One Vanderbilt: New Images of Midtown East’s Zigzag Supertower

November 17, 2014

Recently at the Municipal Art Society’s 2014 Summit for NYC, James von Klemperer, FAIA , a principal at Kohn Pederson Fox & Associates, briefed the audience with new details on the architecture firm’s upcoming supertall project known as One Vanderbilt.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the 68-story, 1,514-foot zigzag building is expected to become the tallest office tower in Midtown and third tallest in the city behind One World Trade Center (1,776 feet to spire tip) and Extell’s Nordstrom Tower (1,775 feet to spire tip).

SL Green, KPF, Kohn Pedersen & Fox, 1 Vanderbilt, Grand Central, GCT, Midtown Rezoning

Commercial real estate heavyweight SL Green Realty Corp. has spent more than a decade assembling the full-block, one-acre site directly west of Grand Central Terminal. Under current zoning, SL Green can build an approximately 1.2 million-square-foot tower. But with the incredibly valuable site at the doorstep of one of the busiest rail hubs in the country, there lies a sensible desire to request a variance to build more square footage than what is currently allowed.

SL Green, KPF, Kohn Pedersen & Fox, 1 Vanderbilt, Grand Central, GCT, Midtown Rezoning

Currently, the developers are seeking approvals from the city to increase the maximum FAR (floor-area-ratio) of the site from 21.6 to 30, which will boost the tower’s total size to 1.8 million gross square feet (for some perspective, the nearby Metlife Building is 3.1 million square feet).

While navigating through lawsuits, preservation hearings, and the city’s onerous land use review process, SL Greene is in the process of successfully convincing the city that it’s placing density where density belongs (at a transportation hub) and that it’s adding sorely needed modern commercial space to the city’s aging office stock. In addition, the developers are providing a $210 million dollar package of transit improvement goodies that were hammered out with the MTA and the de Blasio administration earlier this year.

CityRealtyImage via CityRealty

Understanding the potential of the site, SL Green envisioned an iconic skyscraper that would “make a huge impact on the city’s skyline,” as well as rival the cutting-edge designs of the Middle East and East Asia. The skyscraper virtuosos at Kohn Pedersen & Fox Associates were commissioned to handle the tall order.

Early sketches illustrated an ungraceful tower of clumsy massing. Design refinements have yielded a sleeker, more thoughtful structure clad in glass and patterned terra-cotta spandrels that complement the adjacent Terminal building’s materials and scale. James von Klemperer notes that the tower’s diagonals, scissors, and lifts are a direct response to the innovative circulation system of the Terminal. The top of the building is to be “permeable and open” and contain a “Rainbow Room of the future.”

SL Green, KPF, Kohn Pedersen & Fox, 1 Vanderbilt, Grand Central, GCT, Midtown Rezoning

Closer to the ground, the multi-story base is designed to allow for new views of Grand Central. A train hall annex is embedded into the building, ready to accommodate the influx of riders expected upon the completion of the East Side Access project. If approved by the City Council later this year, SL Greene expects demolition at the site to begin late next year and completion of the tower by 2020.

Municipal Art Society’s 2014 Summit for NYC: James von Klemperer, FAIA (Design Principal, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates) presents a Smart Talk on One Vanderbilt, a proposed project adjacent to Grand Central Terminal that aims to be the tallest tower in Midtown Manhattan.

[Related: 75% of Grand Central’s $210M Renovation Money Will Go to the 4, 5, 6 Trains]

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