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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cloning W57

It was just a matter of time before other architects started taking the leaning-pyramid form of Bjarke Ingels Group's W57 development under construction on Manhattan's west side...

[W57 under construction | Photo by Rasmus Hjortshøj]

...and creating inferior versions of it. First up appears to be Kutnicki Bernstein Architects' 500 Metropolitan Avenue, a hotel/residential building in the early stages of construction in Brooklyn, next to the L/G stop and across from the BQE:

[Image from kba website]

For more tasty construction shots of BIG's W57, be sure to check out Rasmus Hjortshøj's website.


  1. I don't know... I mean, "leaning pyramid" is kind of an odd description in the first place. Really, if the only similarity you're pointing out is the sloped / tiered quality, then sure, I guess they resemble each other. I might even accept it if you said their slopes ran diagonally (instead of parallel / perpendicular to the facades) -- but that still doesn't make this sound very scandalous. I would actually argue that KBA's lack of a courtyard serves to further distinguish the two from one another.

    And as long as we're grabbing at straws, John Portman's Hyatt Regency in San Francisco (1973), or a dozen or so hotels along the Gulf of Mexico / Caribbean could probably be considered "prior art."

    We can even turn the discussion back towards BIG -- this isn't even the first project THEY have done that resembles W57. Taking a quick glance at their website, you could make a case that Little Denmark (2004), The Mountain (2007), World Village of Womens Sports (2008), and Forde Radhus Kuarter (2009) were all formally similar. There are even post-W57 designs that are close -- check out ST7 / Kullen in Stockholm (2011) and the new Basin 7 proposal in Denmark (2014). Some of these even go so far as to reuse the "court-scraper" paradigm. And even if you don't want to concede all of those, it's probably fair to concede at least one...

    Now, we all know that (according to BIG) there are different parameters that push and pull these buildings into their respective shapes. Views, view corridors, probably even a few setback requirements. And / But yes, there are probably some copycats out there as well. I just think it was a little click-bait-y to draw / jump to this conclusion...

    1. Okay, anonymous, so you have problems with my quite cursory comparison. Fine, but no need to insult with the click-bait comment; I don't operate in that vein, regardless if you agree or not with my statement.

      Yes, I'm aware of BIG'S proclivity for terraced forms and have posted about it previously.

      I'm not sure leaning pyramid is far off, even though it ignores the courtyard aspect. Seemed simpler than "snowdrift in the inside corner of a building with the building removed," or however it's been described by BIG in that vein. A pyramid's highpoint is in the center of the square/rectangular base, but at W57 it's above one corner, hence the "leaning."

      Ultimately, would the KBA design take that form without the existence of W57? I highly doubt it.

    2. I apologize for the "click-bait" comment. Honestly, I'm an avid reader / follower, and I really should have known better than to use the term. But that wasn't the point of my comment. Semantics aside, I guess I just take issue with the fact that:

      You have a pretty tall podium (aka well traffic-ed blog) to speak from, and you're making a fairly accusatory statement. Worse yet, the accusation is based off of only a cursory examination. "Copycat" architecture is, in my experience, a pretty serious topic, and to call someone out on it is pretty bold... I've read your blog for years, and I've come to expect more rigorous analysis and more thorough reporting from you.

      If you still want to stand by your assertion that B would not exist without A, fine. You may even be right -- maybe they did take a look at W57 before they designed 500 Metropolitan (their portfolio doesn't even hint at the possibility of having previously explored the form). I would just caution you against making serious accusations based on cursory analyses -- which is what the article describes, and was my original contention.

    3. Thanks for your explanation. I'll admit my tone/aporoach could have been less accusatory and more fleshed out so as to assert that:

      - Certain buildings, in this case W57, pave the way for forms that were previously difficult to pull off. The fact both are in NYC is important, as it means the various facets (architects, developers, contractors, DOB) are more open to formal experimentation.
      - And once this happens, the resulting designs (and I think there will be more) are not as striking, since the emphasis is on making the most with the least; in other words it moves from an enlightened client embracing something novel, while still making $$ obviously, to one more interested in applying that "formula" to another site and demographic. I think this route has to lead to an inferior design, so it's not a commentary on the architect's abilities, as it probably came across in the short, short post.

      That said, there are earlier projects that also could have influenced M500, particularly Grimshaw/Dattner's Via Verde in the Bronx. One reader also emailed me CZWG's aptly named Cascades project from a while ago.

      If I would have spent more than 5 minutes on the post, I would probably have explored site, seeing if either site merits the form. Both have open space to the west, the Hudson River in the case of W57 and the BQE in the case if M500. These facts preserve some open sky and justify the terracing to some degree, though M500's view to Manhattan rather than Jersey might actually be better, even with the fact of the highway in the foreground. Not many sites justify the form and this WBurg one does make some sense.

      Thanks for the comments and for furthering the conversation.


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