Bruce Nagel & Partners Architects

383 Madison Avenue

New York, New York
1995
Unbuilt Project

Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects

  • Judith DiMaio (BN&PA-Design Partner) - Exterior Skin Designer

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DiMaio was assigned to this project immediately following the completion of ABC Phase II. The tower, was to be located on Madison Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets to the north and south and Vanderbilt Avenue to the east. The task was huge: Tier II zoning, 1, 600,000 gsf of transferred air rights from Grand Central and a labyrinth of train tracks and structure for the terminal under the site. The site was an entire block of a small footprint and the program was for offices and 4 column free trading floors. As Senior design, DiMaio had to sort through the then new Tier II zoning code in consultation with zoning consultants to plot the towers massing envelope, before any actual design could begin.

The project was highly published as it was a test case for the transfer of air rights to a contiguous site below grade to Grand Central, but it skipped a block above grade. These conditions were compounded by the huge amount of GSF and the small footprint, making for a controversial tower design with excessively small floor plates at the top, and huge column free spaces close to the base requiring massive transfer beams. The other primary obstacle was negotiating the pre-existing below grade structure strategically located between rail tracks.

With these limitations William Pedersen looked to DiMaio to work through massing studies, and once one was selected by the client, First Boston Bank, her role was to begin laying out a plan organization and design the exterior wall skin in conjunction with plans sections, and a highly complicated elevator stacking. William Pedersen was actively involved in the design of the exterior wall.

As with ABC DiMaio relied on her Tran historical anthology of ideas as the method of approach from which an ingenious ground floor plan was derived. Clearly influenced by ancient Roman bath complexes, and colossal columns (8 feet in diameter at the base of the building) bearing the loads from the column free trading floors  above ,   DiMaio and the team were confronted with another  huge dilemma about the elevator core’s location given its logical place in the plan, and the constraint of the tracks below making it impossible to penetrate the ground with the housing for the elevators. DiMaio confronted the problem and proposed flipping the elevator banks to the east thereby missing the tracks and creating a highly original entry sequence. The exterior wall was predominately glass above the first 200 feet, and primarily granite for the lower 200 feet. The individual bays of the lower levels were an outgrowth of the strategies employed in ABC where a trans-historical vocabulary of ideas derived from Renaissance models organized the whole.  The vocabulary of architectural elements and design reoccurred in a later phase of ABC’s building campaign following DiMaio’s departure. The reference to the expanded repertoire is clear and was carried on during those years.

The outcome of this controversial tower was that landmarks defeated it on the grounds of air right criteria and because of the immense increase in population a 70 story, 1020(?)’ tower would bring to an already congested area of Manhattan. But the design was an important test case for Tier II zoning and air right contingencies not to mention testing the limits of design strategies created by the below grade condition.

Publication: Timed. You have an article Danielle scanned;

On page 15 of your part 2 under 1994, we have noted a KPF monograph with both 383 and Abc published. see part 2.

FRANK: this below really goes with ABC PHASE II; btw: every bit of the article from mid page 24 to the top of p26 is all my influence on Bill and KPF.  We need to spin this as advancing the state of knowledge, etc.,

You left this out:  KPF, Architecture and Urbanism 1986-1992; The Facades of KPF: Abstraction and the limits of Figuration, by Thomas Schumacher.   Pp 21-31, with illustration of an individual bay of ABC compared on page 25, illustration 12; Under collaborators p390 Rizzoli 1993