There is no finer example of “old meets new” in the world of New York City architecture than the Hearst Building on Eighth Avenue and 57th Street. In 1926, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher who was the model for “Citizen Kane” commissioned Joseph Urban to design a new Manhattan headquarters for his growing media empire. Urban, best known for his set designs for the Ziegfeld Follies, approached the project as if it were an elaborate theatrical extravaganza. A six-story cast-concrete base adorned with giant fluted columns and 8 allegorical statues representing Comedy, Tragedy, Music, Art, Industry, Sport, The Sciences and Printing was completed in 1929. The plan was to add a soaring tower on top of the base, but the Depression intervened, and the additional floors were never added.
Jump ahead to early 2000, the Hearst Corporation has expanded and their offices are now spread out across the city. The company, in desperate need of more space hires the Architect, Norman Foster, to come up with a plan to add a tower to the original base. A recipient of the Pritzker Architecture prize, Foster has recently completed a project at the British Museum where he has added a glass canopy with 1,656 uniquely shaped panes of glass above the Great Court, essentially melding the old with the new.
Mr. Foster presents his plans to the Hearst Corporation on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, while the fires are burning at the Trade Center downtown. It will be another four and half years before the project is completed. The exterior of the historical base, designated by the city as a landmark in 1988, must be preserved. It will be completely gutted and restored and Foster’s 46 stories of triangulated glass and steel will be placed on top. Construction of the diagrid structure, with its series of 4 story high interlocking triangles, which will support the tower, will begin to rise in 2004. Upon completion in 2006, a column in the New York Times Architectural Review, describes the new building as such: “Past and present don’t fit seamlessly together here; they collide with ferocious energy”. This new skyscraper has made a bold statement in the midtown skyline.
With a number of environmental considerations built into the plan, Hearst Tower becomes the very first green building completed in New York City, earning both LEED Gold and Platinum designations. The efficiency of the design reduced the amount of steel required for construction by about 20% and 80% of the steel that was used came from recycled material. The lower floors and lobby area, which form an open atrium, are paved with heat conductive limestone. Tubing beneath the floors are filled with circulating water used for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter and are supplied by a reclamation tank that can hold up to 14,000 gallons of rainwater collected from the roof. It also feeds an amazing 3 story high “Ice Fall” glass and water sculpture that greets you in the lobby. If you are passing the building, you can poke your head inside to see it.
For a spectacular drone tour of the building, check out this youtube video narrated by Norman Foster: Click Here