Tree-like diagrid columns connect two greenspaces in Manhattan’s Upper West Side

Architecture, East, Envelope
Friday, November 6, 2015
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Setbacks on the upper levels allow the exterior columns to slope at an angle following the “sky exposure plane” of New York City's zoning code (courtesy Handel Architects)

Setbacks on the upper levels allow the exterior columns to slope at an angle following the “sky exposure plane” of New York City’s zoning code (courtesy Handel Architects)

Unbroken bands of window walls sit beyond an exterior concrete structural frame.

Completed earlier this year, a new market rate rental building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side by Handel Architects features a striking exposed cast-in-place concrete diagrid “exoskeleton” structure. The system is designed in response to required zoning code setbacks that restrict building area to a mere 35’ wide at times. The project, named after it’s address at 170 Amsterdam, is located two blocks north of Lincoln Center, situated between two greenspaces – Central Park and the Lincoln Tower superblock – via 68th Street. The lobby is a prominent glassy space containing a mix of community programs, formally and programmatically connecting the two sides of the building together, while abstracted tree-like columns punctuate the building envelope.
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Crooked Columns Raising Eyebrows at The New School

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
South West View (Courtesy

Southwest View (Courtesy

If you walk down Fifth Avenue and 14th Street toward Union Square and notice a building under construction with crooked columns, don’t worry—it is not about to collapse. According to NBC New York, the SOM-designed New School University Center, previously detailed by AN, is raising eyebrows from the local community because some of its columns are slightly skewed.

But it’s no mistake. “It’s the most efficient way to carry all of the different structural loads of the building from the top of the foundation, ” Joel Towers, Parsons The New School for Design dean told NBC. The New York City Department of Buildings has confirmed there are no safety issues with the project.


Epiphyte Lab′s Hsu House Mass Wall

Friday, March 25, 2011
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The poured-in-place concrete wall (Susan and Jerry Kaye)

A south-facing heat sink mass wall stores heat and diffuses light, creating an all-seasons solarium for an energy efficient home in Upstate New York.

Dana Cupkova and Kevin Pratt, founders of Ithaca-based design and research practice Epiphyte Lab, met the client for which they built Hsu House in one of Cupkova’s classes at Cornell where she teaches design and fabrication strategies for ecologically adaptive construction systems. The client, a medical doctor, was in the class with the goal of designing his own energy efficient home in Danby, New York, but after an initial consultation, asked Cupkova and Pratt to design it instead.

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