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Non-load-bearing curtain wall


Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro was recently asked by designboom about how her firm approached the design of Fifteen Hudson Yards (the first residential tower in New York’s Hudson Yards).

The firm had never designed a high-rise before. So while their typical approach would be to analyze program, here they were heavily informed by the views – both in and out from the site – as you move up the tower.

The 88 storey tower transitions between two footprints. The base matches the street grid of the city, but as you move up the tower it transforms into a cloverleaf – allowing panoramic views of the city.

It is a somewhat similar approach to what has been proposed by Studio Gang for One Delisle. Except for the transformation here is to a multifaceted cylindrical shape (a hexadecagon is what has been drawn).

From the late 19th century when Chicago began to pioneer the modern skyscraper, architects and engineers have been thinking about how you treat a tall building as you move from top to bottom.

Chicago architect Louis Sullivan responded to this challenge with his tripartite approach to design. He believed that tall buildings should be characterized by three main divisions: a base (bottom), a shaft (middle), and a cap (top).

The technological innovation that allowed this thinking to flourish was the non-load-bearing curtain wall. Once the exterior walls of a tower no longer supported the actual building, architects then had the freedom to really experiment.

This remains true to this day, but we no longer need to confine ourselves to only three parts. New technologies now allow for more.

Today we have parametric modeling and other design tools that allow us to create new geometries and transitions; forms that would have been pretty complex to draw up in the past. 

In the case of Fifteen Hudson Yards, every floor plate from 20 something and up is slightly different. I wonder what Louis would think of this.

Image: Timothy Schenck via designboom

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