VIA 57 WEST and a Walk on the Far West Side

Walk out of the subway station at Columbus Circle onto W. 57th Street, look way down the street toward the west, and you should see a tall pyramid-like structure rising high on the horizon. A residential building by the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for New York developer Douglas Durst, VIΛ 57 WEST is one of the most novel structures built in the city in recent years. Once identified, walking over to the building is practically irresistible, unless of course you have pressing business elsewhere.

View of VIΛ 57 WEST from several blocks away on W. 57th Street

From the street, VIΛ 57 WEST makes for an excellent giant sculpture. From 57th Street, the 709 residential units taper up to the sky in an accordion manner. The muted cool tones of the windows blend well with the sky over the Hudson River. At the middle of the building, best seen from the Hudson River Greenway on the west side, a courtyard garden opens the building to the western sky.

View of VIΛ 57 WEST from street below

Developer Durst met architect Ingels several years ago while traveling to Denmark with his Danish wife and eventually invited the architect to design this project in New York. (Wikipedia) Ingels, born 1974 in Copenhagen, had built a reputation for innovative large apartment buildings, modular LEGO-like constructions, and sustainable practices. He spent a few years in his early career working with Rem Koolhaas (OMA) in Rotterdam.

Curbside view of VIΛ 57 WEST

Back in 2007, I happened upon an exhibit of Ingels’ work at the Storefront for Art and Architecture on Kenmare Street and wrote a few words about his modular buildings on this site. I wrote, “Based on these projects and the playful and thoughtful risk-taking behind them, I'd like to see developers invite BIG to New York and take on some monumental tasks here."

VIΛ 57 WEST from the Hudson River Greenway

And so we have it. VIΛ 57 WEST looks like it was fun to build, like the LEGO constructions that inspired his earlier work. Although it’s hard to see from the street, the building is quite airy, with light filtering in the windows on all sides. The best views may be aerial, as pictured on the building's official website, or by boat. In fact, the building looks like a giant sailboat docked on the Hudson River. Apartment residents can boast of waterfront views of the river’s famous sunset, and the nearby greenway affords nearby opportunities for outdoor recreation.

VIΛ 57 WEST from the Hudson River Greenway.
The New York Department of Sanitation garage to the right does a fair job holding its own design-wise.

While their building is spectacular, residents are pretty much all by themselves over here, at least for now. They live in a sort of triangular “bubble,” if that makes any sense. While a few large apartment complexes and office buildings are nearby, the neighborhood as a place to live is not well established. There’s very little street life at the present time. The waterfront neighborhood is filled with luxury car dealerships, rather antithetical to streetwise pleasures. Walking from the river back toward the busy streets and human-scale dwellings of Hell’s Kitchen feels like a big relief.

The map points out additional recommended stops in the area.


Images by Walking Off the Big Apple

Website for VIΛ 57 WEST

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