How far can we go, and how long can we take it before we say ,“Enough?” We’re talking about the emergence of myriad tall and slender residential skyscrapers, with most of them being on and around West 57th, just south of Central Park. This is an area dubbed Billionaire’s Row due to the fact that the most expensive skyscraper apartments and luxury towers are clustered in this area and there seems to be no shortage in buyers. Already, a few skyscrapers are rising on the street, SHoP Architects’ 111 West 57th Street building and Christian de Portzamparc‘s One57. Jean Nouvel’s 53W53 and Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue are both nearby. These skyscrapers are called “super slenders” due to their extreme base-width-to-height ratios.
It is these slender residential units that have inspired what is being called The Big Bend, a very unique skyscraper imagined up by Athen and New York’s local studio Oiio. The building Oiio wants to develop is a conceptual skyscraper, an anemic structure that rises, curves at the top, and then returns to the ground. The Big Bend is a new kind of skyscraper that shatters the idea of what a building should look like, not a piece of rectangular slim in length but a U shape. Imagine the Slinky when you stretch both sides out, and you’ll have some idea what The Big Bend is about.
And what is it about? It is about height and length. Oiio wants to create not the tallest building but the longest. The Big Bend’s legs would rise from a historic building to fit into narrow plots either side, then rise to tower over both SHoP and de Portzamparc’s buildings. This curving and returning to the ground would create what the architecture firm described as the longest building in the world, 4,000 feet (1.22 kilometres) end to end. Big Bend would measure 200 feet higher than One World Trade Center, which, right now, is the tallest building in the city, according to Business Insider
In Architect Magazine, Oiis said,”We usually learn about the latest tallest building and we are always impressed by its price per square foot. It seems that a property’s height operates as a license for it to be expensive…. But what if we substituted height with length? What if our buildings were long instead of tall?”
There has been little embrace of the Big Bend. The first deals with the quote above, equating height with money. Oiis said it could create one of the most prestigious buildings in Manhattan. This is self-aggrandizing, and bombastic. The goal had looked like a fun way to build a new skyrise. But because Oiis wants to create the “most prestigious buildings in Manhattan,” he is already in the area of hubris and seems desperately to want to be in the Billionaire’s Row, which he is not. He is forming a different building but is wanting to insert it in the world of Manhattan’s rich and powerful. Meanwhile, Oiis talks about being impressed by a tall building and its price per foot. He then ends his paragraph talking about height and length.
Is length really what Oiis wants to talk about? In a heartbeat, if Oiis was given a skyscraper project on 57th, would they take it?
It’s also disingenuous that Oiis’s plans to have its building rise 4,000 feet, which means he’ll join the ranks of the world’s tallest buildings, ones that are over 1,968 feet. If Oiis is weary of super tall buildings, why is his proposed building 4,000 feet? There are, as Oiis knows, limitations presented by the city’s zoning laws when it comes to maximizing property height. The firm is abusing it while also stirring controversy by putting its name out there in the real estate and architecture world.
Architecture Digest’s title of Big Bend was “This Skyscraper Could Ruin New York’s Skyline,” especially resulting in obstructed views of Central Park or other landmarks. Curbed New York went further, saying it’s improbable the project would ever become a reality. Meanwhile, the prestigious, New York-based architect Steven Holl said these skinny buildings symbolize inequality in architectural form and locals, of course have voiced their concern of how Big Bend will lead to new buildings that are built as high as they can, or if they’ll go long.
Now that’s the big conundrum.