Leading architects—Tadao Ando, Herzog & de Meuron, Foster + Partners—are shunning steel and glass and bringing new meaning to the term "concrete jungle"
In New York City, many top architects have found inspiration for luxury in a rather humble material: concrete. Several projects popping up on the island have made cement the focus of their façades. It turns out the structural skeleton of a building holds significant visual inspiration—what’s usually reserved for strength and support, hidden behind cladding, is having a moment in the spotlight. The material has proved adept at blending in yet standing out from Manhattan’s architectural landscape, and is flexible enough for significant customization—a hot commodity for developers in the city's luxury real estate market.
A hand-poured concrete staircase at 56 Leonard Street in TriBeCa.
Photo: Courtesy 56 Leonard
Architects and developers embracing concrete are distancing their projects from a conventional luxury development building—tall, sleek, and glass. Tadao Ando, the Pritzker Prize–winning architect, is perhaps best known for his works in concrete. His first building in New York, 152 Elizabeth Street, is no exception. Situated on a busting corner in Lower Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, pale concrete walls—meticulously smoothed—surround glass windows and iron I-beams. Ando has described these media as “20th-century materials” and believes that together they achieve a structure’s ultimate goal: balance. “The concrete component is a critical part of the aesthetic,” says Amit Khurana, cofounder of Sumaida + Khurana, the developer of 152 Elizabeth. “And that’s really where you get the richness and duality—by bringing some of the concrete inside.”
Walking into the lobby of 152 Elizabeth.
Photo: Courtesy 152 Elizabeth
The building’s spare, concrete-clad lobby, complete with a fountain, is designed to transport visitors from the busy city streets to a calming Zen space, which Khurana describes as an “urban sanctuary.” For this welcome departure from a typical luxury development lobby (often an over-the-top display of glitz), the team went minimal, trusting that the concrete could do the talking. Inside the units, columns of the same raw concrete are on display in the living areas