5 Manhattan West

by | 16. Mar 2018

Brutalist | Project | Transformation
View of 5 Manhattan West from under highline.

5 Manhattan West. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

In New York City, architecture aficionados know the building that sits at 450 West 33rd Street. Completed in 1969, the 16-story austere brutalist urban ziggurat was designed by Davis Brody Bond as an office building, spanning a railyard connecting to nearby Penn Station. In the 1980s, in efforts to beautify its austere brutalist exterior, then-owners painted grey concrete exterior beige and added metal siding. Today, the building bears little resemblance to its first incarnation, having been completely rehabilitated and adopted into the sprawling Manhattan West development under the auspices of a new, more contemporary name: 5 Manhattan West.

Black and white image of Five Manhattan West from 1969

5 Manhattan West in its original state in 1969. Image courtesy Davis Brody Bond.

5 Manhattan West immediately before the renovation

5 Manhattan West immediately before the renovation. Image courtesy REX.

The first development to be completed as a part of the multi-million-square-foot redevelopment and expansion of Manhattan’s far west side, 5 Manhattan West was designed by Joshua Ramus of New York-based REX. Once under threat of demolition, in recent years 5 Manhattan West became the touchstone of a development marathon in Manhattan. Physically bridging the space between two of the city’s biggest new developments: Hudson Yards and Manhattan West, the building is located within the SOM-designed Manhattan West development. The building’s re-positioning was intended to appeal to the city’s fast growing technology sector, with its expansive, raw, and open concept floor plates wrapped in an innovative cascading glass facade.

5 Manhattan West's glass facade as seen from the street.

5 Manhattan West as seen from the street. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Most notable about REX’s rehabilitation of 5 Manhattan West is its pleated facade. Shedding its opaque concrete skin, Ramus’ design reveals the building’s inner workings—a challenge when working with a structure which was never intended to be seen. The resulting effect is exciting both inside and out: bringing new shape to the structure, the glass reveals a new building altogether, celebrating its concrete core while inviting daylight deep into the interior.

Glass facade of 5 Manhattan West reflecting neighbouring buildings

The pleated exterior of 5 Manhattan West allows light deep into the interior. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

A detail view of the new facade. of 5 Manhattan West

A detail view of the new facade. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Designed to optimize environmental conditions, the facade underwent myriad iterations—a continuous incline, a vertical stepping system, and so on—before settling on a pleated and inclined system that simultaneously reduced the building’s energy usage while maximizing views and daylight for building occupants. Notably, despite a dramatic decrease in concrete and an increase in glass used on the building’s surface, REX’s self-shading facade design allows for no net loss of insulation value or energy performance, while minimizing solar heat gain.

Diagram of 5 Manhattan West showing facade options

Facade options for the building show an array of options to rehabilitate the building’s concrete exterior. Image © REX

Facade concept diagram of 5 Manhattan West

A view of the gradual change in facade incline from top to bottom. Image © REX

Conceptual diagram of 5 Manhattan West's facade application

An illustration detailing REX’s vision for the new facade’s function. Image © REX

Modeled to replicate the cascading, rippled texture of a fresnel light, the facade serves double duty as an aesthetically pleasing design feature and highly functional building element. Chosen initially for its ability to maximize leasable floor space (previous iterations limited adjacent space due to regulations against leasing space near inclined facades), the pleated design was also selected to increase comfort for building occupants by inclining out-and-upwards to allow for more headspace, with the two planes meeting just above the six-foot seven-inch mark, decreasing gradually in inclination as the facade ascends the building. For REX’s client, Brookfield Properties, the facade created maximal leasability, while for office occupants, it establishes a sense of expansiveness in dense Manhattan.

5 Manhattan West's internal floor set out

Looking outside from one of the building’s open concept floor plates. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

A view of the 5 Manhattan West's pleated facade from inside.

A view of the pleated facade from inside. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

A view of one of 5 Manhattan West's expansive interior spaces, post-renovation.

A view of one of the building’s expansive interior spaces, post-renovation. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

REX’s redesign also incorporates an upgraded lobby, new street level access, and new public thoroughfares and outdoor gathering spaces where Davis Brody Bond’s building once housed private, concrete-enclosed areas. In the lobby, REX facilitated an extensive renovation, transforming the space to meet the needs of modern business while preserving its unique cast-in-place concrete ceiling. Outside, the “breezeway,” a south-facing public arcade, was designed at the same height as the nearby Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed High Line in hopes of eventually connecting the building to the famed pedway system, as well as Manhattan West’s central plaza.

5 Manhattan West's breezeway connection to the nearby highway

The “breezeway” sits eye level with the nearby High Line in hopes to connect the two in future. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

5 Manhattan West's new ground floor

The “breezeway” carves a new public arcade into the building’s lower levels. Image © Matthew Usselman

Pivoting from an inaccessible, opaque fortress to a fully transparent and active contemporary office building, REX’s redesign of 5 Manhattan West proves the true value of adaptive reuse. Previously considered obsolete, the building is now home to industry leading companies like Amazon and J.P. Morgan, and in its ground floor retail space, a Whole Foods Market opens the building to the street. Now a sought-after property in the district, 5 Manhattan West, a building once described as an exemplar of brutalism, is now an exemplar of urban reuse and renovation.

5 Manhattan West from street level and dusk

5 Manhattan West by REX. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu



CITYNew York City
SIZE29,800 sq.m