New York's SuperTalls
A Mixed Bag
Best So Far: 53 West 53rd Street
View from Rockefeller Center plaza
Carter B. Horsley
impressive, tall, tapering tower at 53 West 53rd Street is perhaps the
best of the "Supertall" skyscrapers that began sprouting in Manhattan
in the first dozen or so years of this millennium. It was
designed by Jean Nouvel, the French architect who won the Pritzker
Prize in 2008, for Hines Interests of Houston.
A stunted, but still soaring
mid-block, mixed-use shard with three shorn peaks above a tight corset
of angled beams, this is the most interesting of the city's SuperTalls
and has large apartments and many amenities.
A mixed-use building, it
contains expansion space for the Museum of Modern Art, a hotel and
apartments in its mid-block location at the west end of the museum's
When it was first announced in
2008, it was planned to rise 1,250 feet, the height of the Empire State
Building without its antenna spire. But Amanda Burden, then chair
of the City Planning Commission, ordered that its height be reduced to
1,050 feet. Nicolai Ouroursoff, the architecture critic of The New York Times, said that
Burden argued that the MoMA tower "did not meet the aesthetic standards
of a building that could compete in height with the city's most famous
Early rendering showing museum's garden
"decapitation" of this tower was not applied to any of the other
Supertalls, many even taller and the city's planners have been very
negligent in dealing with the new skyline.
View from Fifth Avenue and 54th Street
Originally known as the Tower
Verre, the tower involved the transfer of about 275,000 square feet of
air rights from St. Thomas Episcopal Church on the northwest corner of
Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street and 136,000 square feet of air rights from
the University Club on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 54th
In his May 2, 2010 article
in New York Magazine,
Justin Davidson wrote the Nouvel's original design "offered an
exuberant counterpoint to the relentless three-dimensional matrix of
midtown," adding that "Slashing upward as if trying to catch a
particular cloud on the fly, its musculature of asymmetrically slanted
beams visible against a taut glass skin, Tower Verre would have been
New York's most lithe, athletic skyscraper....The inspiring arrogance
of Nouvel's tower should never have been quashed by timorous
The tower's redesign,
interestingly, retained a great deal of the original design.
This tower has three floors of
exhibition space for the museum, a hotel and 145 condominium
Entrance on 53rd Street with MoMA Tower at right
The very handsome American
Folk Art Museum designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
occupied part of this tower's site on 53rd Street.
Nouvel's other Manhattan
projects include 100 Eleventh Avenue and 40 Mercer Street. Some
of his other notable works are the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Musee
du quai Branly, the Foundation Cartier and the Philharmonie de Paris,
all in Paris, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the National Museum of Qatar in
Doha, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and the KKL Lucerne
culture and convention center in Switzerland.
An article in The Slatin
Report June 19, 2007, said that Mr. Nouvel had won a design competition
for the new tower and that the other competing architects has been
Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners, Reiser and Unamoto, Morphosis and
Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
A bundle of steeply angled
sections it is wrapped boldly with an angled corset of beams with
significant expansion space for the Museum of Modern Art on its lower
Thierry Despont is the
Amenities include a 24-hour doormen, a live-in resident manager, a
chauffeurs' lounge, catered food service for residents, the Wright Fit
health club, a squash court, a 65-foot-long lap pool, a golf simulator,
bicycle storage, a double-height lounge and private dining room, wine
vaults and a tasting groom, pantry-stocking, housekeeping, dry
cleaning, maid and laundry service, a pet concierge, and a technology
It has large apartments.
Penthouse 76 is a duplex unit
with three-bedrooms with 7,973 square feet. The lower level has a
38-foot-long living room, a 24-foot-long dining room and a 24-foot-long
enclosed kitchen with an island, and a 30-foot-long library and two
bedrooms on the upper level.
Apartment 64 is a four-bedroom
unit with 6,617 square feet with a 38-foot-long living room with a
large open kitchen with an island.
Apartment 72A is a
three-bedroom duplex unit with 4,372 square feet with a 38-foot-long
living room, an enclosed kitchen and two bedrooms, including a
38-foot-long master bedroom, on the upper level.
Apartment 55A is a
three-bedroom unit with 3,848 square feet with a 38-foot-wide living
room and an enclosed kitchen with an island.
Apartment 58B is a
three-bedroom unit with 3,251 square feet, a 39-foot-long living room,
and an enclosed kitchen.
Apartment 36A is a two-bedroom
unit with 3,020 square feet, a 29-foot-long living room with an open
kitchen with an island and a 25-foot-long master bedroom.
Apartment 151 is a
one-bedroom unit with a 30-foot-long living room with an open kitchen.