Archive for February 10th, 2011

February 10, 2011

The New York Times Building

“In the waning days of hermetically sealed, form-driven towers sheathed in glass, The New York Times Building is a refreshing example of a thoughtful, sustainable, and beautiful box.” – Tim Johnson, NBBJ, CTBUH 2008 Awards Chair

New York
319 m (1046 ft)
143,601 sq m (1,545,708 sq ft)
Primary Use

New York Times Company
Design Architect
Renzo Piano Building Workshop;FXFowle Architects
Structural Engineer
Thornton Tomasetti
MEP Engineer
WSP Flack + Kurtz
Main Contractors
AMECTurner Construction

The New York Times Building is a 1.5-million-SF, 52-story building on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, anchoring the west side of the redevelopment of Times Square. The transparent design, by architect Renzo Piano, mirrors the principles of a free press. The life within is as lively and visible as the street life outside, contributing to the growing vitality and revitalization of the neighborhood.

This project, completed in 2007, was an important addition to the New York skyline. For the Times Company however, the building needed to be more than just a beautiful building. It had to support the dramatic transformation of this venerable institution as it reinvented itself in the face of profound shifts in media and market. Indeed, the publisher repeatedly emphasized during the design phase that the building needed to change the way the Company worked, and this goal suffused the development of the design.

The New York Times Building incorporates many transcendental themes in good architecture—volume, views, light, respect for context, relationship to the street—with a design that is open and inviting, providing its occupants with a sense of the city around them. The resulting building treads lightly on the natural environment and is an affirmation of the Times Company’s commitment to the city, its Times Square neighborhood, and to the transformative power of great architecture.

One of the primary challenges in high-rise design is the reduction of direct solar gain. The two methods typically employed by architects to combat this issue are smaller windows and heavily coated glass, methods that, in the words of the The New York Times Building architect, produce “selfish buildings,” where the views and light are compromised for both pedestrians looking into the building and occupants looking out. In contrast to the opaque designs which result from these methods, The New York Times Building achieves a high level of transparency through the innovation of a second skin of cleverly-spaced ceramic rods which reduce heat gain. This innovation allowed designers the luxury of floor-to-ceiling, water-white glass facades without sacrificing the building’s energy efficiency. The result from the outside is a unique level of transparency to the street—revealing the activity within. While occupants of the building are given a strong connection with the city and a remarkable degree of natural light.

This wealth of natural light also brings with it the threat of overwhelming glare. To address this issue a first-of-its-kind system was developed: shades automatically adjust to block glare, and lights dynamically adjust to dim or turn off if the natural light is sufficiently bright. Moreover, with fully digital ballasts, the level of lighting can be customized to fit the desires of localized office groupings on each floor.

The combination of these elements produced the near-magical confluence of an improved workplace with substantial energy savings. And as an added dividend, the Times Company has widely shared the results of the research and development with the larger community, and the manufacturers have made the system part of their standard offerings.

This dedication to transparency, comfort and animated spaces is also brought into the building’s lobby. Resisting the typical cold, forbidding corporate lobby, the architects opened the lobby by splitting the core to create an open and inviting space with a vista through the building of some 114 meters (375 feet).

This unusual approach not only lightens the building allowing it to gently touche the ground, but also creates the exciting experience of ‘layers of transparency’ from the hustle and bustle of the lobby through to the quiet of a rare, urban 21x21x21 meter (70x70x70 foot) open-air garden featuring seven birch trees.

The desire for transparency and natural lighting also heavily influenced the building in plan and section. The cruciform shape of the building maximizes views and exposure to the city, while the above-average floor-to-ceiling height of 9’7” (which rises to 10’4” at the windows). All private offices and other rooms are located by the core to further increase the building’s openness.

In addition to the daylighting feature and advanced shading system (which blocks approximately 50% of direct solar radiation), The New York Times Building incorporates a number of other energy-saving features. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, an expert on daylighting, was engaged to develop the advanced dimmable lighting system which, in conjunction with the building’s shading system, allows for energy savings of 30%.

The building also employs a variable speed primary-only chilled water pumping system for the central chiller plant to maximize efficiency. This system represents a reduced capital cost when compared to a conventional primary/secondary water pumping system.

Energy diagram

In the waning days of hermetically sealed, form-driven towers sheathed in glass, The New York Times Building is a refreshing example of a thoughtful, sustainable, and beautiful box. The attention to detail at all levels is notable,  from the openness that encourages the city to flow into the lobby, to the highly articulated skin which shades the building’s inhabitants while still allowing an abundance of natural light, to the dematerialization of the building’s top disappearing into the sky via projecting glass plates and an enormous javelin mast.  The building works at all levels—the individual, the community, and on the city skyline.  The expression of exposed structure at its corners gives you the impression that the building is alive and breathing.  The jury was impressed by the design team’s ability to balance the needs of the end-user with that of the developer.  This is an extraordinary building—perhaps the Seagram Building of the 21st Century.