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The Power Designers of New York City Are All About Green Spirit

In New York City, where it’s harder to get access to fresh air and residents don’t typically have a sprawling backyard (we’re not all Staten Islanders here!), bringing light, air and plants to the buildings has become more important than ever, and that’s what the top architects and designers are doing in 2017.

Some firms are doing it by adding more terraces to their projects, or green roofs, and then there are others that are changing the game completely. Take ODA New York’s design of 305 East 44th Street, a residential condominium tower that has full-floor gardens weaved in between the apartments. Or FXFOWLE’s design of Circa Central Park, a residential building at the northwest corner of Central Park, which has a curving design on the corner facing the park, so residents can get amazing views of the greenery.

Of course, getting air and light isn’t the only thing that architects have to contend with at their projects. For CetraRuddy’s John Cetra, he is concerned with how the sun affects buildings’ color and texture when the light hits the structure. That’s why he designed The Moinian Group’s rental at 572 11th Avenue with white terra-cotta up to the seventh floor.

These are the power designers in the city. The projects are different in a lot of ways, but the common thread seemed to be an embrace of green spirit.

ODA New York Eran Chen, Founder and Executive Director

ODA New York has a distinct style for its projects, which are often porous, fragmented and look like boxes were stuck on the side of buildings. That allows for more terraces and views. According to Eran Chen, who launched the firm in 2007, architecture should “restore our relationship with nature,” and therefore the more terraces, open spaces and views, the better.


Take for example his technique employed for Spitzer Enterprises’ residential towers at 420 Kent Avenue, which is under construction in Williamsburg. The living rooms in most of the units at the three-building, 857-apartment project have a corner view of the Manhattan skyline and East River, because they jut out from the building. The project also includes 77,000 square feet of outdoor space on Brooklyn’s north waterfront and will be completed in about 16 months.

The concepts of light and air and views play heavily into ODA’s design of two projects at the Rheingold Brewery development sites in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Besides terraces for the apartments, the team added courtyards.

At the first Rheingold site, a 1-million-square-foot building at 123 Meserole Avenue, where All Year Management is building a more than 800-unit rental project, ODA put in landscaped courtyards that are connected to building amenity spaces and lead to the street. This courtyard style allows more people to meet and enjoy outdoor space.

“It’s really the way that people want to live [in New York City]—to be connected to the grid and the big city but, at the same time, be able to connect in small-scale and more intimate environments,” Chen said.

And at the other Rheingold Brewery site, 10 Montieth Street, ODA is designing a 350,000-square-foot, 500-unit rental project for the Rabsky Group. It is a block-long property that has a doughnut-shape and has courtyards in the middle. It also features a large rooftop garden, which slopes in key areas to allow more sunlight into the courtyard.

And of course, there is 305 West 44th Street, a 116,000-square-foot condominium for Triangle Assets in Midtown. Starting at the 21st floor of the building, each homeowner will have access to a floor with a private garden either below or on top of her unit via a Parisian staircase.

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