Perimeter block, cornerTower
100 Eleventh Avenue
Jean Nouvel/Beyer Blinder Belle | New York, USA | 2010
Image of 100 Eleven...
Corner tower at the Huson waterfront Gehry's IAC building on the right

Project100 Eleventh Avenue
ArchitectJean Nouvel/Beyer Blinder Belle
CityNew York
Address100 E.11th Ave. NYC
Building TypePerimeter block, corner
Number of Dwellings72
Date Built2010
Dwelling Types2BR, 3BR, 4BR, & Penthouse
No. Floors23
Section TypeFlats
Exterior Finish
Concrete, brick, stone, metal windows, wood blinds, glass curtain wall
Construction TypeRC frame, flat slab
Ancillary Services

Jean Nouvel's latest addition to the New York skyline is one of a group of iconic residential towers that have recently been built along the western edge of Manhattan between Chelsea and SOHO. Part of the transformation of the old industrial districts along the Hudson, the group can be seen as the latest development in the planning and construction of the Hudson River Park, the huge urban design project that has been underway along the Hudson waterfront since the 1990's (see Perry & Charles Streets). Unlike typical speculative housing, these luxury condos have been designed by celebrity architects, sited for the extraordinary views overlooking the waterfront landscape, and are made with expensive materials and features. The group includes Richard Meier's three glass towers at Perry & Charles (2006-2010), two party-wall towers, in Greenwich by Winka Dubbledam (2004) and the other by Neil Denari (2011) on the new High Line Park, and two high-rise towers by Jean Nouvel, one at the corner of Canal and Broadway (2006), and the elongated 23-story tower shown here, 100 Eleventh Avenue built along the river at 19th Street (2010).

Nouvel's curving tower occupies a corner site along the Hudson waterfront where the meandering route of Eleventh Ave. merges with the grid of Manhattan at 19th St. The building encloses the end of the block sharing party walls with the existing buildings to each side. At the 5th floor, the building mass steps back 16' defining a zone of open spaces between the planer street facades and the curving form of the 23-story tower. The street facades create a base to the building that picks up the height and texture of the buildings of the surrounding neighborhood and help make a better fit with the bulk of Frank Gehry's IAC Headquarters building across the street built a few years earlier. The stepped building form helps to develop a pedestrian realm along the sidewalk where there are some commercial spaces and an "atrium" at the building entrance. The 20-foot high ceilings and the skylights that are cut from these voids allow natural light to penetrate deeply into the interior of the ground floor spaces. This is a response to the general site weighting toward the waterfront activities to the west. The vertical zone between the curving and rectangular shapes at the corner is expressed as an open hanging garden, suspended in a open structure of steel and glass that forms a vertical landscape of potted plants and balconies along 19th street and open terraces along 11th Ave. Higher ceilings, double-height volumes, and curved and radiating walls and structure in the spaces of the 5-story podium add spatial depth to the open structural latticework at the corner and are reminiscent of Nouvel's use of a similar virtuoso assemblage like that used in Fondation Cartier in Paris in 1993.

The height, the slender proportions, the curving shape, and especially the kaleidoscopic mosaic of shimmering glass facades, marks the tower as a dominant element in the evolving landscape of Hudson River Park. The curving corner is a faceted surface made of 1700 different-sized rectangular windows of various colors that are set at different angles in larger frames that are is inflected outwards towards the waterfront. The result is a crystalline, layered surface that has an almost woven quality. The repetitive horizontal and vertical rhythm of the concrete structure and the steel mega panels is played off against the chaotic, layered quality to the infill glass windows and the result is a three dimensional, crystalline textile quality.

The walls on the interior of the block are made of black brick with small rectangular windows treated as punched openings in the exterior walls. The abrupt change from brick and stone to the glass and steel of the street facades is a reflection of the vernacular character of this former industrial neighborhood. The glittering curving glass wall serves as a metaphorical fence separating the old community of Chelsea and the new, rejuvenated Hudson landscape now under construction. The transformation of West Chelsea can be seen clearly from the High Line elevated park that passes by a block east of Nouvel's tower. The wrapping quality of the curved wall, the proximity to Gehry's IAC, and the urban transformation going on along 11th Ave. can all be seen from this elevated position as work on the Hudson River Park continues.

The building has a lamellar shape but is really organized as a point-access tower. Spacious hallways within the end apartments allow the slab-type plan but without long public corridors. The shape of the plan results in a varied mix of apartment sizes and types with one, two, and three bedroom dwellings in the lower floors and a huge penthouse at the 21st floor connecting to a full roof terrace. Depending on size, there can be 2, 3 or 4 dwellings per floor and terrace spaces in the podium levels are created with balconies and potted plants suspended in this space.

