When it comes to portmanteaus, there are certainly cringeworthy ones (bleisure, a combination of business and leisure, for one) and some that bring comfort (Kimye, all and any Bennifers), but one that is getting some noticeable attention, thanks to design and architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is courtscraper—a combination of courtyard and skyscraper—that succinctly explains the Via 57 West residential building in New York. In late November, BIG partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann joined Fritz Hansen’s head of design Christian Andresen at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York to discuss the residential building, as well as their collaboration on the Via 57 chair, which was specifically crafted for the courtscraper.
It took six years to make Via 57 West a reality, with BIG opening an office in New York in 2010 to focus on the sustainable pyramidal-shaped building nestled near the Hudson River next to a brownfield site and a Con Edison sanitation building. “Our neighbors weren’t great to look at,” Bergmann explains, “so we internalized the look,” conceiving a building with a lush courtyard in the center that rises 467 feet to its peak on the city side, but descends on the water side so views of the Hudson River are visible from all areas of the building. It’s the perfect marriage of Copenhagen, a city of courtyards, and New York, a city of skyscrapers.
Modeled after Central Park (it’s the same proportions only smaller), the courtyard was raised from the ground floor to the second level to accommodate a retail base with the tallest corner of the building rising 44 floors. An “amenity donut” that hosts a pool, half-court basketball court, library, artwork, and poker rooms, amongst others, wraps around the second floor and opens up to the courtyard. What’s more, all units have outdoor terraces, or cockpits, that offer views of the water.
There’s something special, Bergmann says, about living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and having “the birds wake you up in the morning.” This cultivated another portmanteau, ScandAmerican, which celebrates Scandinavian design and American comfort. “Think of a La-Z-Boy that looks good,” he explains.