Set in the backdrop of the bustling New York City, middling the Hudson River and High Line Park, is one of Ar. Jeanne Gang’s most precious gem, the Solar Carve Tower. With most of her works known for soaring high into the sky, this remarkable creation does not fail to leave room for any sort of wearisomeness. It was proposed in the year 2012, unfurled in early 2017 and completed in 2019. The Tower, owing to its gem-like facade, quickly rose into the sights and minds of people not only residing in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan but also the ones who were miles away from it.
The skyscraper roughly measures up to a height of 61mts and is located along the High Line, an elevated linear Greenaway in New York’s 40 Tenth Avenue. The Park’s planting design was inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew wild for 25 years after the trains stopped running. According to New York City’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, skyscrapers are supposed to be setback from streets as they rise upwards and since the High Line was not located on any street, there were no regulations for preserving its biodiversity. Hence on one hand, where the majority of the nearby buildings had been constructed to a greater height, overshadowing the High Line’s plantations, Gang decided to plan her structure in a way that it did not hinder the sun rays from the plants.
Furthermore, an analysis done by Arup, an individual design firm that supported the architects at Studio Gang in realizing their dream for Solar Carve, showed that a solar-carved building was more welcoming to the potential direct sunlight by an overwhelming increase of 330% rather than a mere cuboid block. Now that the cat was out of the bag, the Studio decided to adopt the design strategy of ‘solar-carving’ to amp up connectivity in tall buildings. This approach involved the use of incident angles of the sun’s rays to sculpt a building’s form and was developed through the Studio Gang’s on-going tall building research.
Primarily having its orientation in the west, the building was whittled from its northeast and southeast corners taking into account the incident angles of the sun’s rays. A pattern of three-dimensional facets geometrically optimized for this glazing system to articulate the carved sections of the tower. The surface was chiselled out in a diamondiferous manner enclosed by four triangulated panels that were set perpendicular to the slab edges in an attempt to achieve standard stack joints.
This eleven floored tower was integrated with a structural system that was simple yet resilient at the same time. It featured massive cantilevers, thin floor plates and sloped columns instead of going for a standard deep beam with a slab. While the need for vertical elements was minimized, higher than average floor-to-floor heights were accommodated by the structural system. Owing to this understated structure one could focus on the view outside and the intriguing play of volume and space. While construction was yet underway, the individual panels were prefabricated off-site that were adroitly integrated into place without any loss of time, thus allowing the structure to be safely enclosed. As for the use of materials, 12 different types of glass were incorporated for the building’s curtain wall, including high-performance glass with low-iron installed by Walsh metal and glass and made by an Italian firm, Focchi. Concrete was also used in addition to it. Along with a shared 10,000-square-foot roof deck, the tenants of the eight-storey offices would have access to an 8,000-square-foot outdoor space that adjoined the elevated park.
This LEED Gold Certified building does not only manage to optimize the amount of light entering in but also leaves the door ajar for offering countless vistas. With the High Line on its east, the Hudson River to the west, located in the vast pool of Tenth Avenue and near the Lincoln Highway, Gang prioritized the inner-block park proposing inverting air and light setbacks from the Park to the well-exposed street. It was due to her proficient and dextrous planning that the Tower won some of the greatest awards from the architectural discipline such as Excellence in Office Development by the Urban Land Institute, Project of the Year Special Honoree Award by Architizer A+ Awards and many more. Jeanne Gang and her works have been a source of inspiration for several architects and designers for varied reasons. In the case of the ‘Solar Carve’, she tangibly showcased a range of attributes and principles such as Flow, Movement and Repetition and at the other end she intangibly sent out the message of judicious planning and equitable distribution of resources. The structure indeed showed that at times it is fair to step back to help someone else, even if one can have everything for themselves hence, creating this miracle.