Danish design firm Bjarke Ingels Group or BIG have a knack for coming up with design schemes that are never short on innovation and creativity. I recently came across their inaugural project in Manhattan, New York (which was designed back in 2011), officially called VIA but which they’ve nicknamed the “courtscraper“. This is because the building is a combination of two traditionally separate typologies—a courtyard building and a skyscraper. This ‘marriage’ creates a typology that retains the density of a typical highrise while offering a lush green space at its core, forming what Mr. Ingels himself describes as an “urban oasis” in the form of a slightly warped pyramid that is both beautiful and functional. A welcome departure from its rectilinear neighbours.
Here’s how BIG describe it,
BIG’s inaugural project in NY is a hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan high-rise, West 57th has a unique shape which combines the advantages of both: the compactness and efficiency of a courtyard building providing density, a sense of intimacy and security, with the airiness and the expansive views of a skyscraper. By keeping three corners of the block low and lifting the north-east corner up towards its 467 ft peak, the courtyard opens views towards the Hudson River, bringing low western sun deep into the block and graciously preserving the adjacent Helena Tower’s views of the river.
The form of the building shifts depending on the viewer’s vantage point. While appearing like a pyramid from the West-Side-Highway, it turns into a dramatic glass spire from West 58th Street. The courtyard which is inspired by the classic Copenhagen urban oasis can be seen from the street and serves to extend the adjacent greenery of the Hudson River Park into the West 57th development.
The slope of the building allows for a transition in scale between the low-rise structures to the south and the high-rise residential towers to the north and west of the site. The highly visible sloping roof consists of a simple ruled surface perforated by terraces—each one unique and south-facing. The fishbone pattern of the walls are also reflected in its elevations. Every apartment gets a bay window to amplify the benefits of the generous view and balconies which encourage interaction between residents and passers-by.
Currently in what appears to be the final stages of construction, the building is shaping up to be everything it was originally conceived to be.