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.

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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?

+ Axis Mundi