New York Projects Put  
Glass at Center Stage  
By Nick St. Denis  
New York City is chock full of new glassy  
projects, including the Prism Tower at 400  
Park Avenue South (façade pictured here).  
Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal  
o metropolitan  
area is more  
familiar with glass  
and construction over  
the past few years  
than New York City.  
Here’s a look at some  
recently completed  
projects you won’t want  
to miss the next time  
you’re in the Big Apple.  
continued on page 14  
Winter 2017  
CityLites ... continued from page 13  
TZHonEing PlawRs foIrSa nMew 4T0-sOtorWy resEidRential  
building at 400 Park Avenue South would have  
normally required terraced setbacks to allow the  
appropriate amount of sunlight down to the  
street. The recently completed Prism Tower had  
other ideas.  
The design team of Handel Architects and  
Paris-based Agence Elizabeth et Christian de  
Portzamparc (AECdP) navigated an extensive and  
complicated zoning process by using fragmented  
and angled façade components to achieve the  
required light path. The result was a unique glass  
exterior that features various angles from 10 to 60  
degrees of inclination.  
Various degrees of splay and glass shapes on  
all sides of the facade required custom extrusion  
dies and silicone gaskets to keep the system fully  
air- and water-tight. The completely custom unit-  
ized curtainwall system, using Viracon glass, was  
supplied by Canada-based Sotawall and installed  
by W&W Glass.  
A Long Road  
The design phase began in 2003-2004 and,  
though approved in 2006, it was shelved shortly  
after for economic reasons.  
Following the recession, two new owners—  
Equity Partners and Toll Brothers—resurrected the  
project and kept the original envelope design so  
they wouldn’t have to go all the way back through  
the planning process again. Handel and AECdP  
collaborated on the project throughout.  
The revitalized project was permitted in August  
012, construction began that September, and it  
was substantially completed in 2016.  
Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal  
Pushing the Envelope  
THE COPPER BUILADmIatNchiGng pSair of highrise build-  
The building features 250,000 square feet of  
external envelope and a .56 envelope-to-floor  
area ratio, which Handel project architect Emil  
Stojakovic says is about 30 percent more than  
a normal rectangular building. Due to the vari-  
ous angles, each floor had its own unique plan.  
The all-glass façade used three basic glass  
types, and within those an assortment of  
patterned frits to total 16 unique glass varia-  
tions. “In my opinion, it is the most beautiful  
glass curtainwall I’ve ever worked on,” says  
ings on New York City’s East River are  
joined at the hip—or at least close to it.  
The new 626 First Avenue devel-  
opment, designed by SHoP Architects  
and dubbed the “Copper Buildings,”  
consists of two residential towers  
climbing 49 and 40 stories high,  
respectively, and connected by a fully  
glazed sky bridge. The bridge, which  
features floor-to-ceiling glazed units,  
th and 29th  
spans the 27 , 28  
The architects collaborated closely with  
Sotawall and Viracon early in the process to  
ensure all the glass components of the design  
could be achieved.  
and houses a connecting pool, fitness  
center/spa and lounge.  
While the glass-happy link between  
the buildings is an eye-catching fea-  
ture, their dynamic façades garner  
plenty of well-earned attention as well.  
The north and south facades of the  
buildings are clad with copper panels  
and openings, backed by standard  
curtainwall. The east and west sides  
are all curtainwall glass to maximize  
views. Collectively, the facades span  
approximately 440,000 square feet,  
with nearly 260,000 square feet of  
glass and more than 180,000 square  
feet of panels used on the project.  
“The façade is a really good example  
of how the buildings—from the exterior  
to interiors—look entirely custom, like  
nothing else in the city,” says JDS prin-  
cipal Simon Koster. “But we actually  
worked with a really basic kit of parts  
because we knew production times had  
to be relatively quick and inexpensive.”  
Between the two iterations of designs while  
the project was shelved, a code change took  
effect that included more stringent energy  
requirements. “We typically can meet energy  
code by doing 40 percent vision glass,” says  
Stojakovic. “In this case, we had about 74 per-  
cent vision glass. We had to do a study to ensure  
it could meet energy codes, which it did.”  
The angles of the façade also posed a chal-  
lenge in implementing operable windows in an  
outward sloping wall, as they had to be retracted  
by a crank. This was another success, and when  
closed, the zero-edge profile operable windows  
allow for a seamless aesthetic from the outside of  
the building.  
Piecing it Together  
Once the job was reactivated, W&W was  
brought in to help with visual and performance  
mockups, and eventually to install the glass.  
W&W managing partner Mike Haber says  
logistics were critical on the project, as it includ-  
ed so few like parts. “Because of the geometry,  
different sizes and frits, we had to be very careful  
to ensure the right piece was put in the right  
place on every floor,” he says. “The layout and  
the prep work were time-consuming.”  
Staying Lean  
Jangho, which designed, manufac-  
tured and installed the curtainwall,  
worked closely with the project team  
on sourcing.  
The façade components were  
The glazier had more than 30 workers on  
the job daily. “We had people doing surveying,  
anchors, setting panels, plus guys who were just  
unloading,” says Haber, adding that simply get-  
ting a tractor trailer in and out of the area is a  
sourced from seven different coun-  
tries. The glass came from China; extrusions from Asia and the U.S.; win-  
dow hardware, copper and stainless steel from Germany; and specialty glass  
from Switzerland and Belgium. Assembly was done in Mexico.  
