When 432 Park Avenue began to rise on the Manhattan skyline, the city realised what this new generation of skinnyscrapers really meant. Slender but supertall, these towers are clustering around Central Park, casting long shadows on the hallowed grass and making residents of some of the world’s priciest property very nervous.
The anorexic tower has drawn the eye away from existing clusters and radically shifted the perception of the city and the weighting of height. It is also, arguably, one of the few great skyscrapers of the 21st century.
Its grid façade gives it a pure, abstract appearance. It looks like an element of collage imposed on the New York skyline, slightly ephemeral. But its thinness also gives it a kind of intensity undiluted by unnecessary cosmetic elements or efforts to give it a recognisable architectural profile. It is just a sheer extrusion from a square base — elemental architecture. The only relief is given by the slightly darker horizontal bands that ascend the building at regular intervals. They are floors left open to allow the wind to blow through the building, reducing the load on what is a very slim structure.
Inside, the abstract grid conceals sheer top-end luxury. The whole 12th floor is occupied by a private restaurant for residents (staffed, of course, by a Michelin-starred chef: Shaun Hergatt). There is a 75ft swimming pool (most tall towers only have rather small pools), a screening room, spa, conference room, billiards room and wine cellars.
Last month, interior designer Kelly Behun unveiled the penthouse, which is billed as the highest in the western hemisphere in a tower taller than the Empire State Building — yours for a touch under $40m. Unlike many supertall buildings that are entirely glazed, 432 is defined by square windows, each 10ft by 10ft. They give the interiors a very characteristic look that Behun has embraced, creating an understated design that defers to the astonishing panorama.
This was almost a stealth skyscraper. It rose fast on the site of the old Drake Hotel, once a showbiz and rock’n’roll institution, and quickly overtook the city’s more established landmarks. Only One World Trade Centre rises above it.
It is the first of many more. Foster + Partners, SHoP and others are working on similarly slim towers. The skyline will change drastically. Only a few years ago it would never have been economical to build this little floorspace on each level, but the city’s property prices have made these social X-rays viable. Like all architecture, they are diagrams of wealth and prosperity, both real and projected. This one, rather artfully, maintains the ghostly, abstract appearance of the diagram and the idea.
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