axis mundi unveils conceptual design for MoMA tower
axis mundi unveils conceptual design for MoMA tower axis mundi unveils conceptual design for MoMA tower
jul 16, 2009

axis mundi unveils conceptual design for MoMA tower

axis mundi unveils conceptual design for MoMA towerconceptual tower for MoMA new york by axis mundi



manhattan based firm axis mundi has unveiled a conceptual alternative design for MoMA tower. founder of the firm john beckmann sees this as the time to rethink the tall buildings that have become synonymous with new york city’s identity.

‘instead of disguising the rich potential of towers that have a mix of uses, we looked for a way to express that diversity,’ beckmann noted. the firm used parametric computer modeling software to test a wide range of possibilities. out of this iterative process they proposes a new way to organize and express tall buildings: the vertical neighborhood.


conceptual tower for MoMA new york


conceptual tower for MoMA new york


beckmann proposes a conceptual alternative to business-as-usual, choosing the site of the proposed 53w 53rd, among the city’s largest skyscraper proposals in one of the most overbuilt parts of midtown. hines, the developer, engaged paris architect jean nouvel, who designed an 82-story hotel and residential tower higher than the chrysler building. the site was purchased from the museum of modern art with the proviso that the project would house additional gallery space for the museum.


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – detail


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – street view


the architectural diversity starts with a double-ring, multi-level floor-plan unit, anchored by two cores that run the full height of the building, containing elevators, stairs and other vertical services.

the ring units called ‘smartblocks’ make possible a wide variety of floor plans. single-unit layouts can mix with duplex, or triplex layouts. the units can shift in and out, adding rich texture to the surface, creating vertical garden space, and linking the units in unique ways. the malleability of the ring units accommodates living and working, extended families, and new forms of tenancy and ownership. any grouping of these could be purposed for a hotel. the building is enriched by the multiplicity of forms and textures people create within their vertical neighborhoods.


conceptual tower for MoMA new york -bird’s eye view

by varying the mix of the floor plan units, the axis mundi design leaves space for vertical fissures that move irregularly up the tower. these bring light and breezes into the open centers of the double-ring units and frame spectacular, theatrical vistas to the city through the building’s own structure. neighbors can see and greet each other along spacious bridges and balconies rather than scurry by each other in long, dark hallways.


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – model


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – model


‘historically, the skyscraper was a unitary, homogeneous form that reflected the generic, flexible office space it contained,’ beckmann says. ‘the vertical neighborhood is more organic and more flexible–an assemblage of disparate architectural languages. it reflects an emerging reality for tall buildings as collections of domestic elements: dwellings, neighborhoods, streets.’

axis mundi has conceived the tower at a scale akin to, rather than dramatically exceeding, the heights of this very densely built-up midtown neighborhood. the richly modeled surface and the fissures of space help to reduce the structure’s apparent scale and join it more seamlessly to a neighborhood that mixes offices and residential towers, brownstones, apartment buildings, hotels, and clubs.

a dramatic through-block public arcade connects w. 53rd and w. 54th streets, offering access to new moma galleries on up to three levels above. contiguous with the museums’existing exhibit space, the galleries twine back on themselves, like a möbius strip.

above that, axis mundi sets aside a three-story-high volume that can be developed as a community gathering space. their proposal seeks to inform the discussion of it and other tall buildings.


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – site map


conceptual tower for MoMA new york – plot view


conceptual tower for MoMA new york


conceptual tower for MoMA new york


conceptual tower for MoMA new york


conceptual tower for MoMA new york



outside MoMA new york


height: approx. 600 ft
f loors: 50 above (2 below) building footprint: 17,000 square feet
 MoMA expansion galleries: 32,500 square feet

  • I have seen this concept before in SF illustrations and find it awesome.
    This should be the future of city building.
    Not the towering uniform anthills stripped from individualty. Those represent powers, this humanity.

    Rudy says:
  • wow, looks like the FAVELA TOWER (slum tower)!!!
    Dont like it…

    Mauri says:
  • SITE-specific(ally). James Wines’ SITE, that is.

    Mushi says:
  • Knock Nouvel off the block – we need our cities to rise with us, not in spite of us.

    JHood says:
  • That’s obnoxious! This concept is called vertical slums. It looks like slums in the poorest countries in the world but go up! This does not take talent. Look at any pre-schooler’s crayon drawings, it look very similar. Can you image having to look out you window and seeing that every day? If your under ten years old it might seem cool, but by the time your a freshmen in high school you should have developed some taste.

    Gary says:
  • This has noting to do with real slums or favela’s. Those are made with the poorest of materials and are random in their layout. If you look good at the MOMA tower you will recognize a plan and individual building blocks of high quality and style.
    I have seen Manhatten from a plane and my impression was a graveyard with towering tombstones, a very depressing sight.
    Just give me quality high-rise favela’s, if you do want to use that word.

    Rudy says:
  • Wonderfully ambiguous.

    Judson says:
  • This is totally inspiring. i teach tall buildings, and always advocate mixed use for towers, and make an analogy to an area of the dense city, wiht all its mixed uses, being stood on end… including the circulation routes and varied architectures. This is the closest thing to that vision, yet. and instead of being concealed behind a single glass facade, it is highly expressionful.

  • I like the idea more than the images shown. To me it’s more about people being able to point to a structure and say “that where I live.” There is also the idea that in the future, the vertical layers of the city will be traffic avenues as soon a flying or levitating cars become common.

    Andrewfm says:

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