Tall And Slender: The World's Skinniest Skyscraper

Sheila Dharmarajan
The Future Is NowNovember 4, 2013

Skinny is the new…Skyscraper!

The New York City skyline is one of the most famous in the world. But if you look closely, there’s a new shape that’s starting to stand out. That shape? Slender.

“Land is very scarce, especially in the most desirable parts in the city,” says Manhattan real estate developer Michael Stern. “That’s why you’re seeing this trend of taller buildings being built on smaller parcels of land.”

Stern’s real estate firm, JDS Development Group, along with co-partner, PMG, have a project that takes the idea of slender to a new level. It will even top the HighCliff in Hong Kong, currently the most slender in the world.

If all goes according to plan, a lot located at 111 West 57th Street in midtown Manhattan, will be the future home of the skinniest skyscraper in the world. The building will sit on a lot just 60 feet wide, but will soar to an incredible height – taller than the rooftop of the Empire State Building.

“It will become the most slender building in the world because we have a very narrow floor plate, which is about 60 feet, and the tower is rising over 1300 feet tall. That gives us a ratio of about 1 to 23…while most buildings are well under 1 to 20,” says lead project architect Dana Getman of SHoP Architects.

These new, slender skyscrapers are cropping up thanks to advances in building science coupled with eye-popping real estate prices.

“The price that people are willing to pay for the unobstructed Central Park view is really the only reason these buildings can be economically feasible,” says Stern.

111 West 57th Street – the Details

The tower is expected to have only 3 high-speed elevators, and each floor will be its own ultra-luxe 5,000 square foot apartment.

[Related: Spanish skyscraper going up – but without an elevator?]

“The building has roughly 45 apartments and the tower floors. Our first residential floor starts at about 260 feet in the air, so that every single apartment in the tower has a spectacular unobstructed view of Central Park,” says Stern. “You really get this floor-through experience that you’re floating in the city. That was really what we were going for and we think it will be really special.”

And the views from this extraordinary perch in the sky? They’re likely amongst the best in Manhattan.

“The penthouse sits almost twelve hundred feet up in the air. It enjoys commanding views of [Central] Park, across into Long Island City, Queens, and out to Long Island. There’s just going to be nothing like it across the entire cityscape. It’s going to be truly spectacular.”

[Related: See the world’s first “invisible” skyscraper]

But building such spectacular slenderness? It’s not always so easy.

Engineers on the project have to deal with a variety of issues ranging from dampening the impact of wind on such a slender structure, to making it feel, well, not so slender.

“It’s our challenge, despite the shape, despite the height, despite the slenderness to make sure the occupants will not feel the fact that they live in a slender and tall building. But to feel like being home,” says Silvian Marcus, Director of Building Structures, WSP USA.

Bringing Skinny Back

Project designers at SHoP Architects believe that the 111 West 57th Street project will join the tradition of New York City skyscrapers. They plan on employing a terra cotta and bronze façade that captures the past, but re-imagines it for the 21st century.

“If you look back at the early skyscrapers in the Twenties and Thirties, especially the ones in lower Manhattan, around Wall Street and the Woolworth Tower, they had very small footprints. They were very tall and narrow, so we are coming back to this again, scaling it down to these beautiful elegant narrow towers reaching up in the sky. We’re bringing the classic skinny back,” says Christopher Sharples, founding principal of SHoP Architects.

Who’s Buying The Skinny?

“There’s a world of wealth, literally, around the globe that finds New York an appealing place to invest in real estate. They have a kind of art collectors quality to wanting to acquire these like a Picasso or Pollack,” says Carol Willis, founder, director and curator of The Skyscraper Museum located in Lower Manhattan.

Costs for the world’s skinniest skyscraper, which should begin construction next year, is still under wraps. But two penthouses at One57, just a few blocks away, reportedly sold for $90 million – each.

For the lucky few, living in the sky is what these new slender buildings are all about.

Thanks to the Skyscraper Museum for their assistance. You can see the Sky High exhibit at the museum through April 19, 2014.