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City Council Green Lights Bjarke Ingels’ 57th Street Pyramid Project

Unanimously, the City Council recently gave the final approval necessary for Danish wunderkind starchitect Bjarke Ingels’ 32-story, LEED Gold-hopeful rental development on the far West Side. The project is slated to rise on 57th Street on the entire block between 11th Avenue and the Hudson River. It will include 750 rental apartments within the pyramid, as well as a separate industrial building that will be converted into 100 units. Overall, 173 of the units will be set aside as affordable. While it’s unclear what specific technologies will underpin the project, we’re pleased to see such bold architecture coming to this long-vacant plot where Midtown West meets the Upper West Side.

One of the reasons the project stalled since we last discussed it here at gbNYC nearly two years ago was the developer – Durst Fentner – balking at making the affordable units permanent. But in a compromise with the local community board, Durst will instead contribute $1 million to an affordable housing fund. The units will remain affordable for 35 years. The developer also addressed other questions about the tower’s 58th Street blank, block-long facade – where mechanical systems must be placed instead of the basement because the site is in a 100-year flood plain. Durst will cover it with space for art work, as well as add greenery. “This particular corner has been a real challenge on the West Side for a long time, a corner that has not been the most beautiful of corners at all, and people would say, ‘Can’t we do something better with this corner?’” Council Speaker Christine Quinn told Crain’s. “Thanks to the hard work of Councilwoman [Gale] Brewer, now we can.”

The 36-year-old Ingels rose to international prominence after apprenticing at Rem Koolhaas’s Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture and designing Copenhagen’s 8 House, a 650,000-square-foot mixed-use development that’s the largest private development in Danish history, and also earned accolades for its sustainable components on top of its innovative architecture. In a profile of Ingels in New York Magazine that we linked to previously, Justin Davidson described how the 57th Street project neatly follows Ingels’ design sense:

Durst’s West 57th Street site is a large, unpromising oblong plot pointing toward the liftoff point of the West Side Highway and flanked by an active but largely empty steam plant and a new garbage-truck garage. Ingels’s design capitalizes on the city’s steady march to the ever-more-verdant riverfront, where industry meets leisure. He and his architects had multiple tasks: turn the building toward the water, leave neighbors’ views as intact as possible, and negotiate a transition from the low-slung silhouette of Hell’s Kitchen to the long-necked towers of Riverside South. At the same time, Ingels wanted to make a ‘blatant’ connection with Hudson River Park, and pull its greenery into the heart of the architecture in the form of a spacious court. To open up views, the building dips down at its southwestern corner. To mitigate traffic noise, it pulls back from the highway and the sanitation garage, rising along a steep, continuous slope to a sharp 450-foot summit. These methodical steps yield a sierralike outline familiar from as far back as Copenhagen’s Harbour Bath, and while that shape may one day devolve into a stylistic tic, for now it feels natural and fresh.

Excavation work at the site is currently underway and residents are slated to move in by the spring of 2015.

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