PROFILEnyc had the exclusive opportunity to tour the fast-rising ultra-luxury, supertall residential tower 53W53 with David Penick, Managing Director at Hines, and discuss with him the fast-rising Manhattan skyline and what it takes to bring such an iconic building to New York City. The ultra-modern Jean-Nouvel structure is already turning heads in Midtown Manhattan with its tapering, exoskeleton design in an neighborhood that has seen skyline changing towers such as One57 and 432 Park rise in recent years. One thing is for sure, the Central Park and Manhattan views matched with Jean Nouvel design just cannot be beat.
PROFILEnyc: Up until One57 was completed in 2014 there really wasn't any urgency for supertall towers in New York City. Since then Manhattan has seen some of the world's finest towers rise including One57, 432 Park and soon to be 53W53, 111 West 57 and Central Park Tower. What kicked off this development boom?
David Penick: Demand for great places to live. Skyscrapers have always been a large part of the fabric that makes up the New York City skyline and play a significant role in defining Manhattan. In recent years, developers have been geographically limited when it comes to sites where they can build significant projects and to maximize space the most effective way to do this, is to build skyward. New state-of-the-art and improved materials also makes building taller skyscrapers a more efficient process. 53W53 is located on a through-block site running to 54th Street, west of Fifth Avenue, in the epicenter of New York's global business, arts and cultural districts. For us, we wanted to create something that is truly unique.
PN: What kind of buyers are you seeing who want to live so high in the sky? How has the feedback been?
DP: People who are looking for it all in the middle of the most exciting city in the world – great views, world class service and MoMA. It’s a unique package that has real design excellence. The architecture is by Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel and the Interior Architect is the world-renowned Thierry Despont. Sales have been consistently strong and we have been seeing even more interest as the building continues to rise.
PN: How did the concept for 53W53 come about? How did you guys acquire the land/ assemblage and decide to build a supertall residential tower? What factors influence how developers look at how land can build in a city with such high population density?
DP: In 2006, the Museum of Modern Art began the process to find a buyer for its land on which 53W53 is now being built. It was and is still very important to MoMA to have a partner who would build a world class project and deliver the quality and certainty of success the museum was seeking. Hines was selected after a competitive process, we then expanded the ownership to include Goldman Sachs and Pontiac Land Group. Our goal from the beginning was to build something of real significance which is now taking place.
PN: The tower's design is simply magnificent, where did the idea and concept to build such an architecturally stunning tower come from? Can you comment on the unique diagrid system that makes the tower truly one-of-a-kind?
DP: Nouvel’s design for the building features a sculptural form that is a literal response to the midtown Manhattan zoning requirements. It is progressively modern yet reminiscent of classic New York City skyscrapers. The innovative exposed structural system, which Nouvel refers to as the “diagrid” is an ultra-efficient and aesthetically dramatic system for strengthening the building while minimizing interior and perimeter columns. This is the first time that a diagrid structure of this magnitude and complexity has been successfully executed at this grand scale.
PN: You mentioned that you had worked with Jean Nouvel on past projects, what does Jean bring to the project?
DP: Nouvel is the most important living architect working in the world today. We are thrilled to be working with him again, after our big success at 40 Mercer in SoHo. HInes has also completed an office project with him in Paris and we look forward to future collaborations with this creative giant. In 53W53, Nouvel has created an iconic architectural design that will honor the Manhattan skyline for generations to come.
PN: You mentioned the tapering aspect of building skyscrapers and how architects have refined this practice for centuries (NOTE DAVID SAID DECADES NOT CENTURIES), how did Jean Nouvel institute a modern spin on this design?
DP: Primarily by his use of the tapering form itself. In the past, buildings often stepped back from the street to comply with height and setback requirements. In this case, the building form closely follows the literal intent of the setback requirements, rather than approximating them with steps. One consequence of this tapering building form is that each floor is different and similarly, each apartment in the building is unique.
PN: Your background is as an architect, how has technology and modern construction practices changed the way architects can design?
DP: Yes. I was trained and did practice architecture for some years, but I have been a real estate developer for the great majority of my career. I do enjoy working with the design team and find that there are many innovations today which make this very large complex building possible. The most compelling of those are the modern three-dimensional drafting programs. Developed in the aerospace industry, modern 3D modeling makes it possible for architects and contractors to create an incredible 1050-foot-tall icon like 53W53.
PN: What have been some of the challenges about building such a unique, artistic structure and all of the teams and moving parts of the project in the heart of such a non-stop urban city?
DP: 53W53 is one of the most intricate and complex residential projects underway in New York. It is art within art, the grandest sculpture on the MoMA campus and literally at the heart of 53W53 is a museum. Every interior space has a unique interaction with the building form and diagrid, so each of the apartments is one-of-a-kind. 53W53 is challenging to construct but the result is the beautiful building we see taking form today.
PN: What do you hope to be able to bring to New York City once 53W53 is complete?
DP: 53W53 may be the most architecturally significant addition to the New York skyline in recent years. Hines has been a leader in design for sixty years. We always strive to deliver the best possible building for our occupants and to this city that we love. We are proud to have assembled a stellar team, to create a limited, one-of-a-kind opportunity to own a spectacular residence in the Manhattan sky that is also an architectural and technical masterpiece.
About David Penick, Managing Director, Hines:
Mr. David Penick is a partner Hines' New York Office, where he is project officer at 53W53 and has overseen 56 Leonard Street, 40 Mercer, One Jackson Square, 425 Lexington Avenue and 383 Madison Avenue. He has served as VP of Development for Hines and David was previously an architect with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).
53W53 is a supertall condo tower being developed by Hines, Goldman Sachs Group, Pontiac Land Group, rising above The Museum of Modern Art at 53 West 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. 53W53 features 145 residences which range in size from 1-to-5 bedrooms, including full floor homes and duplex penthouses with private elevators. Units are priced between $3.17 million and $50.0 million. The tower's interiors will be designed by interior architect Theirry Despont, known for his mastery of exceptional private residences and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. The Despont-designed interiors will include luxurious features such as statuary marble countertops and backlit backsplashes, heated Verona limestone slab floors in the bathrooms, and Noir St. Laurent marble, Peruvian golden travertine walls and 4-inch solid American Oak floors. Amenities include a 17,000 SF full-floor Wellness Center will include 2 large vertical gardens, designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc, which frame a 65' swimming pool; fitness center, private training area, sauna, steam rooms, golf simulator and squash court, all operated by The Wright Fit; a library, theater, children’s playroom, private storage, and temperature controlled wine vaults available for purchase. Floors 46 and 47 feature a double-height lounge with sweeping views and a separate, private formal dining room overlooking Central Park. The Museum of Modern Art will have three new gallery levels within the base of 53W53 on floors 2, 4 and 5. Owners in 53W53 will receive title to a special Benefactor W53 MoMA membership, affording many substantial museum benefits and privileges. Hines aims to delivery 53W53 in early 2019.