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The latest news on New York architecture.

  • Photo Credit: @gilesashford_archphoto

    Architect Jean Novel is Presented with the Visionary Urban Integration Award for the Design of 53W53

    One of the most adventurous additions to the New York City skyline is the innovative design of 53W53 by Pritzker Prize winner Architect Jean NouvelJean Nouvel. At a height of 1,050 feet and developed in step with the Museum of Modern Art’s 65,000 sq. ft. expansion, New York City now has a new, bold yet graceful exclamation point.

    53W53 is a super slender tapered form that slopes at two distinct angles with exposed structural elements arranged in an asymmetric pattern and sheathed in a taut glass skin.  This unconventional lattice, anchored and connected by diagrids – a custom designed set of steel boxes and plates, was envisioned and executed by the structural engineer WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff. The structural solution smoothly merges with the architectural intent providing a single, exterior structural system matching the geometry of the diagrid and having the ability to carry both vertical loads and those associated with wind and seismic loads.

    Adverse geotechnical composition of the site and the proximity of MTA tunnels presented an interesting engineering challenge. More than thirty reinforced concrete caisson were required, some reaching depts of 70 feet deep.

    Another challenge involved locating major equipment at the apex, including a cooling tower, 500 ton tuned mass damper, elevator machine room, fans, pumps and window washing rig, all within the building’s most narrow portion.

    There are 5,747 triple-glazed curtain-wall panels of various shapes and sizes with a sleek black high-performance coating to both minimize exterior noise and maximize thermal comfort. Grey metal panels applied to the exterior of the curtain-wall trace the structural elements behind, expressing Nouvel’s signature design. 

    The attenuating form and exposed structure gives each home inside a different shape and layout, while the intricate structural pattern frames views of the surrounding city.

    "Architecture is art, and architecture is born from its situation, from its context," says Nouvel.  The Architect’s vision; the dense, verticality of Midtown Manhattan; and the complexities of site, structure and envelope are the context for this visionary architecture.

    Ateliers Jean Nouvel and WSP were recently presented with the Visionary Urban Integration Award by the New York Chapter of the Society of American Registered Architects.

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  • The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    A common mistake when performing repairs on historic properties has been to replace the original windows with modern windows. Because of this, it is rare to find properties that still have their original windows. When someone goes to purchase a property and they see that the windows are replaced, it takes away from the beauty and character of the historic building. Many buyers looking to buy these properties want the original windows still in place and are willing to pay more for it.

    They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

    Historic windows were made differently than the windows found in stores today. The width and visual weight of sash components, depth and thickness of the frames and sills, even the color and the pattern of light reflecting off the glass was different than any windows manufactured today. Older windows tend to be larger and rounded unlike modern windows. Most were custom-built and did not respect standardized sizes as they do today, which can even change the amount of natural lighting inside the building. Choosing to repair and retrofit preserves integrity by keeping as much of the old window as possible.

    Historic Windows Were Built to Last

    When buildings were built long ago every component including the windows were built with great attention to detail. Builders did not do their work based on what would be the fastest and cheapest way to accomplish their goal. They made sure to use quality materials. Prior to 1940 wood windows were usually made from old growth wood. Old growth wood is stable and mills well. It holds paint and stains well. Insects are less attracted to old growth wood and it has a natural resistance to rot. Most of the time the wood was harvested locally, making it best suited for the local climate conditions.

    Modern windows typically have a warranty life of about 8-10 years. Because they are not designed to last longer than this, they are usually just replaced instead of repaired. Most historic residential windows have a proven longevity of over 100 years before needing repair and, when repaired, can be used for another 100 years.

    Historic Windows Can Be Repaired

    The replacement of these beautiful historic windows is often caused by peeling paint, broken glass or missing glazing putty. When these areas show signs of damage the windows tend to lose much of their beauty and eventually the window is often replaced. But with repair, and regular maintenance, these old windows will hold and last for years to come.

    When overseeing the restoration of a historic building or house, it is always better to repair the windows that are already in place. By repairing them, the original character and beauty of the building is maintained. Replacing them with modern windows, even for more energy efficient ones will, in a sense, decrease the value.

    A Common Misconception

    There is a common misconception when it comes to historic windows that they need to be replaced to help with energy saving. Even though replacing the original windows with more "energy efficient" windows may help save on expenses, it rarely makes a difference in the long run.

    The argument that modern windows are more energy efficient than older windows fails to consider the conservation of embodied energy and reduction of environmental cost. Although smart windows may seem very eco-friendly, even manufacturing new windows has a cost on the environment and leaves an old usable window to waste.

    Fittings ought to be used for as long as they are in working order, especially in these times when we are facing challenges of global warming. Most historic windows are made of durable material that can last for as long as the building itself with mere maintenance. Replacing the original windows in a historic building should always be a last resort.

    For more information on the restoration of historic windows contact Scott Henson Architect, where we specialize in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings.

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