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Starchitect Rafael Vinoly Divulges 432 Park's Design Details

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At an event hosted by the Skyscraper Museum, the starchitect behind 432 Park Avenue, Rafael Viñoly, gave a behind-the-scenes peek at his design of a building that, once completed, will be the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere. Prepare for some architect-babble, but also some cool insights.

"I wanted to create something that was intelligent in its own logic," Viñoly said to an audience of more than 300 who gathered last night. Tall and skinny is the trend with these new towers—and with its compact 93-feet-per-side square floor plate, and its "slenderness ratio" of 1:15 (thats horizontal-to-vertical space), 432 Park Avenue fits right in with its brethren. Once complete, the building will stand at 1,396 feet. A very large majority of the height will be actual usable, livable space, rather than an attempt to try and grab at a few extra feet with a spire or some kind of "crowning," as Viñoly explained. (Ahem, One World Trade Center, ahem.)

For Vinoly, an extra appendage like that would be tacky and unnecessary since he noted that the tower will stand uncontested at a height much greater than anything on Manhattan island and much of the world. Mind you, this is for all-residential construction.. but still.

Before Viñoly jumped into the details of his latest work, he took the group in attendance through his previous work in Latin America, Asia, and finally New York City. Viñoly used Samsung's Jong-Ro Tower in South Korea to explain that he often seeks creative solutions when designing buildings.

And in the case of 432 Park Avenue, that was just what was needed. Reaching almost 1,400 feet requires a building to somehow resist the force of the wind, Viñoly explained, otherwise the building will totter back and forth like a drunken giant. "So if you're having some tea in the building, it will spill all over the place. And if you're tacky enough to have a chandelier, it will be moving around," Viñoly said to a crowd of laughter.

Here's where it gets technical: this movement is caused by the peak acceleration in a building, and in the case of 432 Park, it would have an acceleration of 30 milli-g. "So, everybody who lived there would be freaking out and we couldn't have that," Viñoly said.

So he decided to carve the superscraper up into six chunks, each of which are 12 stories. These pieces are separated by gaps that help create a collecting pool for the wind, and so reduce the effects of the wind on the building. This helped sober the building up, but there was still some movement. A test was needed. "We went to a place in Canada for a movement simulation to find out what the hell 8 milli-g feels like," he said, referring to the slight movement.

They found out that at such a low force, residents would feel nothing in the building. But if they stand on their balconies and look down the facade, Viñoly said, they "would get not one but two heart attacks."

So ultimate, the team put something called a motion dampener in the gaps. To the untrained eye, these devices look like large generators, and are able to reduce the force down even further so that it won't be noticeable.

Along with separating the building into six blocks, Viñoly's other method for sway control is a particular design for the stairs. But unlike regular ones, scissor stairs are packed into a tight core that both saves space, allowing open floorplans for the apartments, and also creates the structural conditions necessary for the building to rise to its ideal height. It's "one of those innovations that literally makes the building work," Viñoly said.

During the lecture, which included a Q&A at the end, Uraguay-born Viñoly joked about 432 Park starting a movement in NYC. "You guys said earlier that this building can only be made in New York, and I guess that's true. I don't know. I'm just the architect," he said.

In the end, Viñoly added, he only cares about one thing: the superlative that will be bestowed on 432 Park when it is complete. "The building has no competition," he says. "The only important thing to me is that it's taller than the Freedom Tower [now known as One World Trade Center]." (Which, minus its spire, comes in at 1,335 feet, a handful of feet shy of 432 Park.) It should be noted, however, that that was one of the few comments that didn't elicit laughter from the audience.
—Eric Jankiewicz
· Watch the Interior Designer at 432 Park Explain Its Apartments [Curbed]
· Watch 432 Park's Engineer Explain How The Tower Stays Up [Curbed]
· All 432 Park Avenue coverage [Curbed]

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