Nearly a decade since she won a Pritzker and hit her stride as a builder, there’s little that Zaha Hadid hasn’t accomplished, or few places where she hasn’t worked. In that time, the architect’s firm has ballooned into a virtual multinational corporation, with hundreds of staffers and about 900 past and active projects in 40+ countries. Or that’s how her firm’s (ZHA’s) site tells it. She has completed structures in locales as far-flung as Marseilles and Abu Dhabi, Glasgow and Beijing. But never New York, and not for lack of trying.
Hadid has participated in several of the city’s major contests, including and following the World Trade Center competition brouhaha. A design for the High Line underwhelmed, while designs for the failed 2012 New York Olympic bid seemed little more than diversionary. More recently, in a starchitect face-off in midtown Manhattan, Hadid proposed a voluptuous tower for 425 Park Avenue only to lose out to Norman Foster’s more stately skyscraper design. All of which makes the architect’s latest project at 520 28th Street–just a stone’s throw away from the High Line–that much more vindicating. Speaking with New York Magazine, Hadid expressed her delight: “I am absolutely thrilled to finally mark the city with my signature.”
In the same article, Zaha unveiled a sneak peek of what will be her first permanent project in the city. (In 2008, a blobby white folly designed by the architect for Chanel, briefly occupied a speck of Central Park’s grounds, before moving on to other metropoles.) The project for the 11-story residential building, complete with 37 units, was developed for Related Companies, which is overseeing construction at the Hudson Yards site just a few blocks north of the lot. Now, we’ve got four more renderings of the design that give a better indication of what life inside the luxury complex will be like.
The design is boutique Zaha, a compact package of elegant curves and just the right amount of swoosh, not to mention tasteful restraint. The structure will occupy a relatively small site adjacent to the High Line, whose square dimensions dictated the project’s tight, cloistered massing. The final form took some reworking; as Hadid’s partner Patrik Schumacher told New York, all of the architects’ first schemes breached the limits of the lot’s taut zoning envelope.
In the end, the structure steps back from the elevated park, leaving just enough breathing room between the two. The building consists of stacked, wraparound glass volumes whose corners have been softened, showing the influence of gadget design. (Think Apple’s rounded rectangles.) The prismatic vitrines are nestled in thin C-shaped capsules lined up back-to-back and facing the High Line. Seen from north (looking south), the longitudinal facade running along 28th Street highlights the project’s seamless “integration of volumes that flow into each other” in an accordion-like formation. The resulting zig-zagging outline could be read as a visual nod to the work of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the architects behind the High Line and who have experimented extensively with the folding plane motif.
The building wraps around a central courtyard that’s exclusive to occupants. That, plus an outdoor garden, terraces, a roof space, playrooms, and an indoor pool and spa are, in the developer’s words, “part of a rich services and amenities program befitting the discerning luxury buyer to which the property will appeal.” The units will have 11-foot ceilings and feature high-end finishes, tech integration, and, in some cases, private elevator access.
Compared with other high-profile High Line developments, like Studio Gang’s razor-edged Solar Carve tower and Neil Denari’s muscular HL23, Hadid’s project almost shies away from the park’s gawking tourists. Here, ZHA’s exuberant touch is muted, no doubt given the site’s limitations. Even so, we couldn’t think of a better spot for the architect-cum-fashion icon and celebrity designer to make her New York debut.
[Renderings: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects]