The high-rise tower is an important ingredient within the contemporary city. However, towers have come to be defined solely by their height and, as a type, they have become anonymous. Typical residential towers, while successful in aggregating the living unit, often fail to improve upon the living environment. The multiplication of units within simple extruded shapes produces repetitive and anonymous structures with no extra benefits or architectural qualities despite the incredible densities they achieve. For those who live in these structures, this experience of sameness and repetition can be relatively unpleasant. 56 Leonard Street acts against this anonymity and repetitiveness, emanating from so many towers of the recent past. Its ambition is to achieve, despite its size, a character that is individual and personal, perhaps even intimate.
The project is conceived as a stack of individual houses, where each house is unique and identifiable within the overall stack. A careful investigation of local construction methods revealed the possibility of shifting and varying floor-slabs to create corners, cantilevers and balconies – all welcome strategies for providing individual and different conditions in each apartment. At the base of the tower, the stack reacts to the scale and specific local conditions on the street, while the top staggers and undulates to merge with the sky.
To break-up the tendency towards repetition and anonymity in high-rise buildings, 56 Leonard Street was developed from the inside-out. The project began with individual rooms, treating them as “pixels” grouped together on a floor-by-floor basis. These pixels come together to directly inform the volume and to shape the outside of the tower. From the interior the experience of these pixels is like stepping into a series of large bay-windows.
The strategy of ‘pixelating’ rooms also happens in section, creating a large number of terraces and projecting balconies.
The top of any tower is its most visible element and, in keeping with this, the top of 56 Leonard Street is the most expressive part of the project. This expressiveness is driven directly by the requirements of the interior, consisting of ten large-scale penthouses with expansive outdoor spaces and spacious living areas. These large program components register on the exterior as large-scale blocks, cantilevering and shifting according to internal configurations and the desire to capture specific views, which ultimately results in the sculptural expression of the top.
Photo credits: Iwan Baan