Perkins + Will to design Manhattan Pikettyscraper

Perkins + Will skyscraper
© Perkins + Will

Perkins + Will is perhaps the greenest of the big architectural firms, promoting sustainability, resilient design and climate adaptation, regenerative design and sustainable communities. So it was surprising to see them designing a New York City Pikettysraper, those impossibly slender and tall single-unit-per-floor towers for the super-rich, those physical manifestations of increasing income inequality? How will they possibly make these inherently inefficient slivers sustainable?

They are certainly trying to differentiate it. According to the press release, the 65 story, 150,000 square foot tower “the building is organized with five clusters of shared amenity and park spaces for residents to enjoy, at specific intervals along the tower’s rise”

“The idea is to create a new kind of communal ecosystem of social relationships within a thin tower design,” says Scott Allen, an associate architect and designer with Perkins+Will. “Rather than giving residents small, almost unusable balconies as seen in many towers, they will enjoy big community terraces that are the kind of social and interactive spaces in high demand today.”

playstation room© NEF Foldhome Playstation room, not designed by Perkins + Will

Turkish developer Nef calls this the Foldhome, where they build features that people would not normally be able to fit into their own unit. It’s the sharing economy coming to high end condos, well really it is the renting economy, as they note on their Turkish website:

In total contrast to the usual social facilities, the most important feature of Foldhome, which is composed of private, bespoke usage areas, is its pay-as-you-use-it system. That is, unused areas are not billed to the resident and are not added to apartment dues. With the Foldhome system, the music room, PlayStation room or private cinema you’ve always wanted but never had room for, can be yours whenever you want, and, the moment you no longer do, you will be instantly relieved of its costs.

Perkins + Will calls it “a modern example of a dynamic, iconic, and sustainable building.” Through structural innovation in the hybrid steel and concrete structure they have reduced core size and developed a “completely flexible and adaptable floor plate” so those fancy interior designers and architects can build it out any way they want; “Bespoke” is the word for it in suits.

Perkins + Will claim on their website that they are “committed to the financial, human, and environmental sustainability of our clients and their projects.” Yet super-slenders are hugely expensive to build, requiring the same stairs, elevators and emergency systems as buildings with floor plates ten times the size. The ratio of expensive exterior cladding to floor area is insanely high. On a use per capita basis, they are horrible energy hogs. As for benefits to the city, the tax income to the City will be minimal because the occupants probably won’t live there full time and won’t pay the New York City income tax.

Designer Scott Allen says that “The idea is to create a new kind of communal ecosystem of social relationships within a thin tower design.” I don’t believe that will ever happen, people who buy twenty million dollar condos don’t do communal.

Sky gardens notwithstanding, this is an exercise in unsustainability. I don't know how anyone can justify it as being a good thing.

Perkins + Will skyscraper© Perkins + Will

Tags: Architects | New York City

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