VIΛ 57 West, designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group for the Durst Organization, introduces a new typology to New York City — the “Courtscraper.” The 830,000-square-foot high rise combines the density of an American skyscraper with the communal space of a European courtyard, offering 709 residential units with a 22,000-square-foot garden at the heart of the building.
VIΛ occupies nearly a full city block at the corner of West 57th Street and the West Side Highway, with uninterrupted views toward the Hudson River Park and the waterfront. The Durst Organization commissioned BIG to design a building for the site in the spring of 2010, and construction commenced in 2011. The 32-story building has welcomed residents since May 2016 with construction completing this fall. Earlier this year, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named VIΛ the Best Tall Building in the Americas as part of its 2016 Tall Buildings Award.
“We are very excited about the building, and the activity has exceeded our expectations in terms of velocity and the rents. We always were thrilled with the building but even more so now,” said Douglas Durst, The Durst Organization.
The VIΛ Courtscraper is a hybrid between the European perimeter block and the traditional American high rise. The building peaks at 450 feet at its northeast corner, thereby maximizing the number of apartments and preserving the adjacent Helena Tower’s views of the river. VIΛ’s volume changes, depending on the viewer’s vantage point. From the west, it is a hyperbolic paraboloid or a warped pyramid. From the east, the Courtscraper appears to be a slender spire.
The shared green space at the heart of the block is derived from the classic Copenhagen “urban oasis.” The courtyard — a bonsai Central Park — has the exact same proportions as Olmsted’s park, just 13,000 times smaller. In a similar accumulation of natural landscapes, the courtyard transforms from a shaded forest in the east to a sunny meadow in the west. Designed by landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse, it features 80 newly planted trees and lawns and 47 species of native plant material.
“In recent decades, some of the most interesting urban developments have come in the form of nature and public space, reinserting themselves back into the postindustrial pockets freeing up around the city — the pedestrianization of Broadway and Times Square, the bicycle lanes, the High Line, and the industrial piers turning into parks,” said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG. “Located at the northern tip of the Hudson River Park, VIΛ continues this process of greenification, allowing open space to invade the urban fabric of the Manhattan city grid. In an unlikely fusion of what seems to be two mutually exclusive typologies — the courtyard and the skyscraper, the Courtscraper is the most recent addition to the Manhattan skyline.”
By keeping three corners of the block low and lifting the northeast portion of the building, the courtyard opens views toward the Hudson River and brings the low western sun deep into the block. While the courtyard is a private space and a sanctuary for residents, it can still be seen from the outside, creating a visual connection to the greenery of the Hudson River Park.
The building is predominantly residential units of different sizes with cultural and commercial program at the street level and the second floor. The lower levels of VIΛ have a strong relationship to the courtyard. The lobby is connected directly to the courtyard via a grand stair that invites residents into the courtyard space. The amenities at VIΛ include lounges and events spaces, a golf simulator, movie screening room, a pool, a basketball court, gym and exercise studios, and game rooms for poker, ping pong, billiards, and shuffle board. These amenities are all constructed around the courtyard to create a strong physical and visual connection between the interior and exterior communal spaces.
At the upper levels, the apartments are organized on a fishbone layout, orienting the homes toward the view of the water. Large terraces are carved into the warped façade to maximize views and light into the apartments, while ensuring privacy between the residents.
The material concept for the interior design of the project is “Scandimerican,” another European-American hybrid. They blend classic modern Scandinavian and local New York materials. The primary materials of the apartments are oak wood floors and cabinets and white porcelain tiles in the bathrooms.
The building also features a complementing eight-story sculpture by Stephen Glassman entitled “Flows Two Ways,” anchored on the façade of the adjacent Helena tower. Once completed, the ground floor commercial space will host such public amenities as a restaurant, a movie cinema, and the first U.S. retail store for the American Kennel Club.
Information provided by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group (www.big.dk), a Copenhagen-, New York-, and London-based group of architects and designers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research, and development. In New York City, the firm is also working on the Manhattan flood protection system (the Big U) and 2 World Trade Center.
VIΛ 57 West
Size: 830,995 square feet
Height: 450 feet
Owner: The Durst Organization
Architect: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Collaborators: SLCE Architects, Starr Whitehouse, Thornton Tomasetti, Dagher Engineering, Langan Engineering, Hunter Roberts, Enclos, Philip Habib & Associates, Vidaris Inc, Nancy Packes, Van Deusen & Associates, Cerami & Associates, CPP, AKRF, Glessner Group, and Brandston Partnership Inc.