The building exteriors consist of 18 different façade types, which were  
necessary because both buildings “lean” in opposite directions. Only four  
different glass sizes were used for all the standard floors.  
“The key to cost-effectiveness in curtainwall is the repetitive nature of  
it,” says Koster … “What makes the façade look unique is the alignment,  
but the kit of parts is exactly the same for every panel.”  
The lines and folds in the façade are wonder-  
ful,” Haber says. “With the inverted walls and  
sloped walls, and the way they meet, it’s some-  
thing you don’t see much of in New York City.”  
continued on page 16  
continued on page 17  
Winter 2017  
CityLites ... continued from page 15  
A recent renovation and redesign of a 28,000-square-foot  
public atrium at a prominent Midtown Manhattan office  
tower went big with glass.  
While the layout is centered on eight 30-foot-high acryl-  
ic panel pillars, it’s the massive metallic-looking glass wall  
cladding that make the atrium pop. The atrium is home to  
BlackRock Financial Institution.  
achieve the specific metallic paint color via ceramic frit before  
it was awarded the job. It supplied samples and eventually a  
near full-size production mockup to showcase its precision and  
Early in production, all key stakeholders in the project visit-  
ed the fabrication facility to inspect the early run of lites. This  
was to ensure that the heat-strengthened laminations fell into  
This installation appears bold and strong—a solid match to an acceptable range of flatness and that the ceramic frit color  
the characteristics of its office inhabitants,” according to archi- was maintained through multiple and extended release dates.  
tect Janson Goldstein. “It also offers a sense of peace, a place  
of respite in a city that never sleeps.”  
Going Bigger  
Collingwood, Ontario-based Architectural Glass of North  
America (AGNORA) was called on to fabricate the many low-  
iron, heat-strengthened and backpainted oversize laminated  
The largest glass on the project initially was to be 272 inch-  
es in height, but during production, AGNORA’s transport  
partner Briway Carriers became capable of transporting glass  
up to 300 inches from Pilkington. The project client decided  
to take advantage of the larger sizes and increased its order to  
the maximum height.  
No Easy Task  
The architect collaborated with design consulting firm  
In the end, one glass wall was constructed of 67 three-foot-  
Front on the glass portion of the redesign. Front, in fact, went wide lites spanning 23.6 feet high, and another wall was made  
to AGNORA in search of oversized laminates before it had up of 34 three-foot-by-17.4-foot units. Strips of custom-formed  
even chosen a glazier. Broomall, Pa.-based M. Cohen and Sons glass tubes filled with LED lighting sit at the top of each  
was eventually contracted for the installation.  
AGNORA project manager Andrew Chisholm says his  
company went through an extensive process to prove it could  
Additional backpainted lites below a portion of the glass  
wall serve as backup cladding behind cable-hung planters.  
Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal  
THE COPPER BUILDINGS continued from page 15  
In the Copper  
Cost was a major concern in achieving the copper aspect of the build-  
ing. Copper plate was never a realistic option, as the copper itself would’ve  
cost more than the entire property, Koster says. So the project team  
explored other possibilities, such as anodizing aluminum in a copper color.  
However, that solution wouldn’t provide the desired “aging” patina effect.  
Another option was copper stainless steel, but again, the amount need-  
ed would’ve blown up the budget. So they continued to flesh out other  
ideas and finally came to a solution: laminating a thin sheet of copper to  
stainless steel, with a gypsum-based composite panel in between.  
Other Glazing Considerations  
To optimize energy efficiency, engineering firm BuroHappold’s mechani-  
cal, electric and plumbing engineers worked closely with its facade team on  
solutions to improve the performance of the building envelope, determining  
optimal window-to-wall ratio, U-value and solar orientation of the towers.  
The project had to meet strict acoustical ratings, requiring laminated glass  
on the outer lite of the insulating glass units (IGU) for glazing facing the river.  
The bridge has a unique glass element of its own. Though it’s three  
floors high, the designers wanted the exterior to look uniform. So in  
addition to an acoustical laminate, the IGUs on the bridge include a Sefar  
interlayer, which gives the exterior side a reflective color while maintaining  
visual transparency from inside.  
That whole assembly is probably the better part of two inches thick and  
The resulting bright and inviting atrium provides  
is one of most complicated Sefar applications ever done,” says Koster.  
respite from the dense urban surroundings,” a  
description from Front reads.  
Chisholm stressed the importance of everyone  
on the project team staying connected through-  
out the long process from inception to delivery.  
A Final Look  
The project’s design began in March 2013. The foundation and excava-  
tion work started that fall and took longer than intended because the project  
team had to excavate an entire city block. However, because of efficient plan-  
ning and the early purchase of many components, including those for the  
façade, the rest of the project went smoothly. It was almost completed by the  
In keeping everyone up to speed with different  
people coming to the party at different times, you  
have to communicate consistently over a long peri-  
od of time,” he says. “Everyone realized how many  
stakeholders there were, and that communication  
from all parties was key.”  
end of 2016, and occupants began moving in at the start of this year.  
Nick St. Denis is the editor of Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal. He can be  
reached at and followed on Twitter at @NickStDenis.  
Winter 2017  

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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