MoMA Tower – Tour Verre

MoMA TowerMoMA Tower

53W53rd Street, New York, NY

Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Chef de Projet / Project Manager – 2007 – present
SD and DD phase completed

Architectural design and visualization of lobby, amenities and the core and shell. Coordination with local architects structural and mechanical engineers. Control of parametric model and exterior visualization of the building. BIM coordination in (Catia).

For Jean Nouvel architecture is a game. His mastery of cognitive distortion is an exercise in the play of light on a surface, or jue.

The MoMA tower is an appropriate expression of New York skyscraper . The design tapers into a spire, drawing inspiration from an Art Deco New York, as envisioned by Hugh Ferriss’ 1930’s drawings. The tapering tower is a deliberate response to the mandated setbacks outlined in the zoning law. It is exaggerated by the challenging site and small footprint.

As a contextual response to the rhythm of the city, it is an emblem of the driving force of power and aesthetic ambition. I am compelled mostly by it’s strong presence on the site. By its enormous structure that anchors the building deep into the ground, literally and visually. The viewer at street level can see the diagrid penetrating through the ground floor and into the schist of the foundation below. There is a visual connection to the lower levels from the sidewalk above, the ground level is open to below and public. By doubling the size of the existing Museum of Modern Art gallery space the building is not only a private fortress, but a cultural beacon. A direct visual connection from the street to the galleries and the art handling operations at the lower levels makes this building accessible and demonstrates itself as part of the city.

The rhythm of the city beats louder than its street presence. It is also its historic footprint. An isomorphic threshold [as expressed in the mapping between objects that show the relationship between two properties] where the structures are identical despite fine variation. As we continue to live in the districts of the past, we live in nearly identical structures. We are reflections, fleeting yet real. However, buildings like the MoMA tower express our identity in a new way. One building rises higher than its surrounding. It grows larger than its shell.

At the corner of the block, as part of the air rights package, the steeple of St. Thomas Church at 5th Avenue was once the tallest structure. The steeple rose as a beacon. The bell tower anchored the building to the site. Similar to the Medieval & Renaissance church expansions, using their old apses as the transept, a new larger apse was built and a new steeple would rise. Here, the museum block expands, the composition grows, a new beacon rises into the sky. The museum is anchored in a new orientation and a symbol emerges. The beacon visually erodes at the top, it dematerializes. It disappears into the sky and reflects the changing atmospheric mood of the city. It becomes a tour sans fin.

The MoMA tower tricks the observer with its reflections. Everything disappears except the diagrid structural system, irregular and asymmetric, it rises into the sky like a sunburst. At its soaring heights the occupants reside in a protective cage, the structural members are an enormous crisscrossing presence. Structuralist in its birth, giving pleasure or beguiling the observer.

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