From the twisting titanium forms of Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn to a prefabricated tower of 17 unique modules, the proposed designs for Atlantic Yards run the gamut of the architectural spectrum. On November 17, Forest City Ratner and SHoP Architects confirmed rumors that the 22-acre project will house a collection of the world’s tallest prefabricated buildings, beginning with the 32-story B2 tower nestled alongside the Barclay’s Center on Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.
SHoP chose to break down the visual mass of the building by forming three distinct stacked and set-back volumes in accordance with guidelines set out for the project by the Empire State Development Corporation. Even though the façade will be comprised of hundreds of identical pieces, Chris Sharples, principal and founder at SHoP, told AN that the tower is designed to hide its modularity. “It won’t be obvious that this is a modular building,” he said. “We looked at how to create variation in window sizes, color, and set-backs. The façade will create a tactile sense when you look at the building.” Deep reveals on each tower’s façade create dramatic shadow lines and perforated metal panels add variation.
Each module measures 13 by 30 by 10 feet and will be built from a steel chassis at an off-site facility. Up to three units make up a single room. Everything from the façade to light fixtures and even the refrigerators will be installed at the factory, accounting for about 60 percent of construction work, before the units are trucked to the site and lifted into place. “The goal is to have as much of the finish work done by the time the mods arrive on site,” said Sharples. “It’s key to have the box arrive with the skin attached.” Fabricating modules off-site could account for up to a 20 percent savings over traditional construction techniques.
Once at Atlantic Yards, modules are joined at vertical steel columns on their corners and cross-bracing installed to protect against lateral and seismic forces. Even without a traditional steel frame, Sharples said the Arup-engineered building will be just as strong as any other high-rise. “They can carry gravity down just like a regular building,” he said. “They have to follow the same rules as a poured in place or steel building.”
Construction is expected to begin in early 2012 and the building could open as soon as 18-months later.