Back in 2013, 432 Park Avenue in New York City reached ground level. Its vertical journey is complete, making Rafael Viñoly’s new skyscraper the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere.
Like most prime real estate in Manhattan, the super-slender verticality of this structure is driven by money: fancy an apartment on the 12th floor of this glass cuboid? That’ll be 7 million US dollars please. Oh, you want the penthouse on the 96th floor? Not a problem; you might even see a little change from $100 million.
A quick glance at the exterior, and one might be forgiven for casting a cynical glare in Viñoly’s direction: What is this made from, gold-plated lego? 4 identical, rectilinear facades rise up in uniformity, with a perfectly square plan that conforms to the conventional, seam-bursting city block format. News has also emerged that the building was inspired by none other than a trash can, albeit a suitably expensive one – Vienna Workshops designer Joshef Hoffman's $225 steel basket, perfect for burning bank notes in, presumably.
Ok Rafael, squares are the ‘most pure geometric form’, we get that – but too much of anything is bad thing, right? Look at the elevations for too long and you may feel that you have been sucked into the largest crossword puzzle of all time… with not a clue in sight.
Before you get a migraine trying to visualize that metaphor though, look to the image below, and be calmed. The internal apartment views are fantastic examples of how CGIs can communicate in a clear, crystalline way to persuade the doubters: I could take a bath in that lavishly specified tub tomorrow, and it doesn’t even exist yet!
The windows, measuring 10 by 10 feet, provide uninhibited and beautifully framed views across the metropolis, while flooding every apartment with an extraordinary amount of natural light. While the internal finishes appear grand in the extreme – travertine doesn’t come cheap, so I hear – they are neutral enough to allow that sensational vista to take centre stage, as it rightly should. This building has truly been designed from the inside out, and for that, Viñoly’s logic comes through at the finish line.
These are yet more apartments for the rich and famous of America, at a time when affordable housing is more in need than ever before – but even the Angriest of architects could be seduced by that view. If I had 100 million dollars spare, I might just forgo all my ethical qualms and live up there, in the quintessential building typology of our capitalist age: the Mansion House in the Sky.
The Angry Architect