Residential Towers -Getting the Backyard in the City Part 2

Updated 9/3/15

Ideas and Research
Architects begin a project in different ways. I often get my best ideas at night and will wake up and sketch them out. The generating idea for the floor plan came from the petals of a daisy and how they attach to the flower. The floor plan could also be seen as similar to a helicopter rotor mechanism. This petal scheme combined a triangle within a circle within a square within a rectangle. When you design, you think about all of the projects that been done before by other architects and how they used the basic shapes. All of their work is brought to bear in the design process.

In terms of requirements, I was committed to getting yard space (like a suburban lot) into the equation. To achieve this kind of space, I needed an open plan. Le Corbusier was one of the earliest to propose open plan designs using floor plates held up by columns. His sketch below illustrates that concept.

Le Corbusier, Dom-ino skeleton, 1914-15, from the Oeuvre complete, vol 1 1910-1929.
Le Corbusier, Dom-ino skeleton, 1914-15, from the Oeuvre complete, vol 1 1910-1929.
. The famous firm of Herzog and de-Meuron recently reinterpreted the Le Corbusier plan in their Beirut Terraces complex. That project boasted large balconies off of the glass enclosed apartments.
The Terraces by Herzog & deMeuron
The Terraces by Herzog & deMeuron
While minimalist and modern, I felt I could best this and offer actual backyard space in my design with grass, trees and plants, all assembled vertically.

Initial Sketches
These early sketches show my first ideas on how to transform the petal floor plan into a building.

early sketches
early sketches

I was thinking of securing the floor plates into slots like the trays on airline trolly carts. The ‘wine glasses’ would then slide in and be held up with the additional support of the columns.
I also knew I wanted a 3 tower scheme with a central courtyard in the middle. I modeled the two sketches above in the computer and found that the central courtyard didn’t really have a purpose as the towers functioned independently of each other. Ditching the domed courtyard space, I looked to the past to find a building that was similar to my design. I came to the Villard Houses (1881-85) by McKim, Mead & White. Located on Madison Ave between 49th and 50th Streets in New York City, this complex was to be the future home of railroad magnate Henry Villard. The Villard property consisted of 6 separate residences.

The Villard Houses
The Villard Houses

Final Design
ELEVATION VIEW2F copy

My design attempts to rework the traditional layout and circulation system of the typical apartment building by creating a system of layered hallways. In this new system you enter the lobby, take the lift to your floor and then exit into an interior hallway. Unlike most apartment complexes that have a dungeon like hallway (think Motel 6 with flickering fluorescent overhead lighting) leading to the individual apartments, my internal hall is all glass opening up to external hallways that either lead out to balconies overlooking courtyards or exit directly to the outdoor yard space. This scheme creates a more welcoming environment to return to. Just like coming home to a suburban home.

The final design consists of three towers. The left and right towers come in at 6 stories + 1 level of underground parking. Each floor-plate (10,000 sq. ft.) has 2 apartments, each with their own backyard for a total of 10 apartments per tower. There are 5 different house plans to choose from ranging from 1 bedroom to 3 bedroom plans. The central tower (8 stories) has a total of 12 apartments, however the apartments in this tower lack the internal courtyards. To make up for the lost light, I created skyroofs in some of the apartments. These protrusions from the building allow daylight into the bedroom and offer a view of the night sky from your bed. The bedroom is essentially cantilevered outside of the building envelope and a glass roof is placed over the projecting bedroom. The central tower also features a roof level garden with plots for vegetables, multiple koi ponds and full specimen trees planted within a green roof. The left and right towers have cafe/restaurant space on the ground floor as well as a porte-cochére (a covered entry area), so you get in your car at lobby level (retrieved from the underground garage) without getting wet. The central tower has retail space, a pool and gym facilities on the ground floor. In theory you would never have to leave the complex, you could go out to eat, go to the gym, and experience the suburbs all in your home in the city.

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