New York, NY
Office, Hotel, Retail, and Transit Atrium
In 2016 PAU was commissioned to study a mixed-use skyscraper just east of Grand Central Terminal that would house a great metropolitan hotel, destination office space, and much improved station infrastructure, particularly at the congested corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street. A paramount objective for our design is its the relationship to two of New York’s most treasured landmarks, the Chrysler Building and the Terminal, allowing both breathing room as this key transit location intensifies.
At a crossroads for Gotham, the site is anchored by the public potentials of the great metropolitan hotel. Such a hotel is a city within a city—it stands as both a mirror of and a window into the bustling metropolis it helps define. It is not a boutique hotel, tucked away on a side street. It is not a super-luxury brand, perched exclusively in the sky. It should be near the ground, energizing the adjacent station, streets and sidewalks.
A great metropolitan hotel has unmistakable presence. It stands proud at the heart of a grand city, making it grander by unequivocally declaring “you have arrived.” It ticks with the heartbeat of the street, the coming and going of tourists, the fleeting glimpse of a businesswoman stepping out of a black car as she darts to her meeting, the runner in the gym rejuvenating after a long flight, the friends relaxing at the bar after a hard day’s work, the rush of couples in black tie attire running late to the charity dinner. It is a microcosm of the urbane world that surrounds it. In this context, the project has an extraordinarily unique opportunity due to both its location and its timing.
This four year old proposal has particular meaning at the precise moment that New York is rethinking the future in the aftermath of the pandemic. As a place of convening, the project has the opportunity to seize on this moment like few other sites. Paired with the Terminal, a rejuvenated grand hotel is uniquely positioned to become the epicenter for all that the new Midtown could represent in a vaccinated world still lured by remote technologies.
Prior to the pandemic, New York was riddled with tired old hotels, experiences that harken back to a bygone era of green marble, bad coffee, and cloyingly sweet cocktails. Their energy felt zapped, with windowless lobbies designed like casinos, denying the visitor the opportunity to be part of the city around them. Built in a time when New York felt threatening, these hotels shielded themselves from their surroundings, lending them an anonymity that prevents their guests from fully enjoying a city that, in the decades since their construction, has been reborn.
The great metropolitan hotel, with buzzing infrastructure below and buzzing office space above, in the twenty first century—the century of the city—must do the opposite. It must celebrate its location; it must embrace the city while maintaining its own sense of identity… a place that is both of and apart from the bustle around it.
The gently sloping form of our proposed building, like the famous Grace Building, is derived from its program, its structure, and its site. In terms of meeting its mixed-use program, efficiency is paramount. With a world-class office building above the hotel, the curved form allows a gentle transition from the large floors of the lobby and ballroom, to the midsize floors of the guest rooms and atrium, to the smaller top floors of the office above. The guest room atrium, an update to the great Hyatt tradition, allows the office core to express through the hotel stack, providing the backbone of an extraordinary guest experience that is connected to the city below.
Normally these floorplates would transition in a series of setbacks in the form of a wedding cake, but this would entail expensive structural transfers in a building already made more structurally challenging due to the transit infrastructure below. Instead, the curved form allows the structure to shift gradually, in the form of sloped columns that reflect the changing needs of the building program.
Last but not least, the curvilinear form of the building enables the central argument to obtaining public acceptance instead of approbation—by sloping back towards the northwest, the building allows pedestrians to the west on 42nd Street a heretofore impossible view of both Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building, two of our most cherished landmarks. This visual connection, in addition to the building top and the atrium atop the subway station, should be critical to gain public support for a project of this magnitude.