The Porter House

New York, N.Y.
August 11, 2010

At first glance, the condo tower rising 10 stories above Manhattan's trendy meatpacking district may look more like Darth Vader's pied-à-terre than New York's latest luxury condo development.

A black monolith sits atop a 100-year-old cast-iron warehouse to form the 22-unit Porter House. At night, dozens of slim, vertical light boxes scattered throughout its zinc-clad exterior provide an eerie glow above the hustle and bustle of Ninth Avenue.

The 13-month project involved the renovation of the existing six-story masonry structure and the addition of the four-story box. The addition cantilevers eight feet on the south façade, adding precious square footage to the living spaces and adding to its dramatic impact.

The adventurous design is a response to the developer's desire to create high-end boutique dwellings to attract the city's elite. Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon and Brazilian fashion designer Carlos Miele are among those who doled out millions to call Porter House home. (Prices range from $735,000 for one-bedroom units to $4.15 million for the penthouse.)

"Our team had one desire: to produce what has not been done before," said Gregg Pasquarelli, partner with SHoP, New York, design architect for the 45,000-sf condo building, which is named after the popular cut of steak as a nostalgic link to the historic district.

The judges commended the Building Team for its creative solutions to complex structural and construction challenges posed by the unusual design scheme. "They definitely pushed the envelope," said judge Arnis Kakulis, AIA, principal with OWP/P Architects, Chicago.

Accommodating the weight of the steel-framed addition required extensive foundation work and structural enhancement of the existing structure. Structural engineer Buro Happold, New York, devised a plan that involved temporarily shoring the structure and then swapping the core cast-iron columns with new steel members.

"We literally weaved a new structural frame into a 98-year-old building," said Kenneth Smuts, VP with construction manager Jeffrey M. Brown Associates, Huntingdon, Pa.

After construction commenced, however, the building began to quickly lose its structural integrity. "Because we were dealing with 22-inch-thick walls and wooden beams, the amount of support needed for the building could not be determined during the early planning stages," says Smuts.

The solution involved inserting 27 piles 70 feet down into bedrock to provide compression support for the structure. Site constraints prohibited the use of cranes near the building. Instead, Bethel General Contracting had to utilize pulleys and manpower to install piles and steel supports.

Once work on the base building was complete, the team erected more than 800 tons of steel to frame the addition. The structure includes a tie-back system to accommodate the cantilever.

         
 

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