CetraRuddy updates the art deco facade of a NoMad skyscraper

Architect: CetraRuddy
Place: New York, New York
Opening: October 2021

Rose Hill, CetraRuddy’s contemporary take on the Gothic Revival skyscrapers, joins the rows of luxury towers in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. Like many residential projects in the city, construction continued during the pandemic, with the building opening at 30 East 29th Street last October. Rising over 600 feet in height, Rose Hill makes a statement with its center block height—usually reserved for buildings along the avenues according to city zoning. In collaboration with the client, the Rockefeller Group, CetraRuddy sought to design a building that reflected the Rockefeller Group’s impact on New York architecture, without attempting to create a facsimile of a bygone era.

The building is home to 123 apartments, totaling approximately 230,000 square feet of interior space, including amenities. Common areas include a lobby, underground swimming pool, squash court, gym, meeting room on the 37th floor and a spacious terrace – accessible to all residents. The pool almost imitates the feel of a bathhouse, with green tiled walls, a curved ceiling and tile mural, while the lobby is designed to resemble that of a hotel.

The lobby is designed as a space for social interaction. (Evan Joseph)

CetraRuddy founder John Cetra and Rockefeller Group senior managing director Meg Brod said: A that the intent behind the lobby was to create a space that would be more social. Rather than simply serving as a point of circularity, as many New York apartment lobbies do, the lobby’s wood-clad walls and seating create a more inviting environment. The large mural in the lobby, painted by Matthew Cole, is a nod to the iconic lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. A secondary room at the back of the lobby, suitable for small gatherings, leads to the backyard, where the height and facade of the building loom large.

view of a skyscraper in Manhattan
Taking advantage of its rare height for a tower in the center of the block, the facade’s metal grid defines it from a distance. (David Sunberg)

The perimeter of the western face of the building is consistently receding, while the perimeter of the eastern face is interrupted by a cantilever, allowed by the purchase of air rights from the adjacent lot. The narrowness of the facade – largely due to the floor slab of approximately 4,500 square meters – is cemented by the construction of steep walls on the sides of the building, with three bays in the middle. This design and construction eliminated the need for a damper and allows for the cantilever, which adds extra interior and balcony space on a narrow lot.

The facade was constructed as a rectilinear series of bronze-colored metal panels and glazing, rising in a blocky iteration of the “wedding cake” style of setbacks guided by the city’s zoning laws. However, the facade at the base of the building is more like the Art Deco style of adversity that partially inspired CetraRuddy’s design. As Cetra explained, the proportionality of the building was crucial, especially when viewed from the outside. Vertically up the facade, the lobby is followed by a screen of zigzag detail, covering the mechanical, electrical and plumbing components of the building. Upstairs is a level of balconies connecting to their adjacent apartments, marking the first level of setbacks.

view of a skyscraper in Manhattan
The whimsical upper floors of Rose Hill make the facade stand out in NoMad. (David Sunberg)

As Cetra explained, the building is not a “replica” of an age-old building, but instead responds to context and location and is inspired by Manhattan’s age-old skyscraper design. The fact that the facade’s initial scaling back is easily discernible from a pedestrian perspective, rather than taking up tens of floors as is the case with many other skyscrapers in the city, makes the facade – and the height of the building – more readable from the street. Cetra described Rose Hill as a “statement to the street.”

The metal panels that run the entire height of the building provide consistency to the facade, with the chevron reliefs lit from below standing out from street level. The chevron is another nod to Art Deco design and was crafted by a metal press that bent the relief into place. Cetra told A that although terracotta and other contemporary materials were considered for the facade, cost and load considerations led to the choice of metal panels. Where metal panels can otherwise give a facade a pronounced flatness, the raised chevrons give depth to the facade. Corrugated metal enclosing the facade neatly trims the building every four floors, creating a grid with the paneled columns. Cetra described the bands as “protruding”, adding to the variation in depth of the facade materials palette.

detail of a metal facade
The metal panels give a depth to the facade that can be distinguished up close and from a distance. (David Sunberg)

The design team chose a non-tempered double-glazed window, with a clear outer pane and a tinted inner pane, balancing the view with energy considerations. CetraRuddy’s environmental modeling focused on factors such as heat gain, optimizing the placement of the glass on the facade. Subtle, yet visible, color changes in the glass are the result of the modelling. Since CetraRuddy also designed the interior, the windows were able to adequately account for energy needs while still fitting into the interior design, resulting in a more holistic design process for Rose Hill. There is an 18-inch window sill extending from the floor of each unit, rather than the floor-to-ceiling glass that can be popular in more expensive residential design. Cetra described this move as establishing a “human scale” in the interior. Seen from the outside, the glazing adds to the verticality of the rest of the facade design. The chevron pattern of the facade is repeated in carpets and bathroom tiles, creating a visual continuity between the facade and the interior spaces. As Cetra told Athe parts of the building may be simple, “in a sense … but take advantage of the material.”

Project specifications

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