With the design of the Hearst Tower, Foster creates a fun and intriguing interplay between modern architecture and a historical building. He made spectacular use of light and space, creating a gleaming glass tower atop the building’s original stone base, designed by Joseph Urban. Construction on the original Hearst building began back in 1926, and the six-story structure was completed in 1928. It was always the intention that a tower would rise from the structure, but because of the Great Depression and World War II, it never got built. The building was landmarked in 1988, but the addition of the current 46-story tower was approved because the building’s original plans called for a tower. Foster gutted the interior of the old building to create a soaring six-story atrium while maintaining the historic facade. Nearly 85 percent of the removed materials were recycled for future use.
The green stats and features of the building are impressive, to say the least. It consumes 26 percent less energy than a traditionally built structure, and there is a rainwater collection system on the roof, which annually diverts 1.7 million gallons of water from becoming runoff waste. The lighting is controlled by sensors, automatically adjusting to the amount of daylight. A whopping 90 percent of the structural steel used in the tower is recycled, and the diagonal-grid structural design improves efficiency. Instead of the traditional vertical steel beams on that you see on the exteriors of skyscrapers, the Hearst Tower uses four-story triangular frames. This eliminated the need for about 2,000 tons of additional steel, and kept the interior spaces open and light-filled.
When you enter the building, you’re welcomed by the calming sound of cascading water, courtesy of Icefall, a 3-story installation that flows beside the escalators. Not only does the display make for a gorgeous lobby, but it helps to cool the space in the summer and humidify the air in the winter. The circulating water is filter rainwater from the rooftop cachement system. “It’s sort of a zen moment when you walk in the door on Monday morning,” said our tour guide. “You feel like, ‘Ugh, I have to go to work,’ then you come in and it’s very calming and peaceful.”
At the top of the escalators, you’re greeted by “Riverlines,” another beautiful piece of green art. The 70-foot fresco, created by environmental artist Richard Long, features columns of swirling taupe handprints made with mud from the Hudson River, as well as the Avon River in England, Long’s homeland. (It reminded Kestrel of the finger pudding paintings she made as a kid!)
The floor plans of the offices, home to all Hearst magazines, suffer from the seated cubicle-farm arrangement — at Inhabitat, we love our standing desks! — but they do have ample amounts of daylight. An open floor plan and wrap-around windows allow every desk to have access to natural light. Low-vapor paint was used on the walls and all office furniture is formaldehyde free. The floors and ceiling tiles are made with recycled materials.
The 29th Floor of the Hearst Tower is home to the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, where Good Housekeeping magazine evaluates thousands of products every year. Chemists, scientists, engineers, and a slew of other professionals don their white coats to diligently test everything from face cream and packaged snacks to car seats and vacuum cleaners to see which ones are worthy of the Good Housekeeping Seal. In fact, the labs are home to one of only two vacuum cleaner testing machines in the entire world. There’s also the test kitchen, where professional chefs spend their days whipping up new recipes for the magazine and cookbooks, like Simple Vegan (yes readers, we were cheering inside when we spotted a vegan cookbook in the window of the Good Housekeeping kitchen.) Thanks to an open design and glass walls, visitors can watch all the testing take place.
One of the most impressive spaces in the Hearst Tower is the events space on the 44th floor. The enormous floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of midtown and downtown Manhattan. The design shows off the building’s triangular steel framework, and the movable walls allow for a flexible space that can accommodate everything from an evening cocktail party to in-house conferences.
The building’s green features even extend to the employee eating area, Cafe57 in the atrium. The 380-seat cafe offers a local, organic menu that changes daily, plus an organic salad bar. The day Inhabitat toured, the specials were Moroccan-theme, and everything smelled delicious. All of the food is cooked on site, and there is always a vegan option. A variety of healthy grab-and-go snacks, like protein bars, all-natural granola, and fruit, are also offered.
Hearst has become a sustainability leader in the publishing industry, not only thanks to its green building, but also the programs that the corporation implements. In 2004, Hearst founded the Hearst Sustainable Forest Initiative to encourage its paper suppliers to improve the sustainability of the fiber they use. Five years after starting the initiative, Hearst’s percentage of paper made with certified fiber had risen from 38 to 75 percent.
From the peaceful lobby to the light-filled offices, the Hearst Tower makes for a beautiful and encouraging work place. If all office buildings were built with the same eco-friendly elements and open design, employee productivity would soar. And if we could just get standing desks to be more widely accepted, all offices would be Inhabitat-approved!
All images © Jill Fehrenbacher