Pickard Chilton was recently named a finalist for Metals in Construction magazine’s international design competition.
For the 2023 edition of its popular annual design competition, the magazine invited participants to explore the conversion of a large outdated commercial office tower to an innovative residential use. The aim was to address and draw attention to the concurrent trends that office vacancy rates are at an all-time high and that the environmental carbon impact of the construction industry is appropriately being further scrutinized.
As its subject tower, the brief identified a 1970’s New York City office building, the Paramount Plaza, located at 1633 Broadway in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The brief contemplated the reconfiguration of the large office floor plates to residential units as well as a reimagined and enhanced ground-level experience which would consist of various retail spaces, a large public plaza, and two existing Broadway theaters: The Gershwin and the Circle in The Square.
Transforming the tower program from commercial to residential presented the unique opportunity to consolidate and reduce the footprint of the building’s core infrastructure. However, daylight analysis of the resulting floor plan demonstrated the primary challenge: the center of the tower receives inadequate natural daylight for residential use. In addition, the significant lease depths of the existing commercial floor plan created challenges to providing market-appropriate unit layouts.
To resolve these issues, floor plates were strategically carved to allow ample natural daylight to reach the center of the building and the enclosure wall was offset from the perimeter of the floor. The resulting floor layout provides the unprecedented and unique opportunity for every unit to have a spacious exterior balcony, or their own “urban back porch”.
After examining numerous options for the best use of the center of floor plate, the final design proposed “The Hub,” an amenities-rich experience that rises through the new core of the entire tower to create a vibrant social spine for the building’s residential community.
With more publicly-oriented spaces and amenities located within the podium, specific fee-based venues and activities can be opened to the greater public to provide nominal income opportunities to offset potential rent increases for building residents.
Furthermore, the dramatic post-Covid work-from-home shift has significantly impacted both workplace and home environments. As such, the tower’s new residences are generous, allowing ample space for families to feel comfortable yet have rooms that can serve as private work areas.
At the ground level, direct access to the subway system below is celebrated and announced with a series of large glass doors that open, eliminating the boundary between the plaza and the dynamic space within. Access to the subway, a grocery store, a community center, and other public amenities activate the site and continuously draw in visitors. Lastly, The Gershwin and Circle in The Square theaters are enhanced, bringing additional excitement to the block and district. Their entrances are accentuated with new entrance canopies to attract and welcome the public.