15 Union Square West had long been a landmark in peril. It’s first inception in 1870 as the original home of Tiffany & Company instantly established a legacy of luxury for the building and its location. However, less than a 100 years later the building had fallen into dangerous disrepair, with an infamous cornice displacement and falling debris leading to a pedestrian killing, sealing the building’s fate in 1952. Having been stripped of its splendor, Eran Chen was handed little more than a white box by its new owners in 2006. The challenge was not only to turn this commercial space into a desirable residential building, but to create a new landmark that would again attract New York’s most affluent clientele.

ODA studied the original plans of architect John Kellum’s iconic 19th Century design. Further investigation revealed the stanchions and other original cast iron elements still existed under the worn white brick.
Although the original design was heavy and ornate, ODA wanted to create something modern but also contextual, that would create transparency to the park. Realizing that a glass building would conflict with the context of Union Square, ODA reached the unique conclusion to keep the existing structure and layer on a glass façade to create a framed jewel box with one-of-a-kind detailing and park views. A new façade of glass and black anodized aluminum was designed to wrap the visible bones of the building. An additional six stories of glass residences were built on top. And through a complex system of simple cantilevers and shifted floorplates ODA created 36 airy residences, each with a unique view of Union Square Park. ODA’s interiors department created spacious duplexes with stainless steel staircases, expansive white walls, 20-foot ceilings and 17-foot-tall Austrian windows. In addition, because the cast iron arches are part of the apartments themselves, it allowed some leeway around the zoning regulations and limitations. The complexities of the project ultimately boiled down to a simple design solution that was more sustainable, safer and more profitable for our client.

The building was one of ODA’s first projects, and an opportunity to showcase their skills of problem solving, placemaking and out of the box approach. In a community that was slow to adopt quality modern architecture, 15 USW quickly became one of Brack Capital’s most profitable investments and a new benchmark for the neighborhood.

Location: 15 Union Square West, Manhattan, NY, USA

Client: Brack Capital

Size: 62000 SF

Team: Eran Chen, P. Christian Bailey, Ryoko Okada, Sunggu Lee, Dongyoung Kim