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Yep, That Glorious Arch Is A Functioning Building: The Big Bend, NYC

New York-based Oiio Architecture Studio looked around the big apple and asked themselves: “In a city that has nowhere to go but up, what if we substituted height with length? What if our buildings were long instead of tall?” The result? The Big Bend

It’s no secret that the world’s most popular cities are facing a bit of a predicament – room for growth. London, New York, Sydney, Singapore, Berlin, San Francisco – the world’s knowledge workers are flocking to these hubs of innovation and havens of the live/work/play lifestyle. But there’s one small problem – we’ve run out of room.

With the option to move outward a geographic impossibility, architects and designers are creating solutions, which move us up, rather than across. However, this vertical movement has meant the emergence of myriad tall and slender residential skyscrapers; limiting customization, personalisation and design flexibility.

Though we most certainly need to go up, the world’s greatest design thinkers are challenged to present alterantives – so that us city-dwellers can have our cake, and eat it too.

New York-based Oiio Architecture Studio looked around their city, and challenged themselves to think of an alternate version of it that wasn’t limited by only designing for height: “What if we substituted height with length?” says Ioannis Oikonomou, Architect and Oiio Founder, “What if our buildings were long instead of tall?”

This disruptive approach began on 57th Street New York City – otherwise known as “Billionaire’s Row”.

“After the emergence of One57, which was completed in 2014, everything changed for 57th Street,” recalls Oikonomou. “By the first quarter of 2016 there was a 625% increase in it’s sales average. The sudden emergence of One57 and the set of tall and slender residential skyscrapers (which were built later) operated as a call to wealthy investors from around the world that were planning to buy a New York apartment.”

But Oikonomou began to notice that, “Aside from its exceptional location, the success of 57th Street corridor has mainly to do with floor area ratio (FAR), the formula that equates to maximum developable floor space allowed at a property. And FAR can be stretched really tall with a few tricks.”

According to a report conducted by students from the Columbia University in 2010, the streets in the surrounding area had different combinations of 8, 10, 12, and 15 FAR, but 57th Street was the only street with all 15 FAR and in stark contrast to 58th and 59th Streets that have mostly only 10 FAR.

Oikonomou continues, “There is an undeniable obsession in Manhattan where architecture is only made to be seen. There are many different ways that can make a building stand out, but in order to do so, the building has to – quite literary –stand out.”

Our industry has definitely become familiar with building height measurements. We usually learn about the latest tallest building and we are always impressed by its price per square foot. It seems that a property’s height operates as a license for it to be expensive.

In New York for example, “zoning laws have created a peculiar set of tricks through which developers try to maximize their property’s height in order to infuse it with the prestige of a high rise structure,” notes Oikonomou. “But if we manage to bend our structure instead of bending the zoning rules of New York we would be able to create one of the most prestigious buildings in Manhattan. The longest building in the world. The Big Bend can become a modest architectural solution to the height limitations of Manhattan. We can now provide our structures with the measurements that will make them stand out without worrying about the limits of the sky.”

But achieving the Big Bend isn’t as easy as it sounds. The challenges of creating a fully functioning curved building would be off-putting for any architect – but solutions do exist. Oikonomou explains for example that, “The Big Bend was considered to be one of the greatest challenge in elevator history, but is now finally becoming reality. “The elevator that can travel in curves, horizontally and in continuous loops. The innovative track changing system allows for the horizontal connection of two shafts on the top and bottom to create a continuous loop. It’s an incredibly exciting time for large-scale architecture right now.”


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