NYC Corners & Bricks (AA Thesis 08-09)
»The corner is the point where space begins and ends, the birth and death of space...«
A 170m tall loadbearing brick skyscraper hotel is proposed, which is to tower above West St in the south-western corner of Manhattan.
An initial study of Philip Johnson's iconic Glass House yields the
notion of the corner as spatial generator. The Glass House is read as a
temple of corners, a building in which space is born and dies in the
corner, and in which Johnson placed his own death bed. Through a series
of collages, the architect's final day in the building is depicted. An accompanying
manifesto states that the predominant »global« iconicity of simple formal moves applied throughout a building (e.g. the twisting of a tower) should give
way to the more complex »local« iconicity of a string of corners: the end result is
to be a building in which we walk from corner to corner, from the death
of one space into the birth of another.
A formal study of the corner as the point where space can be modulated leads to a series of digital and physical models, showing the new possibilities that open up when the focus is shifted from generic surface to iconic corner point.
The fabulous renders of Hugh Ferriss, depicting the restraints and opportunities of New York City's 1916 zoning laws (which called for setbacks that amplified the number of corners in modern skyscrapers, and gave birth to the famous ziggurat silhouettes of Manhattan's skyline towers) is used as a starting point to derive the final form of the building.
Brick is chosen as a modular material that »packs« the building full of corners. (A loadbearing brick building at this scale has never been built; Chicago's Monadnock Building from the 1890s is the nearest contender, at 60m or 1/3 of the height. The main implication of this tectonic choice is that the walls become very thick at the base of the building: up to five meters. However, this also creates unprecedented opportunities for the implementation of new corner geometries within the massive brick structure.) The exterior corners are heavily inflected to create an ambiguous effect, almost as if the building has no corners, whereas the interior is kept strictly orthogonal: an overload of corners.
A script is written that allows proliferation of bricks along a surface
and individual modulation of the brick walls. Initial renders and
physical models show the possibilities of the material choice.
Final drawings and renders of this new iconic brick skyscraper comprise a walkthrough from the poché space of the lobby, via the winding circulation paths, and through to the guest rooms, all derived from and controlled by corner modulations, and brought alive by different brick articulations.