The building plans are organized with bathrooms, kitchens, and vertical circulation packed in a dense zone facing the interior of the city block and radiating out to a zone of larger rooms in each apartment that open to the view. The spatial experience of the interior is one of moving from a realm of thick walls and small enclosed spaces that enjoy, framed views of surrounding Manhattan--seen almost like pictures on a wall— to the brilliant modern spaces of the main living areas; white walls, an absence of columns and the continuous curtain wall. Windows in the elevators frame changing panoramas of the city from the cabs that can be seen moving up and down the shafts at night. The idea of arranging dwellings in a radiating shape to ensure view access is not new, Alvar Aalto used a similar idea in several buildings. But here, Nouvel has taken the idea to a whole new level of sophistication; a luxury version of the type equipped with varied interiors, hanging gardens and balconies, and fancy accessories like swimming pools, a ground floor atrium, art gallery, and screen viewing rooms.

But it is the curving glass wall that sets Nouvel's building apart from other examples of radical facade design and construction in New York in the 2000's. Nouvel refers to the building as "the vision machine" a reference to the different views experienced both from within and without when moving about the building. The structural framing of the curving shape, coupled with the construction of the podium and the hanging garden, results in a very complex cellular structure. A curtain wall system with great variety was selected, one that could fit the curving shape, incorporate operable widows, and that could be assembled off-site in large steel frames that could be trucked to the site and hoisted into position on the building. About 1700 different windows have been installed into 60 "megapanel" frames. The use of several different sized panels, some of which are curved, results in a repetitive grid of big steel frames that align with the position of floors and walls. The panels are connected to the slab and vertical structure with basically one panel per room. This infill system results in a very three-dimensional, hierarchical pattern. Individual panes have different degrees of transparency and color and are installed at different angles. Windows range in size from a few feet on a side to as large as 16 feet. The system is designed to withstand 25 MPH for normal use, to be operational at wind velocities of 50 MPH, and was designed to withstand 100 MPH winds when secured in the storied position. Custom-designed returnable racks were made for transportation and storage and a full-sized mock-up was built and lab-tested.

The structure of the podium is extremely complex involving a double wall system, the offset towards the street, and the framing of the atrium space. This was engineered using an intricate mix of steel framing, concrete cantilevered columns, walls, and balconies. A few potted trees are trees are suspended in this space. Exotic glazing innovations and ingenious landscape elements have long been prominent features of Nouvel's work. This legacy includes the moveable apertures of the courtyard wall of the Institute du Monde Arabe (1987), the overlapping, layered, facades of Fondation Cartier (1994), and the vertical gardens at the Quai Branly Museum (2006).

Understanding the design, installation, and materials used in the fabrication of these sophisticated curtain wall systems requires advanced skills and training and a new category of facade consultant has emerged in the past few years to service this need. The facade consultants for 100 Eleventh Ave. were Front Inc. a New York based firm with a resume that includes the New York Times Building (Renzo Piano, 2007), the Seattle Public Library (OMA 2003), and the HL23 apartment building (Neil Denari 2011).

As the zoning laws evolve and west side real estate development continues, increased value will be placed on occupying the front row seats along the River. 100, Eleventh Ave. is an interesting housing precedent because it belongs to both perimeter block and tower typologies; it is being used as infill to a typical Manhattan block, but at the same, it wants to be a free-standing point block. Even with the setback of the tower, the building is right at the edge of a very busy, noisy 6-lane highway. This is not really much different from the industrial activity that went on here before the elevated highway was removed in 1973. The noise is relentless except in the upper floors, and the highway is still a barrier to easy pedestrian access to the park areas along the river. This hardly seems consistent with residential use especially for high-end condos. Le Corbusier, writing in When The Cathedrals Were White, about his first visit to New York in 1935, noted that street noise in Manhattan carried to the upper floors of tall buildings, that tall buildings needed to be surrounded by open space so that sound would not bounce around the stonewalls lining the streets. He, of course, was making a case for the "cartesian skyscrapers" that he was promoting in " Ville Radieuse", published the same year. 100 Eleventh Ave. is certainly not surrounded by tall buildings and will always remain open on the west side along the river, but how far can residential density grow here and how can visual and physical access and protection from street noise ever be guaranteed? With a real estate value of over $ 2K per square foot (in 2014), it's not likely that the proletariat will ever have a chance to live here. This is all about luxury housing: the site, the breath-taking views of the Hudson maritime landscape, the beautiful interiors, and that amazing curving glass wall.

Hill, John, Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture, W.W. Norton, New York, 2011, p. 82.

Minutillo, Josephine,

Per, Aurora Fernandez, Javier Arpa, Density Projects, a + t ediciones, Vitoria-Gasteiz, pp. 378-385, 2007,

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