promotes well-being. A wide range of amenities and curated events exclusive to the residents are designed to enhance the urban lifestyle. Its environmental responsibility paradigm is centered around the four core elements- Water, Energy, Air, and Earth. Sustainability is a part of Via’s DNA as the building recycles water per day and uses responsibly-sourced wood boasting its glorious landscaped courtyard. Landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse designed the courtyard, which features 80 newly planted trees and 47 native plant material species. This structure accomplishes to acquire the existing landscape, both natural and human-made, and consolidate it into a single form.

References:

https://big.dk/#projects-w57

https://www.archdaily.com/794950/via-57-west-big

https://www.greenroofs.com/projects/via-57-west/

Author

Swara is an architect and a keen traveler with a significant interest in writing and blogging. She likes to work on exploratory yet grounded approaches and understands architecture from the perspective of human values and sensitivity. She believes that if drawings speak more, words articulate the most.

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