Gallery: Axis Mundi Unveils Alternative Design for MoMA Tower

moma, jean nouvel, axis mundi, museum of modern art, new york city, modern architecture, new proposal for moma design, 53 w 53, vertical neighborhood

Jenga, anyone? This crazy kaleidoscope of architectural wonder is architect John Beckmann and his firm, Axis Mundi‘s alternative (and we mean alternative) vision of the much-discussed 53 W. 53rd site, where New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is planning its expansion. Absolutely unforgettable with its trippy design, the stacked building is an obvious homage to the technicolor treasures that would be housed within its walls. To make things even more interesting, Axis Mundi explains that its concept is a revolutionary way to express and organize tall buildings as Vertical Neighborhoods (imagine taking a row of several city blocks, ripping it out of the ground, and turning it on its side). Does this kooky new design blow famed architect Jean Nouvel‘s vision of the MoMA out of the water? You tell us.

Which design do like better?

  • 200 Votes Jean Nouvel's sleek, modern tower
  • 444 Votes Axis Mundi's pop-art vertical neighborhood
  • 52 Votes They both rock - I can't decide!

View Results

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Unlike the focused purpose buildings that most of us are used to, Axis Mundi’s MoMA Vertical neighborhood mixes and mingles museum space, offices, brownstones, apartment buildings, hotels, restaurants, shops, green spaces and clubs. This means that, in essence, a person could live on the 7th floor, work on the 20th floor, eat dinner on the 3rd floor and visit the grocery store on the 8th floor without ever leaving the building. Ultra-multi-use buildings like this are not exactly new – they are quite popular in Japan and exist in Manhattan as well – but the visual interest that Axis Mundi’s purposely bumpy, stacked iteration lends seems to defy architecture’s typical attraction towards cohesion and uniformity. After all, wouldn’t it be fun if at least one of the buildings in Midtown Manhattan could reflect the diverse energy of the city itself?

Structurally, Beckmann envisions the tower would start with a double-ring, multi-level floor-plan unit, anchored by two cores containing elevators, stairs and other vertical services. Called “SmartBlocks” the jenga-like units allow for a variety of configurations. Single-unit layouts can mix with duplex, or triplex layouts. The units can shift in and out, adding rich texture to the surface, creating vertical garden space, and linking the units in unique ways.

The staggered layers of the Axis Mundi design leave space for vertical fissures that move irregularly up the tower. These bring natural light and breezes into the open areas of the double-ring units and frame theatrical vistas of the city through the building’s own structure. Neighbors can pass and greet each other along airy bridges and balconies rather than scurry by each other in long, dark hallways.

Which do YOU prefer?

Nouvel Tower

Axis Mundi Alternative MoMA Tower

+ Axis Mundi


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  1. lkiss1 July 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    If we want to play this game then it was done much better by the likes of James Wines more then 30 years ago or even Hundertwasser. This proposal I must say is obsoletely terrible in all aspects and it would be a nightmare to live in since none of the exterior spaces could be ever used because of the high velocity winds that would be generated by the gaps.

    With the onslaught of internet information avalanche have we become so dumbed down and myopic that we have forgotten our history?

    Like Cesar Pelli is once was famously quoted saying to a student at Yale “You have to be very good to do this type of architecture … and you, you’re not very good”

  2. navitimes July 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I am in for a penthouse unit! What a perfect solution for the diversity of this city!

  3. gc July 17, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    this concept is reminds me a lot of the informal communities in developing countries where a mosaic patterns of various materials, scales, programs are congregated to become a larger whole. it is a fascinating urban phenomenon when it happens naturally. to intentionally do something like this just seems a little awkward and pretentious. i’ll understand it if the surrounding area is composed of such quality, but in manhattan? maybe it’s just me.

    personally i prefer the nouvel design, at least it’s a play of the type of urbanism that characterizes new york

  4. robert murray July 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    OMG! The new design is insane. AWESOME! Amazing images. Really seems to reflect the city.

  5. Yuka Yoneda July 17, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Obviously Jeremy. Haha.

  6. Jeremy July 17, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    This looks a whole lot like the things I used to build out of Lego when I was about fifteen… which is a good thing, obviously.

  7. cmaosrstaonndra July 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Funny, I had this very idea about a year ago of effectively stacking houses on top of one another. It seems to be a popular idea recently. I wonder how much harder the support structures have to work in these arrangements.

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