BIG designs skyscrapers with cantilevered skybridge in Manhattan


Global architecture firm BIG has designed a pair of Manhattan skyscrapers connected by a twisting skybridge as part of a four-tower development that includes a spiral-shaped museum at its centre.

Freedom Plaza will be located on a 6.7-acre (2.7-hectare) site which sits across from the United Nations (UN) Headquarters complex and flanks the entrance to the Queens-Midtown tunnel in Manhattan’s Midtown East neighbourhood.

A rendering of a new development in Manhattan
BIG has created a four-tower development along New York’s East River

Developed with Soloviev Group and Mohegan, the project is oriented towards the East River and will consist of two residential and two conjoined hotel skyscrapers that enclose a central park designed by US studio OJB Landscape Architecture with the spiral-shaped Museum of Freedom and Democracy at its centre.

“The design respects the celebrated UN complex to the north while also adding playful and sculptural elements to the waterfront,” said the team in a statement.

Buildings with a hooked top
It was informed by New York’s historical modernist buildings and the UN Headquarters

“Bookending the park are two pairs of towers, joined at the base or top and each framing a corner plaza: one showcasing the life of the city and the other forming an urban gate from the city to the upper park and East River beyond,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels in a statement.

“Balanced on a perch overlooking the river, the Museum of Democracy neighbours the towers and celebrates the origin and evolution of one of the most impactful inventions of mankind and our continuous struggle to build, maintain and protect the institutions that uphold it.”

Silver building that looks like a UFO
It consists of four residential and hotel towers with a park and museum at the centre. Image by Bucharest Studio

The project’s 51-storey hotel towers will reach each 615 feet high (187 metres), conjoined by a multi-story, cantilevered skybridge on their uppermost levels and clad in a warm metal finish.

The towers will house a Banyan Tree and Mohegran hotel, along with a conference and entertainment centre, which will include a below-grade “gaming area”. Renderings show a green space and terrace placed on the towers’ conjoined roof.

A birds eye view of the top of a spiraling building
The museum is spiral-shaped and will cover an amphitheatre. Image by Bucharest Studio

The project’s two residential towers, located towards the site’s southside, will reach 550 and 650 feet (167 and 198 metres) high and will contain 1,325 apartments, with nearly 40 per cent dedicated to affordable housing, according to the team.

They will be clad in striped glass and aluminium facades, with a design that pays homage to New York City’s modernist buildings from the 1950s and 60s.

A semicircular, underground podium will connect the two towers at their base and will house a food market and retail spaces. The 4.7 acre (1.9 hectare) park at the centre of the development will be laid over top of this podium.

Render of a park in NYC
The project’s central park will cover an underground food and retail market and “gaming” space. Image by Bucharest Studio

The project’s central park, which will contain a dog run, children’s play area, and bandshell, among curving pathways, was informed by the neighbouring UN headquarters.

“When Le Corbusier, Niemeyer and Harrison designed the UN Secretariat Building, they grafted an oasis of international modernism onto the dense urban grid of Manhattan, creating a park on the river framed by towers and pavilions,” said Ingels.

“With our design for Freedom Plaza, we continue to build on these architectural principles by uniting three city blocks to form a public green space reaching from 1st Avenue to the East River overlook, creating a green connection all the way to the water’s edge.”

At the centre of the park, the Museum of Freedom and Democracy consists of a spiral form informed by a Möbius strip, according to the team.  Renderings show an open-air amphitheatre enclosed at its centre, with visitors traversing pathways along its exterior.

A plaza with trees
The park will span three city blocks and create a “green connection” to the water’s edge. Image by Bucharest Studio

“The museum forms a spiralling and infinite geometry over the amphitheatre as a symbol of unity and takes cues from the traditional Greek theatre as a nod to those who created democracy thousands of years ago,” said the team in a statement.

According to the team, the project is “one of several vying for three downstate gaming licenses in and around New York City” and will aim to be a net-zero carbon development.

“We are incredibly honoured and thrilled to be part of the team that can envision a new major public space in this great city, to contribute to the iconic skyline of Manhattan’s riverfront, and to imagine the architecture of the museum celebrating one of mankind’s greatest inventions: Democracy,” said Ingels.

BIG recently revealed images of a pair of twisting skyscrapers near New York’s High Line and completed a supertall skyscraper informed by a ziggurat nearby.

The images are by Negativ unless otherwise stated.


Project credits:

BIG team:
Partners-in-charge: Bjarke Ingels, Martin Voelkle
Project manager: Andreas Buettner
Project designer: Kristian Hindsberg
Team: Ahmad Tabbakh, Alejandro Guadarrama, Alvaro Velosa, Bernardo Schuhmacher, Brendan Murphy, Cheng Zhong, Hudson Parris, Jan Klaska, Joanne Zheng, Johannes Alexander Hackl, Omer Khan, Otilia Pupezeanu, Paul Heberle, Rafael Alvarez, SangHa Jung, Sparsh Gandhi, Sung-Hwan Um, Will Chuanrui Yu, Youjin Rhee, Beat Schenk, Margaret Tyrpa

Collaborators: Adamson Associates Architects, OJB Landscape Architecture, The Friedmutter Group, HBA, Thornton Tomasetti, WSP, Langan, Rizzo-Brookbridge, Herrick Feinstein, Kilograph



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