“New York City is an Addictive Machine from which there is no escape,” said ‘Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan’ written by Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas. As Rem Koolhaas has spent his initial years pursuing a master’s degree course in New York City, he believes that the city is the significant stimuli of his entire career. Any building coming up in the town should consider and harness the energy of the place. 121E 22nd was the first building designed in NYC by OMA in the firm’s work portfolio. 

The building is designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture OMA, owned by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. But the project was assisted by Shohei Shigematsu, heading the firm’s New York outpost since 2008. The project was among the trending talks while it was under process as it was one of the first projects designed by Rem Koolhaas.  

“We have conceived a new, dynamic building for the neighbourhood that communicates both history and modernity,” said OMA’s Shohei Shigematsu

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121E 22nd corner view_source @Laurian Ghinitoiu

Project Details

Project name: 121E 22nd
Architects: OMA by Rem Koolhaas
Location: New York, United States
Type: Multipurpose Apartment- residence+retail
Built in: 2019
Client: Toll Brothers City Living
In Charge: Shohei Shigematsu
Area: 275387 ft² residential space, 17,000 ft² of retail area

Defined Through Facades

The 18-storey building sits on an L-shaped site at 122 east 23rd street, at the corner formed by 23rd street and Lexington Ave of Manhattan. The building constitutes two blocks that wedge the existing 11-storey Building. 

The building’s exterior is inspired by the cubist art forms where objects are viewed from multiple perspectives rather than a straight vision. 121E 22nd is a glass and concrete grid structure with three street facades facing 22nd, 23rd, and Lexington Ave. The two façade planes intersecting at 23rd street and Lexington Ave create a three-dimensional prismatic corner, exposing glass edges and allowing a distinctive presence in the neighbourhood and giving a sense as the orthogonal corner is chiselled. ‘Glass and concrete facades will meet in an electrifying fashion’ said one construction team member. 

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Street facades merging with neighbouring structure [email protected]

The other façade flushed in the 22nd streetscape is designed to be an undulating black grid of precast concrete panels punched with rectangular windows, gently zigzagging as a reference to the more serrated facade on the other two side structures. The building plays homage to the neighbouring structures built pre-war through design that communicates both history and modernity. The window grid gradually becomes wide and thin towards the corner, metaphorically showing the gradual shift from classical to contemporary design.

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_The dynamic facade facing 22nd [email protected] Ghinitoiu
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3D Prismatic corner of North [email protected] Ghinitoiu

The building façade is recessed inwards from the 11th floor onwards to match with the existing neighbouring structures. OMA has sensibly fulfilled the floor area requirements at the same time fitting into the city’s zoning laws and height limits.

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Axonometric view showing courtyard comprising of volumetric [email protected]

Courtyard – An Access To Light 

Two blocks of the building are segregated by a courtyard in the centre. The valley-shaped courtyard only open from the top maximizes the public and private functions inspired from the context, including Madison Square Park and Gramercy Park. The corridors are bright passages due to travertine cladding. The white aluminium balconies run facing the light, providing a sense of lightness by the contrast of the black coloured glass exterior. 

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White coloured balconies overlooking private [email protected] Ghinitoiu
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Private spaces in [email protected]www.cityrealty.com

Material innovation

The building is a LEED-certified structure that is globally recognized for it, being sustainable and possessing leadership in innovation. The materials used in the construction are limited, but the innovative use of glass and precast concrete is worth praise. The sensibility of construction and execution is reflected in the carefully designed three-dimensional facades.  

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Glass and precast concrete panelled [email protected] Ghinitoiu

Space Planning

One of the building blocks comprises 133 residential units, which include five-bedroom apartments and studios. The other block consists of shops and commercial units. To accommodate various uses, the building has designed three separate entrances from three different streets. 

121E 22nd comprises amenities on the lower levels, including a pool, gym lounge, garage, dining room, children’s room, screening room, public roof terrace, and private garden terraces.

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Layout of apartment with two [email protected]

Interior Spaces

There are only two penthouse apartments on each floor in the residential south block. The interior spaces lavishly open up in the garden terraces overlooking private courtyards. Interiors are designed to relate to the wide range of city populations to reflect the diversity of Manhattan. 

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Ground floor corridors with travertine [email protected]
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view from apartment living [email protected]


City Realty (2016). First Official Renderings of Rem Koolhaas’ 122 East 23rd Street. [online] www.cityrealty.com. Available at: https://www.cityrealty.com/nyc/market-insight/features/the-new-skyline/first-official-renderings-rem-koolhaas-122-east-23rd-street/5042 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].

Cogley, B. (2019). OMA completes black Manhattan apartments featuring jagged windows. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/05/28/121-east-22nd-street-oma-new-york-city/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].

Dezeen (2017). Rem Koolhaas discusses OMA’s first New York apartment building. [online] www.youtube.com. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSQq8W8od9g&t=204s [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].

Howarth, D. (2016). OMA reveals its first residential tower for New York. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/09/20/oma-first-residential-tower-new-york-121-east-22nd-street-grammercy-park/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].

Howarth, D. (2017). Rem Koolhaas discusses OMA’s first New York apartment building in new movie. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/02/24/rem-koolhaas-describes-oma-first-new-york-apartment-building-121-east-22nd-street-movie/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2021].


Drasti Patel is a recent graduate in Interior Design who believes design is a medium to simplify living mechanism. She grabs freedom in designing amidst the confinement of requirements. Her interest leans towards interpreting and representing man versus built environment relationship through the textual and visual medium. (Please find a photo in the attachment)

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