242 West 53rd Street, New York, NY
ARO is a recently completed mixed-use residential development. This 600,000sf, 62-story concrete tower is founded on complex deep foundations over five active subway lines, abutting three Landmarked Broadway theaters, and is clad in a custom unitized curtain wall system.
Situated in Manhattan’s Theater District, the tower known as ARO at 242 West 53rd Street is 62 stories tall, featuring a webbed sheath of composite metal panels over a curving glass tower that immediately makes it stand out from the surrounding glass buildings. Its deceptively simple envelope pattern emphasizes the shifts in building form, visibly expressing its complex programmatic and structural elements. Thoughtfully designed by CetraRuddy, ARO’s outdoor terraces enrich its residents’ experience at the human scale, offering a variety of green spaces, each with their own character. Amenities include media rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a game room, a basketball court, golf simulator, fitness center, and yoga room.
Coordination of logistics and adjacent properties was intense. The project site is situated over existing MTA subway tunnels which required special concrete mat foundation and caissons, and close coordination/vibration monitoring to the subway tunnels and underpinned, Landmarked foundations of three neighboring Broadway theaters. Given the tight space, the team had to carefully sequence all work on the foundation piles and excavation. Our team coordinated constantly with the adjacent property managers at every stage, from the SOE, to vibration monitoring, to when trucks would be parked in front of their buildings. The team communicated often and stopped work whenever a potential issue arose until it was resolved. The team also worked directly with the Transit Authority representative who was on the site fulltime given the MTA subway system below, as well as the MTA’s major communications duct bank, which ran east-to-west spanning the entire block. The Transit Authority representative supervised the entire drilling operation until the first-floor slab was poured to ensure the construction adhered to the approved drawings.
Preplanning for a Successful Building Envelope
Such a complex project meant teamwork was essential. For example, coordinating the structural thermal break at 90 balconies involved the structural engineer, CRI, contractor, and supplier. To ensure the design would function appropriately, the team went through several rounds of submissions and field mock-ups. They also worked together to develop a more efficient construction method for the balconies than what was originally proposed.
Curtain Wall Installation
As mentioned, the project required extraordinary coordination and collaboration by and with the construction team to ensure this unique vision was achieved. Because the design was not a simply vertical tube or box, the slab edges were not aligned with the floor below—they cantilever out in places and come back in at others. The superstructure and curtainwall contractors had to work very closely together to ensure they were using the exact same radius measurements and other factors to align their work precisely. The same two dozen radii complicated the construction of the 90 balconies as well.
Rather than take the usual approach of working on the slab first and then the curtainwall, the construction team did it backwards—first working through the curtainwall drawings and building the slab to that curtainwall. That approach helped ensure the slab matched up accurately with the twists and angles that make up the exterior design.
Rather than build windows into the composite metal boxes at every floor slab as planned, the team determined that the boxes could be attached to the curtainwall panels and all be installed together. That solution saved labor, time and money on the project.
The building also features vertical sunshades throughout. Again, to ensure those sunshades aligned with the unique exterior, the team assembled them in the field between each metal composite box. Each vendor and contractor had to work together to make sure all of the necessary materials were ready to go on site as the construction of each sunshade began.
Building Information Modeling
Elements of the project were also coordinated using virtual design and construction technologies. We worked with the team to coordinate the MEP systems through a 3D model, which was particularly instrumental for building the mechanical rooms. As a result, the construction of those complex areas moved forward seamlessly.
©Copyright Karen Fuchs
Algin Management Co., LLC
New York , NY
Cetra/Ruddy Architects, Inc.
International Architecture Award, Hospitality Built & Housing Concept, Architecture Podium 2015