The historical and cultural significance of this area is eminent. The Bowery is the city’s oldest thoroughfare; it began as a Native American trail, became a Colonial Farm road, and developed into an elegant and broad boulevard for famous and rich people by the early 1800s. At the end of the 20th century the Bowery had a rich underground culture that was the subject of many artists’ works at that time. Today, the Bowery is a melting pot, an eclectic mix of members of an international community and an indispensable resource of American history and culture.
When we became involved with the project, the framework for the site had already been established. The building’s mass and volume had been negotiated with the city and our task was to design a hotel with a residential component within strictly defined criteria.
Our idea was to stack these two very distinct typologies on top of each other, on one hand to express their difference, while on the other to unify them within the same building skeleton. It was also our aim to complement them with a diverse mix of uses so that the building becomes like a city within the city.
The overall building proportions call for a slender residential tower that sits on a compact hotel volume. The structure of the building is pushed to the exterior and follows the grid of the large floor-to-ceiling window bays. This introduces a depth to the façade on the exterior and liberates the interior from freestanding columns. Slabs and columns are directly expressed as raw concrete. The structural skeleton of the building defines the architecture of the building. To introduce a sense of scale and to further foster the expression of each individual floor, each column is slightly inclined. The prominent corner of the building facing Chrystie Street is where the two geometries of the inclined columns meet. Rather than giving one direction priority, the two directions are braided together. The result is a sculptural corner column that becomes the visual anchor for the entire building.
In the dense cluster of the hotel rooms, each room has one large window that sits in-between the columns and slabs. The windows are framed with polished aluminum and are tilted towards the sky to create more space for the room and to increase the reflection of the sky in the glass. This improves the privacy for the hotel rooms and at the same time, the windows read like jewels that sit in a rough concrete skeleton. Intensive investigations into formwork assembly and surface treatment reveal and pronounce the inherent material qualities of concrete. Its edges are sharp and precise, whereas the column surface copies the texture and veins of the brushed plywood formwork. In the tower, every second column is omitted, which is a direct result and expression of the structural forces that decrease at the top of the building. This strategy maximizes the views and transparency on all residential floors and the two last floors of the hotel, both with adjacent large open-air terraces. On all these floors, the windows are vertical and recessed within the concrete skeleton; therefore, they are less reflective and less visible. The building becomes lighter and filigreed against the sky.
Across the entire street frontage, an intimate private garden with trees and informal seating provides an oasis within the hectic life of the city. The garden is separated from the street by a dense green wall that acts as a physical barrier as well as a visual screen. Two concrete frames form entry portals into the garden, and from there to the hotel or the residencies, respectively.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2014