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Manhattan’s skyline is making yet another historical surge upward, though this time with a new crop of super-tall, strikingly narrow apartment buildings that in some cases seem to defy gravity.
To see for yourself, walk by SHoP Architects’ 111 W. 57 St., Christian de Portzamparc’s One57, Jean Nouvel’s 53 W. 53rd St. or Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Ave.
What’s arresting about these structures is their eccentric dimensions. SHoP’s 111 W. 57th St., for example, will boast a width-to-height ratio of 1-to-23. (A standard No. 2 pencil has about a 1-to-30 ratio, and the original World Trade Center towers were a gouty 1-to-7.) Some of these new structures, especially on the upper reaches, are only one unit per floor.
It’s partly technology that explains these stalagmite structures. Architects and engineers have tailored improvements in steel and reinforced concrete that facilitate developers’ perennial search for height on an island notoriously short of real estate. What we are witnessing, says SHoP Architects founding partner Gregg Pasquarelli, is a “wonderful golden age of the tall, slender building.”
These innovations mark just the latest chapter in the evolving history of the skyscraper. Over the past century, technological breakthroughs have enabled builders to steadily reduce the proportion of structural elements—mainly steel and concrete—in the area where we live, work and play, savings usually given over to glass. ….