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Finally, A Glimpse Inside Jean Nouvel's Supertall MoMA Tower

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Jean Nouvel's supertall tower at 53 West 53rd Street is really, truly becoming a reality, after many years of waiting, and today the Times has the first look inside the building. The interior rendering shows a pretty grand (but familiar) view of Central Park, but it also highlights the building's unusual diagonal structural system, known as a "diagrid." This gives the tower its signature zig-zagging pattern on the facade, but inside, it causes a lot of design headaches, including tilting windows and slanted columns. For design architect Thierry W. Despont to work out all of the kinks, developer Hines opted to build a full-scale model unit—likened to a "playground," "a lab" or one big "toy"—in a warehouse in Sunset Park. The prototype cost $500,000 to $1 million to build, but that's barely a drop in the bucket considering the 140 condos will list for $3 million to more than $50 million.

The test unit won't receive a finished kitchen or fully outfitted bathroom, but rather, it's more of a space for the design team to test what works. The unit is a mock up of a 2BR/2.5BA on the 32nd floor, chosen because it exemplifies a lot of the challenges.

Apartments will have bronze-framed entrances with walnut doors that have handles that look like like models of the tower. Floors will be straight, wide oak planks with a border that runs perpendicular; after testing three patterns, the team decide this worked best with the window angles. About those windows: they measure 11 feet high and up to six feet wide, and they are inoperable, so a special ventilation system was designed. Since normal blinds can't be used, they come equipped with "automatic window shades were fitted with guide wires and calibrated to eliminate any gaps created at the base of angled windows — a technique borrowed from high-end yachts."

Lighting sources in the ceiling were concealed to "create a halo effect" in the living spaces, and the air conditioning hides behind "a detailed cornice to make sure it fit in the ceiling of the adjoining room." In the master bathroom, soaking tubs are lit from below, so they appear to glow, and the showers body sprays are positioned in such a way to give the illusion that the space is wider than it is.

Excavation for the 1,050-foot tower is currently underway, and a few floorplans were revealed as part of the project's filings with the Attorney General's office. There will be 32 one-bedroom apartments, 51 two-bedrooms, 47 three-bedrooms, nine four-bedrooms and two five-bedroom units, which measure more than 7,000 square feet and are located on the 60th and 61st floors. The Museum of Modern Art will have galleries on floors two, four, and five, and floors 14 to 16 will hold 30 staff quarters.
· Midtown Condo, Brooklyn 'Lab' [NYT]
· All coverage of 53 West 53rd Street [Curbed]

53 W 53rd St

53 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, NY 10019