Called Beekman Tower before its completion, 8 Spruce Street is architect Frank Gehry’s first large-scale residential project. And it is a big one, reportedly the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere at 870-feet tall. Just steps from City Hall and the Woolworth Building, the rippling stainless steel tower glistens as it rises from the stone canyons of Lower Manhattan. Gehry’s office answered some questions about the striking addition to the New York City skyline.
The Lower Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
We were introduced to Forest City Ratner during the competition for the New York Times tower in Manhattan. About a year later they approached us having liked the way we solved many of the design issues in that competition and asked us if we were interested in designing this apartment tower.
8 Spruce Street seen between the Brooklyn Bridge and Woolworth Building
Can you describe your design process for the building?
The tower was designed starting from the apartment layouts and the elevator core. Various massing of these parameters were studied within the very restrictive zoning envelop that the New York City Department of City Planning had dictated for the site. A “T” shaped plan was chosen creating six corner apartments per floor. The elevator core is tucked neatly into the inside corners that were less suitable for apartments. The undulation of the cladding created bay windows for the apartments as the creases push the glass outward. These folds in stainless steels give the tower façade a dynamic appearance as the light moves across it.
The tower’s east façade, as seen from Brooklyn Bridge Park
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
The design of the tower changed a great deal as the developer continually adjusted to a quickly changing market for apartments in Manhattan. In the original design the top half of the tower was designed as condominiums and the lower half as rentals. As the New York condo market weakened the developer decided to convert the entire tower to rental apartments. This required a complete redesign of the floors plans creating more smaller apartments on each floor. The column layout changed entirely and the placement of windows in the façade needed to be redone.
Close-up of the east façade
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
Our office designs a wide variety of building types both commercial and institutional. This is the first large scale residential project we have completed. Our other work consists of concert halls and theaters, art galleries and museum and educational buildings.
E-Mail Interview conducted by John Hill
A model view seen from the north with City Hall on the right