Sir David Adjaye is one of those figures of contemporary architecture that will for sure inspire many generations to come. With all projects designed by his studio, no matter their size, David Adjaye advocates for an architecture of today that articulates the past in the most inventive possible manners while responding to topical burning issues.
He had the opportunity to travel from an early age, given the fact that his father was a government diplomat, and he continued to use this very habit of traveling as one of the main sources of his experience and knowledge. One can immediately notice his designs do not share a common style for they aim to respond to other matters instead. His projects take care of their time, place, and communities instead of feeding some sort of self-culture.
Getting in touch with such varied cultures opens the door to a more attentive approach when designing buildings, no matter their whereabouts. Some consider it rather hard to deliver the same amount of care when designing big-scale architecture as when doing much humbler interventions, yet David Adjaye operates this perfectly, and as proof stays one of his projects that nears completion: 130 William Street.
130 William, a 66-story residential tower in Lower Manhattan
Receiving an ’invitation’ to be an active part in reshaping New York’s skyline already says something about you as a professional architect as the city itself acts as one of those open-air stages intended to showcase designs of the most distinguished architects from all over the world. For this reason, the pressure is enormous, and the result has to meet sky-high expectations, although the brief may come disguised in quite explicit terms: design a skyscraper.
The project was conceived as a 66-story microcity providing 244 residences in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. Besides the obvious residential use, David Adjaye’s condominium was envisioned to create a sense of community among the residents as well as to challenge the traditional understanding of such a building. Therefore, he included in his design complementary features such as a rooftop observatory, a basketball court, and even a movie theater (apart from a lot of others).
When dealing with such commissions it is important to be able to create an architectural object that will stand out and show to the world its individuality. After all, if putting such an effort in erecting something, at least make it matter and go for a design that advocates for something -in this case, the very cultural identity of the city. David’s design comes, in a way, with a true Englishmen politeness to the essence of the place, therefore prior to sketching out an idea, the studio looked for that local inspiration. Rather often these days, America needs this kind of reminder of its own values and even past.
130 William tower does exactly that by reanimating some of the key aspects of New York’s architecture of the 19th and early 20th centuries: large arched windows, well-defined horizontal profiles, delicate bronze detailing as well as masterful stonework. All these have been reconsidered and subtly reinterpreted in a contemporary fashion succeeding in valuing both the past and the technological advancement in the crafts industries.
The overall design stays true to the same features enumerated before. They could be seen both in the exterior aspect of the building as well as on the interior. Both arched elements and bronze ones are used as an integrated part of each space no matter if one talks about the residential units, the basketball court, the playground area, or even the rooftop terrace. All inner functions remain tributary to the same logic.
In this project, the evocative aspect of the outer skin of the skyscraper becomes more than an envelope design, but it dictates the whole concept of the project. The arched voids in the façade set the standard for the entire design and this thing can be noticed even when talking about the pieces of furniture used for the inside.
Detailing is another sensitive topic when it comes to contemporary practice as most of the time it is neglected or not so much taken care of. In such cases, the general design may still be impressive, but when the details reveal the clumsiness of the work, all the esteem fades away.
In his projects, not only that David Adjaye puts a lot of effort, care, and skill into his details, but more than this, he succeeds to amaze by the intricate and delicate craft behind the end product. His designs are already well-known for their complex textures and sculptural aesthetics and 130 William tower makes no exception. The texture of the façade panels realized in collaboration with Hill West, and later on developed by the Lightstone Group, amaze with their aspect. Quoting the architect, these hand-cast concrete panels were designed “not only to be seen but to be felt”.
With such examples of architectural pieces, the built world of today is for sure much reacher. Concepts do not have to remain simple terms, but to guide the project and nurture it, even become their inner common sense. They do not have to be complicated or hard to grasp, they can come from the little things around, but must be picked with care and respect for the past as well as for the future to come. Sometimes architects face the struggle of choosing tradition over innovation or the other way round, yet such projects prove there is an in-between way that values both handcraft and technology, the community as well as the individual.