The Judges in the 2016 Engineering Excellence Awards Competition have selected The Cubes for a 2016 ACEC New York Gold Award in the category of Structural Systems.
The most dramatic retail newcomer to Midtown’s 42nd Street commercial corridor is The Cubes, located at 120 West 42nd Street between Avenue of the Americas and Broadway. Comprising three occupied floors and approximately 23,000 square feet of above-grade retail with an additional 55,200 square feet of below-grade cellar and sub-cellar retail space, The Cubes was conceived as a Jewel Box icon to flank the western edge of a privately owned public space (POPS) through-block plaza. The building’s overall design concept employs several distinct boxes shifted in relation to one another to contrast the monolithic character of adjacent 1095 Avenue of the Americas while maintaining the uniformity of its grid. The design called for the relocation of the main entrance to 1095 from the avenue to the back of the building, plaza-side, where a new double-height lobby was constructed, in addition to new retail space and subway entrance. These boldly protruding blocks produce an additional 4,300 square feet of accessible rooftop exterior space and, including an elegant fourth-floor mechanical penthouse, the entire structure tops out at 85 feet high.
The Cubes forms an engaging, light-filled space through the creative application of right angles, glass curtain walls and wide interior spans. Across the plaza, this approach is mimicked at the interior of the existing 1095 tower. From the street, the structure looks like two separate buildings, but the two sides are actually united underground.
The new ground-up development required demolition of a six-story 1970s building. The existing building was demolished to grade, but its substructure was preserved and engaged by the new superstructure. Drawings for the existing building were obscure and demanded a lot of field verification.
The challenging excavation and foundation work included digging 32 feet below street level adjacent to the operational 42nd Street MTA subway tunnel to create a foundation, with careful attention to earthwork vibration. The dig took place around existing columns which had to be temporarily supported.
Across the plaza from The Cubes stands the existing 1095 Avenue of the Americas, a 40-story steel frame office building, with four moment frames in the north-south direction. The westernmost frame (plaza-side façade) needed to be modified to accommodate the relocation of the building’s main lobby and the vertical enlargement into a 33 foot high, two-story atrium.
Having been originally initiated as a plaza restoration, the project was reconceived into a $22 million white box development (The Cubes) and $14 million reconstruction (plaza and tower), beginning construction in November 2011, which the project team delivered on budget and on time by December 2014. In January 2015, the entire property consisting of The Cubes and 1095 Avenue of the Americas tower was sold by Blackstone to Ivanhoe-Callahan Capital joint-venture for $2.2 billion, the largest transaction for a US office building since 2008.
The glass and steel structure solidifies the plaza’s prominence as an active destination by surrounding the plaza above and below grade with retail spaces. Today, The Cubes house an Equinox gym and an Asics store, which incorporates an entire NYC subway car into its retail experience.