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Residential high-rise 56 Leonard Street

The residential high-rise tower at 56 Leonard Street designed by Herzog & de Meuron stands for private living in the urban density of New York. Despite the compromised configuration, the building offers custom floor plans, personal open spaces, exciting views, neighbourhoods, meeting places and community spaces – and, as a special sign of user autonomy, manually opened floor-to-ceiling windows.

Residential high-rise 56 Leonard Street
New York, USA
Goldstein, Hill & West Architects, LLP
Site manager:
Lend Lease
Enclos Corp.
Schüco systems:

On a 30 x 38 m site, 57 floors of apartments and shared facilities are stacked on top of one other. Despite the imposing size, the architecture is light and lively. Architects Herzog & de Meuron and developer Keyvan Kazemi of Alexico Group wanted to achieve nothing less than the urban answer to the private feeling of a family home. The design idea for the stacked and fragmented form was therefore based on developing a tower starting with its use, with the underlying premise of achieving maximum individuality. They succeeded: of the 146 apartments with floor spaces between 96 and 645 m2, only five units are the same.

The ground floor houses the lobby and retail spaces, as well as a large reflective art installation by Anish Kapoor at street level, which connects the building to the public space. Different storey heights, overhangs, projections and recesses in the first seven storeys pick up on the edges of the surrounding buildings in the urban landscape. As well as two levels of parking, these storeys contain rental apartments, a spa area with a pool, an activity room for children, a small theatre and a lounge with a meeting room, to list just a few of the residential amenities. Above the 8th floor, the layers of apartments stretch upwards. The top floors are reserved for ten penthouse apartments with ceilings up to seven metres high.

The Schüco AWS 75 BS.HI windows with the clearly discernable block profiles are an important part of the façade design; in combination with cantilevered balconies and open spaces they transfer the varying floor plans to the building envelope.

The building envelope consists of insulating glass in stainless steel profiles and floor-to-ceiling aluminium windows based on the Schüco AWS 75 BS.HI system, all in different module units from 0.90 to 1.5 m wide and 3.00 to 4.30 m high. What’s special about the Schüco windows is not just their size, it’s the fact that they can be opened manually – windows with opening vents are anything but a given in high-rise buildings. Some windows can be tilted for ventilation, others can also be fully opened by the façade cleaning team in order to clean the external façades. Fixed glazing and windows alternate to this end. The design of the rhythm of the windows is made clearly visible by the strong block profiles and, like the cubature of the building itself, is a reflection of the use.

56 Leonard Street can be understood as a counterweight to current high-rise architecture. The aim was not to be taller, narrower, exclusive and anonymous, but individual, unique and honest. The visible concrete construction and the reduced palette of just a few materials demonstrate what it’s all about: architecture that is made convincing by its usage. And that incidentally looks spectacular as well!

Text: Bettina Sigmund
Photos: Hufton + Crow, Alexander Severin

At 253 m high, the building is average height for New York. Being located in the historic Tribeca district, where only six storeys are the norm, the tower seems extremely exposed.