432 Park Avenue: Rafael Viñoly’s Square-Shaped Residential Skyscraper in New York

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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In 2009, the real estate market in North America was at the home stretch of crumbling from a financial crisis. A small private equity firm known as CIM and based in Los Angeles came in at this time with a lot of money to spend. Harry Macklowe, a well-decorated and respected real estate personality was among the realtors affected adversely by the economic crisis prior. In 2011, the economy had begun to recover but by this time CIM’s money was already splashed everywhere in the real estate market to real estate companies that needed to be saved from totally crumbling during the economic meltdown. Harry Macklowe was one of the recipients of the funding, where a lot of his projects received funding and adopted CIM as partners. That partnership gave birth to 432 Park Avenue, the third tallest building in North America. The mastermind of the design and planning was architect Rafael Viñoly.

432 Park Avenue is 426 metres high, the tallest building in New York. The Empire State Building is 45 metres shorter, while the World Financial Centre minus its spire comes short with an 8.5-metre difference. The square tower accommodates 37,000 square metres of space, and yet it houses only 104 residential units. Its magnitude ensures that you can’t miss it wherever you are around New York. In fact, it has totally owned the Manhattan Skyline, and yet it’s only accessible to the global super-wealthy.

The penthouse at the top floor was sold for a staggering $95 million. It’s a no wonder architect Rafael Viñoly said:

There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing.

While the architect claimed that inspiration for the skyscraper had come from several sources, he also agreed that designer Josef Hoffmann’s metal basket was a huge inspiration. Looking at the building and the basket side by side, it’s easy to see the resemblance between the 1905 trash can and the building’s grid-like facades.

The intention of the architect to show the extraordinary qualities of Manhattan’s grid was a huge driver of the design that led to a slender, un-encumbered volume which rises 426 metres above the ground to mark the city’s geometric centre.

Initially, it was expected to have upto 140 units, and while the architects designed for 129 units, information from Fortune magazine showed that the number had been brought down closer to 100, with a total of 104 units being accommodated. The building’s middle and upper level consists of residential units. Common spaces are distributed at the lowest levels.

Located at the intersection of Park Avenue and East 57th Street, 432 Park Avenue is comprised of a regular grid of exposed concrete members that create an open basket within which seven “independent buildings” stack up. These “independent buildings” are separated by spaces within which the building cores are exposed to the outdoor elements. By creating such breaks, the skyscraper is able to achieve structural stability, especially because of its 1:15 slenderness ratio.

Above 61 metres, 54 residential floors housing more than 100 units enjoy astonishing panoramic views of New York and the greater Manhattan. While some floors contain expansive units taking up the whole 802 square metres available per floor, the capacity for each floor is from one to four residential units. A 3.8-metre floor-to-ceiling height characterizes all the units, with each space free from any structural elements while allowing for future redesigning per unit if needed.

The lowest levels house amenities for the residents and staff accommodations. The amenities include conference facilities such as meeting and screening rooms, a fully equipped private restaurant opening to a garden terrace overlooking 57th Street, a health and spa which has a fitness centre and a swimming pool and independent storage spaces, wine cellars and a sub-grade parking garage. A semi-private porte-cochére defines the entrance to a discreet residential lobby where residents then ascend to their various units.

With the penthouse already purchased for such a staggering amount of money, it’s clear that the Middle Eastern oil magnates, Chinese billionaires, Russian oligarchs, and the Latin American aristocracy all have one thing in common: a lot of money. With such a commodity on their hands, more skyscrapers will continue to crop up and while we are not used to skyscrapers built for owning, this 432 Park Avenue is an excellent square located in the appropriate city with more millionaires than any other city in the world.

If you've been captivated by the architectural brilliance displayed in this project, there's no doubt that you'll be eager to check out Al Noor Tower by Valode & Pistre and the “spatially-flexible” tower with a twisting “hourglass figure.

Project Information
Architects: Rafael Viñoly Architects
Interior Designers: Deborah Berke Partners
Location: New York, USA
GFA: 37,000 square metres
Photography: Rafael Viñoly, CIM Group & Macklowe Properties

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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