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BLUE by Bernard Tschumi opens on Manhattan's Lower East Side Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 January 2008 19:00


After two and a half years of planning, design, and construction, Bernard Tschumi’s BLUE Residential Tower is now open on the Lower East Side.

The seventeen-story tower contains thirty-two apartments and rises to a height of 181 feet. This is Tschumi’s first high-rise structure, and his second in New York City, where his main office is located. BLUE also marks Tschumi’s first residential structure.


Despite the constraints of New York City zoning law and market-driven commercial requirements, Tschumi devised an original envelope pattern and distinctive shape in order to simultaneously conform to a strict building code and differentiate the building from similar high-rise structures. The strategy also creates a highly specific architectural statement that responds to the eclecticism of the historic Lower East Side neighborhood. The building’s signature pixelated façade reflects a mosaic of the diverse community around it while simultaneously blending into the sky, in a way that both echoes and defers to the vibrant dynamism of downtown New York City.


Faced with a series of contradictions--a high-end building with a modest budget, a neighborhood-specific building that would also be visually striking, and a contemporary building for a historically rich part of Manhattan--Tschumi’s scheme balances the many competing project requirements with thoughtful attention to every facet of the design, from an entrance court at the pedestrian scale of narrow Norfolk Street to the Penthouse terrace placed so as to appreciate sunsets over the Hudson River.


Tschumi_blue_03.jpgInteriors are fitted with bamboo or palm floors, stone counters and tiles, and stainless steel cabinets and appliances, defining simple but elegant spaces, many of which are distinguished by the sloping walls that give the building its dramatic shape. Nearly all of the units were occupied before the building’s official completion. A third floor commercial space that is part of the development, but was not designed by Tschumi, remains under construction and will be completed sometime next year.


This is Bernard Tschumi’s second building in New York, where he has lived, worked, and taught since 1976. He designed Alfred Lerner Hall at Columbia University, where he served as Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation from 1988 to 2003.

Tschumi_blue_04.jpg As As explained by Bernard Tschumi:
“ This residential mid-rise in New York’s Lower East Side presented a major design challenge: how to create an original architectural statement while simultaneously responding to the constraints of New York zoning code and to the developer’s commercial requirements? In our solution, the building’s base occupies a lot zoned for residential use and cantilevers over an existing building designated for commercial use. The slightly angled walls facing the street and rear yard artfully negotiate the varying setback rules, crossing the line between the commercial and residential zoning districts. The sloped top of the building integrates the zoning district’s two sky exposure plane requirements.

The cantilever over the commercial space on the southern portion of the building is also angled from base to top, thus enlarging the size of the units located on the upper floors, which have stunning views of Lower Manhattan from river to river. This strategy also maximizes the amount of allowable residential square footage. The pixelated facades reflect both the internal arrangement of spaces and the multi-faceted character of the neighborhood below.

BLUE does not start with a theory or a formal gesture but takes the character of the site as its source, parlaying intricate zoning into angulated form, and form into a pixelated envelope that both projects an architectural statement but also blends into the sky at the same time, simultaneously respecting and embracing the dynamism of the neighborhood.

The building consists of 32 residences ranging from one and two-bedroom units near the base to full-floor units with large terraces higher up, crowned by a duplex penthouse. The sloped window wall is a feature of many units. All units have full-height windows in the living and dining rooms. The apartments are fitted out with sustainable materials, including bamboo floors and wall panels, palm flooring, and river-pebble bathroom tiles.

BLUE also recycles unused space on top of a neighboring commercial structure as an urban garden, which provides communal space for residents and guests with broad views of the Williamsburg Bridge.”

A 16 story residential tower with 32 apartments ranging from one and two bedroom units near the
base to full floor units higher up, crowned by a two-floor penthouse.

Exterior: The tower cantilevers slightly over an existing commercial building on Delancey Street with air-rights permissions. The shape of the building responds to this cantilever and the zoning rules for the site. The curtainwall system with a “pixelated” glass design is comprised of grey tinted vision glass, spandrel glass in four shades of Blue, and periodic panes of full body blue tinted vision glass.
Interior: The sloped curtain-wall is a feature in many of the apartments, and the majority of units
have full-height windows in the living and dining rooms.
Principal Materials:
Structure: CIP concrete. Façade: Curtainwall, insulated glazing and four types of spandrel glass
Interiors: Apartments on floors 2-12 have bamboo floors, stone floors and white-tiled walls in the
bathroom, white stone kitchen counters, metal and glass upper kitchen cabinets; Tower and
Penthouse apartments have palm flooring, stone floors and glass tiled walls in the bathroom, and
Boffi kitchens; Common/shared spaces have bamboo wall paneling, stone floors, and back-lit white
glass panels.
Existing Structures:
The building cantilevers over an existing two story structure. A new third story commercial space
was added to the existing structure, and the roof of that third floor is recycled as a large terrace
garden for residents of the building.

Location : 105 Norfolk Street, just north of Delancey Street, in New York City’s vibrant Lower East Side neighborhood.

Tschumi_blue_02.jpg CLIENT: Angelo Cosentini and John Carson
DESIGN ARCHITECT: Bernard Tschumi Architects, New York, NY
PRINCIPALS IN CHARGE: Bernard Tschumi, Bernard Tschumi Architects, Saky Yakas, SLCE Architects

STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS: Thornton Tomasetti Engineers (New York, NY)
CURTAINWALL CONSULTANTZ: Israel Berger & Associates, Inc. (New York, NY)
MEP ENGINEERS Ettinger Engineers (New York, NY)
CODE CONSULTANT Arc Consultants, Inc. (New York, NY)
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: On The Level Enterprises, Inc. (New York, NY)
MARKETING GRAPHICS Atwood Design Systems (New York, NY)
CONDO SALES Corcoran Group
PROJECT TEAM Bernard Tschumi Architects: Bernard Tschumi, lead designer; Kim Starr, project manager; William Feuerman, Adam Dayem, with Dominic Leong, Alan Kusov, Casey Crawmer, Shai Gross, Adam
Marcus, Amy Yang

PROJECT COST $17 million
TOTAL PROJECT AREA: 55,000 sq. ft.

Total Height of Building 181’-0” or 55.2 m
Total Number of Floors 18 (above ground 16, below ground 1, roof (elevator + stair bulkheads) 1
Construction Cost $17 million USD
Number of Apartments 32, One Bedroom Units 21, Two Bedroom Units 8, Full Floor “Tower” Units 2
Duplex Penthouse Unit 1.
Concrete Structure: Length of cantilever at 4th floor 11’-0” or 3.4 m. Depth of cantilever beam at 4th floor 13’-0” or 4.0 m.  Length of cantilever at 12th floor 21’-0” or 6.4 m
Glass Curtain wall: Individual glass pieces 4,000 (approximately), Blue tinted vision glass pieces 64, Opaque blue spandrel glass pieces 2,400 (approximately), Different shades of blue used 4

More On Bernard Tschumi Architects:

Bernard Tscumi's Profile

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