By DAVID W. DUNLAP, August 24, 2008, NYT
With all the talk about what has not been built around ground zero, little attention is paid to what has: a 43-story investment bank headquarters where 11,000 people will be working next year.
That suits Goldman Sachs fine.
Famously averse to publicity, Goldman has said almost nothing about the $2.4 billion headquarters it is building in Battery Park City, cater-corner from the new 1 World Trade Center tower, since the project was announced three years ago. Though the firm will fill the tower from top to bottom, including six vast trading floors, its name will appear nowhere on the building, which will simply be called 200 West Street.
Only by accident has the building been in the news at all. In December, seven tons of metal studs fell as they were being hoisted by a crane.
Robert Woo, an architect with Adamson Associates International, one of the firms involved with the project, was seriously injured. He remains paralyzed from the waist down. In May, a piece of steel fell 18 stories onto a nearby ball field. No one was hurt.
Now that the steel framework has reached its full 739-foot height and the building has become an undeniable presence on the Lower Manhattan skyline, Goldman has permitted a peek into the headquarters and how it was designed.
Leading the architectural team is Henry N. Cobb, 82, a founding partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. After nearly 60 years living and working in New York, Mr. Cobb finally got to design his first Manhattan building. But you would not know it by looking at his firm’s Web site, where the Goldman Sachs headquarters — excuse us, 200 West Street — is not promoted on any list of projects. (Yes, Goldman insists on that level of discretion.)
The commission is unusually collaborative. Pei Cobb Freed and Adamson are working with Preston Scott Cohen, SHoP Architects, Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Piet Oudolf, Office dA, Architecture Research Office, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Gensler, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, each of which has charge of some facet of the building.
“The premise is that each of these diverse talents will cause the other to do their best work,” said Timur Galen, the head of corporate services and real estate for Goldman Sachs, who is an architect himself. The group was selected to mix experienced firms with newly developing ones.
Mr. Cobb said he had never worked on a project with so many collaborators but believed it was a fruitful approach. “No matter how skillful,” he said in an interview last week, “it’s fundamentally wrong to put 11,000 people in a building that has been shaped by one sensibility.”
The 2.1 million-square-foot building was shaped not only by aesthetics, but by zoning and design controls. One key restriction, to preserve riverfront views from the World Financial Center, severely limited how far the tower could extend to the southwest. Rather than render this setback as an angular slice, Mr. Cobb turned it into a gentle curve — after convincing Goldman executives that work stations would fit more efficiently into a curved floor plan.
He also incorporated angular incisions in the building facade that follow the diverging angles of Vesey Street, which bounds the site on the south, and Murray Street, which bounds it on the north.
The cuts and the curve help keep the tower from looking like a cereal box, Mr. Cobb said, and give it a form “shaped entirely by its concern for the external context.”
Another important zoning restriction, limiting the southernmost end of the building to 140 feet in height, all but guaranteed that the elevator core would have to be on the north end.
That means the elevators are almost 400 feet from the main entrance, at Vesey and West Streets. “The problem was how to make this unavoidable walk interesting and eventful, and not seen as a nuisance,” Mr. Cobb said. The West Street passageway will have an 80-foot-long mural on one side and 20-foot-high windows on the other, meaning the artwork will be visible to the public.
The public will also be able to see the outside of the free-standing 350-seat oval auditorium on the ground floor, recalling somewhat a Richard Serra sculpture.
The heart of the building, however, will be what Mr. Cobb called a kind of living room for Goldman on the 10th through 12th floors, where exercise, dining and meeting areas will be linked by a sky lobby and a sweeping three-story stairway — well out of public view.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company