Stainless Steel
Thursday | 08 September, 2011 | 2:45 pm

Steel sentinel

By Modern Metals' staff

New York’s tallest residential building takes its place in Manhattan’s skyline

September 2011 – Undulating stainless steel ripples down seven sides of New York by Gehry, the tallest residential building in Manhattan, N.Y. The 76-story skyscraper holds court on a 44,000-square-foot site (approximately a block long) near New York City Hall and the landmark Woolworth Building. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, Los Angeles, Calif., designed the mixed-use building in 2003. Construction began in 2007 and was completed in 2010. In addition to 902 residential units, the tower is home to a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade public school and office space and parking for the New York Downtown Hospital.

Fabric-like folds
Gehry used the established proportions of city towers and traditional setback rules as guidelines to create the initial building mass. The incorporation of bay windows for each residential unit ultimately led to the tower’s distinctive facade. Instead of stacking the bay windows vertically, Gehry moved them slightly floor-by-floor and adjusted their sizes per unit. As he worked with the configuration, Gehry noticed the metal began to take on the folds and creases of fabric. He further developed the design to emphasize this effect.

To bring the concept to life, the fabrication dictated the use of a traditional unitized curtain wall system. Unlike a stick-built system, a unitized system is fabricated on the shop floor, allowing workers to install finished panels quickly without expensive staging. A curtain wall acts as an outer covering for the building. It is non-structural, and its function is to protect against the weather. Flat, unitized curtain walls with back-ventilated rain-screen cladding were hung on the building structure to form the building enclosure. The unitized curtain wall also offered the advantages of speed, lower field installation costs and quality control.

The building’s exterior is comprised of 10,500 individual steel curtain wall panels weighing 1,000 pounds each. The panels have been hung on seven sides of the tower. Its south side has been trimmed into a flat plane to provide contrast to the ripple effect of the other facades. The tower’s base is a five-story brick podium.

Many configurations
The project sourced stainless steel from Japan where it was pressed and rolled before being shipped to Detroit. The 16-gauge face sheets of the rain screen were shaped in the Permasteelisa Group’s Grand Rapids, Mich., factory, and the flat curtain walls were processed in the firm’s Miami facility. Fabrication was supported with advanced digital tools, including building information modeling and CNC cutting tools. Stainless steel was selected over titanium because the material was considered too fragile for the window-washing machines, which were custom-made in Italy to slide in and out of the different window depths.

The skyscraper’s staggered appearance means each floor and residential unit on the building’s seven sides has a different configuration. The roof of the building’s podium holds an enclosed swimming pool and other amenities.

Totaling 1.1 million square feet, the tower contains 2,400 windows, 160 miles of electric cable and 280 million pounds of concrete. Apartments range in size from 450-square-foot studios to 1,700-square-foot three-bedroom apartments. Large windows give the apartments panoramic views. The bay windows also give residents the opportunity to step past the plane of the exterior wall and experience the sensation of “stepping into space” and standing suspended above Manhattan. MM

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