Tuesday, 13th March 2012
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Behind the facades at 15 Union Square West

The challenge

Eran Chen, Architect
I wanted to reveal the original cast iron structure by removing the brick and demolishing the intermediate floors in order to return the building to its original, basic structure. I was interested in bringing back that specific sense of materials historically associated with cast iron structures and have sought to replace the original skeleton with modern materials in the same idiom. One of the challenges faced was how to camouflage the original structure with a new, cutting-edge skin that brings new meaning to the composition without the tension and variation previously associated with the structure's former 1950's façade. I wanted to reinvent the harmonious partnership of cast iron and glass with a new representation for the building, making it iconic, unique, with an absolute prominence for Union Square... the idea of "city living" at its most robust and engaged in history.

"Villas in the Sky": Luxury Living in New York City by Eran Chen, Architect, ODA

When designing residential buildings in New York City, I envision them as the physical translation of the city's culture - a culture that is unique for its moment and unforgettable for it's past - and I look for a way to distinctly transform this combined synergism into the design of the building.
... New York City has its own DNA, an imprint, a signature, an identity that ironically thrives on reinvention, transformation and rediscovery.
... Luxury contains a sense of balance, order, and context.
15 Union Square West represents an exceptional opportunity to discover contemporary living in a distinct, historic location. Union Square is a gathering place for commerce, entertainment, local political events, as well as relaxation and recreation for over 170 years. The design concept for 15 Union Square West is based on three key principals:
  • • Present and Past History
  • • Identity and Individualism
  • • Technology and Tradition
Read the full story

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Overview - Matt Goodwill, WAN technical features

The use of glass in the 15 Union Square West regeneration was key in the architect's plan to expose the existing structure. The original cast iron structure presented large irregular openings that the architects were keen to exploit, creating spaces within that had ceiling heights of up to five metres. The architect wanted to create an uninterrupted view of the cast iron arches from the outside, creating the problem of finding glazing that was tall enough to span the full height of the arches.

The product utilised in the solution was the innovative Glass XL - XtraLong Glass which enabled the architects to incorporate a facade that used glass to frame every original arch, beautifully showcasing the historic fabric within the new and modern building.

Detail - The Glazing Solution, Roger Watson, XXLGLASS Saint-Gobain

With the building having an old and crafted structure, the new architectural lines had to follow on the outside. This meant an incredible amount of site measurement and individual dimensioning of the glass. When you consider this is just a 7 storey building and it has over 700 different sizes of glass unit, you can maybe appreciate the complexity of the logistics and production organisation that was required.

Sections of the building were measured, designed and then released for production. Normally, most building are designed well ahead of delivery schedules, but we were on a piecemeal basis.. as soon as sufficient glass dimension were established we were released to produce.. one batch after the other.. not knowing exactly when we could produce nor what sizes and amounts.

The unit sizes ranged from 15 x 40"(381mm x 1016mm) to 78 x 221"(1981mm x 5613mm ) and almost every dimension in between. There were hardly any repetitions in sizes and units were ordered in a mixed bag. Cutting and processing optimisation were a critical factor - not only to achieve the tight schedule but also to make the project an economical one.

Stacking, handling, machining, coating and finally packing the myriad of different sizes was a nightmare..

But with careful programming and production management we managed to survive with only a few scathes..

Even with the huge insulating units, if one takes a careful look at the facade, the reflections are almost perfect - the surface quality of the glass (planimetry) is second to none.

The substrate used was Saint-Gobain Glass Diamant low-iron - for both the inner and outer lite.

The outer lite is 12mm thick Heat Strengthened with Sunex 50/25 solar control low-e coating and the inner lite is 10mm Fully Tempered Stainless steel spacers and Argon gas were used to keep the thermal performance well below code and building performance requirements.

The overall appearance of the glass is very crisp with a neutral colour. At the lower levels it sometimes looks black, but this is due to the background inside the facade. It is really only at the upper levels that one can see the fantastic clarity of the units and the amazing views that they afford the occupants.

Project Name: 15 Union Square West
Location: New York, NY
Project Size: 62,000 SF
Project Features: 36 Residential Units with Private Terraces
Owner: Brack Capital Real Estate
Architectural Designer: ODA - Architecture P.C.
Architect of Record: Perkins Eastman Architects P.C.

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