|(E) Croatian Engineers build NYC Hotel
|By Nenad N. Bach |
(E) Croatian Engineers build NYC Hotel
From today's NY Times. John Kraljic
February 6, 2002
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
Designed to Stand Out in a Crowd
By JOHN HOLUSHA
The builders and operators of the new Westin Hotel, which is scheduled
to open this November at Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street in Manhattan,
wanted to draw attention to the building. So they commissioned the Miami
firm of Arquitectonica to design a building that would cry look at me
even over the profusion of brightly lighted signs in Times Square.
The firm responded with a design for a 45-story tower enclosed in
multicolored glass and split top to bottom by a curving beam of light
that appears to burst into the sky.
The eye catching facade design presented difficult engineering problems
for Tishman Realty and Construction, the developer and owner of the $300
million 860-room hotel. It will be operated by Starwood Hotels and
Resorts, the real estate investment trust that owns the Westin, W and
In most modern construction, the outer walls bear no weight and are
simply attached to the steel or reinforced concrete structure of the
building. These curtain walls are there to keep the heat and
air-conditioning in and the weather out. They also establish the look of
Because of the curves on the north and south facades and the selection
of multiple colors of glass, very few of the aluminum-encased glass
panels are alike, complicating both the manufacture of the facade and
its installation. "In a typical building you will have about 50
different types of panels," said David Horowitz, a Tishman vice
president who is overseeing construction of the hotel. "Here we had
1,200 to 1,300 unique panel types."
The facade of the Westin hotel being built at 43rd Street and Eighth
Avenue poses special engineering problems.
To handle the project, which is now nearing completion, Tishman
assembled a multinational group of designers and fabricators to come up
with a skin for the building that met the architect's design
requirements and could still keep out the wind and the rain of the worst
storm that would be likely in a century.
Beginning in early 1998, Viracon, a glass manufacturer based in
Owatonna, Minn., sent dozens of samples of glass to Arquitectonica,
which selected 10 base colors: copper, gold, bronze, orange, white,
silver, violet, green, blue and aqua. Viracon would ultimately produce
8,000 glass sheets in those colors, and in clear glass panels, for the
184,000-square-foot outer wall of the hotel. Then, as usual, the
architects turned their conceptual designs over to an engineering
company to figure out how to build the panels.
The company selected was Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, a company
in Northern Italy with an assembly plant in Windsor, Conn. The outer
frames of the panels were designed to hold a clear inner pane of glass
and a colored outer one separated by five-eighths of an inch of air
space for insulation.Once the design was completed and approved, the
frames were formed by extrusion, in which aluminum alloy is driven
through a die with great force to form the desired shape.
Because of the complexity of the project, each piece of the facade,
including the glass, was marked with a bar code to help workers with
Once formed, the frame pieces were sent to a painting specialist in the
Netherlands to receive a highly durable coating of sliver or copper
color, depending on its position in the facade. (The project was
actually even more international than it appears, Mr. Horowitz said -
the engineering team was mostly Croatian.)
Once formed, painted and cut to length and machined, the parts were
crated and shipped to the plant in Windsor where they were assembled
into panels and the glass installed. Most of the panels are about 5 feet
wide but the height ranges from 9 to 18 feet, depending on the floor
where they are to be installed.
Attaching the panels to the concrete structure of the building involved
advanced planning. Before pouring each floor, crews embedded U-shaped
metal channels that will be held in place by the hardened concrete.
Metal anchor plates are bolted to the channels and then the panels are
set onto clips attached to the anchor plates.
Permasteelisa's crews began installing the facade in mid-May last year
and reached the 45th floor by December. Installation of levels above the
45th floor is expected to take several months longer because of the
difficult logistics of lifting the panels from the 45th floor to higher
levels of the building.
The elaborate facade is limited to the tower part of the project. The
low-rise part of the hotel, which is above Tishman's existing E Walk
entertainment, retail and restaurant complex on 42nd Street, will have
metal facade panels that will present a smooth aluminum face to the
exterior, interrupted by square windows.
This lower part of the building runs from the 5th floor to the 17th
floor of the main building along Eighth Avenue. It was originally
designed to be operated by a separate company and to be aimed at leisure
travelers and families, as distinct from the business travelers more
typical of Westin's guests, but it is now fully integrated with the
hotel. There will be internal access from the 200,000-square-foot E Walk
complex to the hotel - officially the Westin New York at Times Square.
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