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WilkinsonEyre wins New York retrofit ideas contest

WilkinsonEyre has won an open international ideas contest to design an environmental upgrade of the 63 Madison Avenue skyscraper in New York City

The London studio, working with façade consultant Eckersley O’Callaghan and contractor Gartner, was selected from a shortlist that included SOM with Atelier Ten and Werner Sobek to win the contest’s $15,000 top prize.

WilkinsonEyre’s winning ‘Second Skin’ scheme features an ‘adaptive net’ façade intended to create a habitable area within a simple, regular cladding system.

The proposal offered a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions as well as an embodied carbon offset after only four years.

The competition – organised by US-based Metals in Construction magazine – invited participants to draw up an innovative new external façade for the 1962 complex that would improve environmental performance while also increasing the penetration of sunlight into the building’s interior and enhancing views and transparency.

The call for concepts set out to generate bold ideas which could be harnessed across the city on similar buildings. Under New York’s Climate Mobilization Act they will need to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 while also continuing to improve their offer to potential occupants.

63 Madison Avenue is a large, 15-storey office block with retail on the ground floor, in Manhattan’s NoMad district. The 80,500m² complex currently holds LEED Gold certification and is earmarked for a series of upgrades.

In April 2019, New York City adopted a Green New Deal programme, which pledged to reduce the city’s overall carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. As part of this, all buildings more than 2,300m² will need to reduce their emissions by 40 per cent – potentially affecting owners of about 50,000 structures across the city.

Competition judges included Mic Patterson, ambassador of innovation and collaboration at the Facade Tectonics Institute; Gabrielle Brainard, architect and building envelope consultant; Margaret Cavenagh, principal of interior architecture at Studio Gang; and Enrica Oliva, structural engineer at Werner Sobek in New York.

Winner: Second Skin by WilkinsonEyre

Wilkinson Eyre's contest-winning proposal for 63 Madison Avenue in New York City

Wilkinson Eyre’s contest-winning proposal for 63 Madison Avenue in New York City

Wilkinson Eyre’s contest-winning proposal for 63 Madison Avenue in New York City

The WilkinsonEyre scheme, called Second Skin, employed the concept of an ‘adaptive net’ façade; creating a habitable area within a highly efficient, simple, regular cladding system. The ‘adaptive net’ allowed us to respond to the specifics of the building’s locale; protect against seasonal environmental conditions; optimise views and introduce natural greening; all enhancing occupants’ wellness.

A system of external shading/reflector devices was developed to provide shade, reduce glare, increasing the quality of daylighting and improving the usable area by 20 per cent, while preserving views out.

The engineers demonstrated through thermal modelling that this concept (combined with an improvement in the efficiency of M&E equipment), would offer a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions as well as offer an embodied carbon offset after only four years. The proposed planting and vegetation will respond to light, heat, humidity and seasonal variations, and the baseline palette will be chosen to increase biodiversity and ecological resilience.

The team was commended for a solution that was simple, with applicability to a wide range of buildings, cost-effective, and adaptive, so it can be tailored to suit different environments and orientations. We were also commended for considering the carbon impact of the system over its lifecycle and ensure that it makes a net positive contribution though its application; the design could be developed further to facilitate deconstruction and reuse.

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