Last week, the Bjarke Ingel Group (BIG) celebrated the opening of its new office in the Starrett-Lehigh Building at 601 West 26th Street. Sharing digs with the likes of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, BIG is now settled in and working hard on their North American projects, most notably the West 57th residential project for Durst Fetner Residential, which specializes in high-profile New York real estate. Last February, BIG unveiled plans for the unconventional high-rise apartment building and spent some time answering questions at a community board meeting. Overall, the reaction was positive, although the community board had concerns over what kind of retail would be allowed with preferences towards local and smaller businesses. The board also requested more green spaces be open to the public.
The 600-unit complex, which will include a number of affordable housing units, is expected to create an important bridge between the neighborhood and the waterfront. Retail, businesses, a cultural space, and a grocery store will line the storefronts of the bottom floor, and then residential apartments will rise up and back away from the waterfront. This pyramid-like volume was specifically designed for the site to protect the residences against a neighboring garbage dump truck garage, preserve views from surrounding buildings, but still give the new residences access to views and daylighting. Each apartment enjoys a south-facing terrace and access to the large private courtyard in the center. Although now an empty lot, the residential rental tower is expected to begin construction sometime in 2012 with an completion date in 2015.