Repositioning a 20th-Century Icon for the 21st-Century Workplace: 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York City
Session: Track F: Best Tall Building Award By Function: Residential/Hotel, Part 2 & Renovation Award
Executive Vice President, Core Holdings, Rockefeller Group
New York City
Associate Partner, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
New York City
The renovation of 1271 Avenue of the Americas, the former Time-Life Building, comprised five interdependent and parallel projects: façade replacement; lobby restoration and upgrade; plaza improvement; elevator modernization; and significant MEP system upgrades. Incorporating low-E glazing and thermal breaks, the new cladding provides 50 percent more vision area, while retaining the essential proportions of the original façade. Upgrades in the landmarked lobby involved selective replacement and restoration of the original materials and creation of a multitenant lobby.
Improvements to the storefront enhanced the relationship of the building to the plaza. The repositioning extended to the surrounding plaza, where a new gathering space re-centers activity. A recreated public passageway directly connects to 51st Street, providing additional retail frontage. The most significant urban design gesture is a new, iconic canopy marking the northern edge of the precinct defined by the XYZ Building plazas, reinforcing the identity of the Rockefeller Center West district. The existing elevators underwent aesthetic and systems upgrades, with the architecture of the new elevator cab interiors taking its inspiration from the building’s historic 50th Street canopies. And MEP system changes included revised perimeter heating and cooling systems and upgrades to life safety systems.
By preserving the structure, the project offsets the embodied carbon and environmental impact of tearing it down and building a new tower in its place. The entire superstructure—steel encased in concrete fireproofing—was reused. Most of the original stone and stainless steel in the lobby was also retained and restored. Envelope modifications yield an energy savings of 41 percent over the existing building, which suffered from single glazing, lack of insulation at the spandrel, and lack of thermal isolation.