Dutch practice MVRDV has broken ground on Radio Tower & Hotel, a 21,800-square-meter mixed-use high rise located in the Washington Heights area in northern Manhattan. The 22-storey building is MVRDV’s first major project in the United States and combines hotel, retail, and office functions in vibrantly stacked blocks. The project was designed to reflecte the vivacious character of the neighborhood and set a direction for future development.
Designed for developer Youngwoo & Associates, Radio Tower & Hotel will occupy an underutilized lot where Amsterdam Avenue meets the Washington Bridge that connects Manhattan to the Bronx. The site is just one block away from the I-95 highway, one of the major links between Manhattan and New Jersey. The distinctive massing of the building resolves the project’s main challenge of accommodating a large volume of program while remaining contextual.
Radio Tower & Hotel takes the typical composition of a small block in Washington Heights, pulls it apart and then reassembles it into an asymmetrical stack of boxes with openings and roof terraces. These boxes are designed to appear like separate buildings: each is roughly the same size as others in the neighborhood and features its own specific window pattern inspired by the nearby buildings. The boxes also take inspiration from the vibrant colors of the shopfronts in the majority-Hispanic neighborhood, with each part of the building being finished in a different color of ceramic bricks. Combined, the elements of the building’s external appearance form a condensation of the characteristics of Washington Heights’ existing urban fabric.
“Radio Tower & Hotel, located at the thinnest part of Manhattan Island between the Hudson and the Harlem River, is a colorful new building which will strengthen an already wonderfully mixed and vibrant neighborhood”, explains Winy Maas, principal and co-founder of MVRDV. “The building forms a ‘vertical village’ with blocks that are the same size as the surrounding buildings, thus avoiding the common drawback of large developments in which new skyscrapers overwhelm the existing character of the city. It will be a colorful, welcoming beacon for people entering Manhattan.”
Inside, Radio Tower & Hotel provides an answer to the area’s need for a diverse range of hotel rooms, work spaces, event spaces and retail units. Washington Heights is the 5th largest neighborhood in New York with a population of over 150,000 people, but it is currently served by just two 50-room hotels. The Hotel will therefore be an important hub for those traveling for conferences hosted by the Yeshiva University and the New York Presbyterian Hospital, both of which are located nearby. Meanwhile, the event space located in the building’s blue volume will add a facility that did not previously exist in the neighborhood, offering locals a space to host weddings and other parties with spectacular views from the adjacent rooftop terrace.
At the ground floor, functions are positioned to support an active street level and are well connected to the retail of 181st Street and bustling Amsterdam Avenue. The hotel entry leads to a ground level courtyard space open to both users of the building and residents of the neighborhood, which will include a coffee bar and a community garden for use by the locals. Several roof terraces provide space for outdoor events and boast views of Washington Heights, Manhattan, and beyond. Washington Heights is an area that is already going through significant development, and is likely to see even more dramatic changes in the near future. As one of the neighborhood’s most significant developments to date, Radio Tower & Hotel attempts to show how such changes can respect and enhance the existing character of the area.
MVRDV is collaborating with executive architect Stonehill & Taylor and a team of experts including Workshop APD for interiors, Cosentini Associates for building systems, GACE for structural consultation, CANY Technical Services for façade engineering and Filament Hospitality. The planned completion date for the building is in 2021.