If in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, narrator Nick Carraway comes to realise that the American Dream is “the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us”, then no one told Uruguayan-born, New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly and United States developer Harry Macklowe at 432 Park Avenue, New York; the super-slender skyscraper is the talk of Manhattan and its storied Billionaire’s Row.
Viñoly’s structure is a shimmering exclamation mark to progress and other- worldly in terms of New York’s skyline. The building is so out there or, more accurately, up there, that wags have called it the safe- deposit box in the sky.
“Harry thinks this is the most important building in the history of architecture,” says Viñoly. That’s not all that has been said by the boss of Macklowe Properties, who’s co-developing the project with CIM Group. “This is the building of the 21st century, the same way the Empire State Building was the building of the 20th century,” he says.
At 426-metres high, the 96-storey 432 Park Ave is 45 metres taller than the Empire State Building.
“To me the critical thing in every building is the possibility of changing convention,” says Viñoly. And how.
Currently, there are 18 tower projects popping up in Manhattan, but with two major differences from all that have come before – where once towers were muscular symbols of corporate self-confidence, the new kids on the block are residential structures, the symbols of singular success. And they’re causing changes in the vernacular. Their slimmer, trimmer silhouettes in contrast to their overly bulked up cousins lending them the term super-slender.
“The tall buildings used to be office buildings, monolithic, post-war, blocky, today the trend is residential, buildings that are smaller and taller, ‘super-slenders’, ultra-luxury residential towers, but it’s a throwback to the old New York office skyscrapers which were tall but had smaller plans,” says Carol Willis, founder and director of The Skyscraper Museum in New York.
Prime among these new developments is 432 Park Avenue. Developers say New York apartment buyers have traditionally shopped first for a neighbourhood, views and then amenities. The value of the super-slender tower lies in the ceaseless views, and that means Central Park’s 432 Park is the new gold standard.
The building is both very tall and slight in stature. With a flat rooftop 426 metres up, 432 Park Avenue is, in the words Harry Macklowe, the loftiest residence “in the Western Hemisphere”. It is higher than the roof of the 94-storey One World Trade Center and the roof of the original WTC Tower 1, which from 1971-1973 was the world’s tallest building.
There is, however, immense architectural peer pressure. Two taller residential buildings will beat out 432 Park’s loftiest status upon their completion in 2018: 111 West 57th and the Central Park Tower.
But this building is first and being first makes it the star attraction. “432 Park Avenue is an extraordinary site that demands an exceptional building with design and materials that will stand the test of time,” Macklowe says. “The building has been designed for, and discreetly marketed to, a sophisticated audience that expects every detail and finish is carefully considered and of the finest quality. This has been recognised by exceptional levels of interest from a wide array of prominent New Yorkers as well as national and international purchasers.”
Macklowe was founded nearly 50 years ago by Harry Macklowe Senior. The company’s developments have totalled more than 10 million square feet and include the General Motors Building its flagship Apple Store at Fifth Avenue Plaza.
Exemplifying a “logic of luxury,” the tower’s soaring height is predicated on a compact 93-square-feet floor plate and extra-high ceilings, which produce its slenderness ratio of the width of the building’s base to its height of one to 15.
The issue of slenderness is one of engineering. Structural engineers generally consider skyscrapers with a minimum ratio of between 10 and 12 to one to be “slender.” The World Trade Center North Tower had a ratio of one to seven. Of the 18 towers underway – just three are able to be lived in – there’s a slenderness that ranges from 10 to one, to an extraordinary 23 to one at 111 West 57 Street, the slenderest yet skyscraper on the planet.
The new Yale School of Architecture Dean Deborah Berke worked on 432 Park Avenue. She sees the classic New York apartment reflected in the shiny skin of the project. “There’s a history in New York City of the Park Avenue apartment. 432 pays homage to that,” she says. “What’s special is the experience of getting off the elevator into a private foyer, and you’re in a gallery space that leads straight into your living room with spectacular views. It speaks to the detailing of a classic Park Avenue apartment. It’s 21st century Park Avenue. And you’re in the thick of the majesty of New York’s most important buildings.”
Viñoly has also instigated an emphatic white grid in the building’s concrete frame, dividing the tower into six sections by employing open mechanical floors. The building represents an integration of the elegant architectural concept and structural logic that sets 432 Park Avenue apart from its curtain-wall contemporaries. What does a multimillion- dollar piece of pie in the sky get its owner?
A typical penthouse at 432 has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and a library. There are views everywhere, including a IMAX-like vista from the sculptured bathtubs sitting square in front of a window in the best of the bathrooms. Buyers can also pick up a US$3.9 million studio for the housekeeper and a private wine cellar for US$300,000.
The US$76.5-million 88th floor penthouse is in the process of being acquired, but the buyer remains unknown. It’s not the pencil-thin periscope’s most expensive unit. That was a US$95-million penthouse acquired by Saudi Arabian real estate titan Fawaz Al Hokair.
Penthouse 88 is said to be one of the last full-floor units for sale, including five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a library with a wood- burning fireplace and two powder rooms.
432 Park’s 91st to 95th floors have been divided into two unit areas, one at 4,400 square feet, the other at 3,600 square feet, and instead of US$50 million-plus, the developer is asking US$40.25 million and US$39.75 million respectively. Given the significance of the number 88 to Asian buyers, it’s not unlikely to be a Chinese purchase.
Elsewhere, the sky’s the limit in Manhattan 2.0. “This is a new type in skyscraper history, a new typology characteristic specifically of New York. Look at New York in five or 10 years’ time and it will be a completely different city,” says Willis. “In a strange way, it’s also going back to where everything started.”
Before The Great Gatsby got its name, a small number of copies were published with Fitzgerald’s original title, Trimalchio, a reference to the halcyon protagonist of 1st century Roman work Satyricon by Petronius, to whom the writer compares Jay Gatz. The novel concludes: “Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther...” Perhaps, you might also be lucky enough to wake-up at 432 Park Avenue.