Hacking New York's luxurious 432 Park Avenue tower to create more urban diversity

byMark Minkjan

published on 5/1/2016

Four young Chinese architects transform Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park Avenue from an icon of luxury into a manifesto of human ecology.

A horizontally floating skyscraper with parasitic structures popping out from its sides. It is one of the eye-catchers at the 2015 Shenzhen Biennale for Urbanism and Architecture. And it is not just a dreamy design. Instead, it is a critical reinterpretation of the luxury skyscraper, questioning the increasing exclusivity of global cities.

The design is named “Political City Icon – 432 Village” and was conceived by XON Studio, which consists of four young New York-based Chinese architects. Basically, with the design they hacked the skyscraper 432 Park Avenue, which is “the tallest residential tower in the western hemisphere” and was designed by Rafael Viñoly. It was recently completed. Its top penthouse is going at $95 million.

Dihua Yan from XON Studio explains: “we wanted to transform 432 Park Avenue from an icon of luxury into a manifesto of human ecology.” The designers see the luxurious vaults in the sky as speculative outcomes of contemporary urbanism, characterised by consumption, global power networks and displacement. Allegedly (and ironically), Viñoly’s design of the skyscraper was inspired by a trash can. 

XON Studio proposes an alternative to physically and socially hierarchical urban space of which 432 Park Avenue is a striking example.

Drawing of part of XON Studio's 432 Village. Click image for the drawing of the full building.

Their design, in opposition to the real-world 432 Park Avenue, promotes social diversity, inclusive development and ecologically healthy urbanism, all combined in an ingenious way. 432 Village provides space for various lifestyles, communal functions and natural dynamics: “It is a totally opposite understanding of domesticity compared to what happens in 432 Park Avenue. It requires residents to live locally and build a strong connection with the neighbourhood, the community and the bio-region.”

Detail of XON Studio's installation at the Shenzhen UABB

Dihua Yan: “The reason we wanted to display this project to the public was not to show a simple solution for the ‘anti-nature’ urbanization like New York and Shenzhen. But we wanted to tell people there is possibility that we can bring ‘permaculture’ into the city and construct a sustainable relation between people and nature or as we call it a ‘second nature’, which is the city.”

If more design proposals like these would pop up, a general awareness could grow that our urban spaces need to be inclusive, diverse and healthy in order to thrive.

XON Studio’s “Political City Icon – 432 Village”, just as the Social City exhibition, can be seen at the Shenzhen UABB until March 1, 2016.


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