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Gang's Solar Carve Tower Will Keep High Line in the Spotlight

By Lee Bay
November 07, 2012
Image courtesy Studio Gang Architects
A rendering of Solar Carve Tower perched above New York's popular High Line.

An old meatpacking plant abutting Manhattan's celebrated High Line park could soon be replaced by what promises to be one of the most talked-about buildings in New York, if all goes according to plan.

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Designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, the proposed Solar Carve Tower is a glassy, 213-foot-tall office and retail building with a faceted facade. As its name suggests, two corners of the 186,700-square-foot building are carved away to let daylight shine past it and onto the neighboring High Line. The tower, to be developed by William Gottlieb Real Estate, would be located on 10th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets.

"Basically, the idea is stepping back from the public space of the High Line as opposed to [stepping back] from the public space of the street," says Gang, principal and founder of Studio Gang Architects. The firm often incorporates the sun’s movement in its work: The undulating, waveform-like balconies of Chicago's Aqua Tower were designed in response to the passing sun's positions, and Solstice on the Park, a planned 27-story residential tower not far from the University of Chicago, will feature a south-facing facade with tilted windows to reduce solar heat gain in warm months.

Solar Carve Tower would be the first New York project for Gang, who says the commission began with a phone call from the Gottlieb company. "They called us up one day and said, 'We want to do a very special building and we'd like you to look at the site,'" says Gang. The firm’s analyses showed the sliced tower would allow 200 more hours of sunlight per year to fall on the High Line. But because of its unusual shape, which aims to bring light and air to the raised park instead of just the streets below, the architect and developer are seeking a zoning variance from the city's Board of Standards and Appeals.

"You want to bring light and air to the street, but zoning hasn't caught up,” to treating the High Line as such, Gang says. "If we were to build what we were allowed to build, we'd be essentially running [the High Line] into a tunnel," similar to how the Standard Hotel currently straddles the park. Gang says she hopes to have the variance granted by May. "We're hoping they will recognize how important this is," she says. The project is tentatively scheduled to be completed by late 2015.

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