By Austin Crowley & Matthew Coulombe
The AT&T Long Lines building in New York City presents itself as an ideal site on which to build upwards. The tower was completed in 1989 and used to serve as a telephone exchange and wire center. Due to the heavy equipment, the floors are unusually strong, designed to carry 200-300 pounds per square foot. Aside from its remarkable bearing capacity, the building is also windowless to maintain security, only receiving fresh air through a series of large protrusions. The building is actually considered one of the most secure buildings in the country and is said to be able to withstand a nuclear blast.
Based on these unique conditions, LONG LINES was devised as a plan to utilize the lightweight nature of wood-framed construction to build not only on top of the existing data center’s roof, but also sprawl down its windowless facades. In between protrusions on the facades, single-loaded units anchor themselves to the tower to maximize density where none had previously been considered. Laminated Veneer Lumber members make up the support system for LONG LINES, tying into the existing building’s steel and concrete structural system. The product of this strategy is a union of two very different structures that, on one hand, offers a greater residential density and valuable amenity space, and on the other, removes itself from public activity all together.
This tension between the two is also reflected in each of their respective finishes. The brutalist existing structure is clad relentlessly with granite faces, while the proposed tower is glazed from head to toe with the exception of a series of expansive reveals finished almost entirely with wood to expose the structural system. As these public voids create spacious gathering points for the residents, they also double in function as large structural breaks in the tower to transfer heaving loads back to the structure of the existing Long Lines building.
LONG LINES developed into a study less about the simple addition of wood-framed condos atop some neglected building, and more about the to relationship between two buildings that are polar opposites in almost every way. The moment where this tension becomes most evident is where the two meet. The roof of the existing data center is partially transformed to become a new lobby and gathering space for the proposed structure above. Four of the ventilation protrusions on the uppermost point of the AT&T building are gutted to reveal granite-clad frames with views across the city skyline. With just over 65 floors, LONG LINES provides a unique solution to housing shortages in cities. We may have run out of empty ground lots in dense urban areas, but we can now begin to think about how to utilize blank facades and roofs as viable build-able areas.