VIA 57 West, Bjarke Ingels’ First American Building
VIA 57 West, Bjarke Ingels’ first American building, launched rentals last month, but the pyramidal structure has been stirring conversation since it first broke ground in 2012. The 709-unit building, developed by The Durst Organization, slopes and curves upward from its plot along the West Side Highway, sitting in stark contrast to the angular, box-shaped towers in the surrounding neighborhoods. While it stands out among Manhattan’s skyline, the fantastical design is precisely in line with Ingels’ other work.
After working for Rem Koolhaas at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam from 1998 to 2001, Ingels started the PLOT architecture practice with former OMA colleague Julien de Smedt. After five short but fruitful years, Ingel and de Smedt disbanded PLOT and Ingels founded Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in Copenhagen. According to the firm’s website, they aim to design within “the fertile overlap between pragmatic and utopia” – meaning BIG projects often incorporate elements of the fantastical, but always with a distinct purpose. Ingels was named 2011’s Innovator of the Year for architecture by The Wall Street Journal and this year was recognized as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.
Since 2005, Ingels’ firm has completed projects throughout Europe, Asia, and now North America. Some of BIG’s most prominent commissions in Europe include Superkilen, an urban park designed via crowdsourcing, 8 House, a $104 million apartment complex named for its unique shape, an underground boat-shaped maritime museum, and this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London, a translucent fiberglass structure that Ingles describes as “an unzipped wall.” BIG is currently teaming up with Google to construct their new headquarters in North Bayshore, and the firm has several high-profile projects underway in New York as well. They will be redesigning part of the East River waterfront, adding publicly accessible spaces and storm-preparedness to the Eastern edge of Manhattan. Ingels was selected by James Murdoch to design 2 Word Trade Center, the final stage of the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, which is slated to cost almost $4 billion. Of course, while all of this is underway, Ingels has been overseeing VIA 57 West, designed to incorporate natural light, stunning views, greenery, and moving water.
At roughly 800,000 square feet, VIA 57 West was designed to obscure neighboring buildings as little as possible, and includes 20% affordable housing. Covered balconies and steel sheets create a geometric façade, taking the form of a triangle along the north side and wrapping around a block-long courtyard on the 57th Street side. According to The Real Deal, the south side of the building houses a game room, a children’s play room, a lap pool, a basketball court, and a communal living room with a sun deck. The unique shape of the building yields 178 different floorplans for the 709 units, with about 70% of units looking out onto the Hudson River, and some of the apartments have direct access to the 22,000 square-foot courtyard at the center of the structure. Studios at VIA 57 West start at $3,100, with one-bedrooms starting at $4,200. For comparison, one-bedrooms at the adjacent Helena start at $3,400 and a similar unit at the nearby Mercedes House will run $3,775.
Bjarke Ingels is already shaking up the often-homogenous architecture world of New York City. Ingles designed Two World Trade Center, working with anchor tenant 20th Century Fox to customize the skyscraper for the media giant, before they pulled out and renewed the lease in their existing midtown building. Developer Larry Silverstein is seeking to fill the void left by Fox. The foundation is ready, but no building is rising. The design is of stacked boxes, influenced by the convergence of the Financial District with Tribeca, which appear as though they may topple over when viewed from the down below on the ground of the WTC complex.
And perhaps most exciting, the dryline is a park that extends around the tip of Manhattan serving to protect the city from another superstorm. And while Ingels’ design seemlessly entwines indoor and outdoor elements, this structure has nearly no interior component and could have the greatest impact on his young legacy.