Press | March 1, 2018

Who’s designing NYC’s skyline? | TRD

How the most prolific architecture firms in the five boroughs are winning commissions and adjusting to the latest market realities
By Kathryn Brenzel | Research by Ashley McHugh-Chiappone

The battle for designing One Vanderbilt came down to three distinguished architecture firms, all with impressive international portfolios — and chops building complex office towers.
The developer, SL Green Realty, considered designs by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill for the $3.2 billion tower. Ultimately, the real estate investment trust went with KPF, whose glassy, tapering design is reminiscent of Chicago’s famed Willis Tower.
The runners-up have differing takes on what drove SL Green’s decision.
“[KPF] had a long relationship with Marc Holliday,” said T.J. Gottesdiener, managing partner at SOM, referring to the company’s CEO. “I thought we did a fabulous job, but it was a question of [where his] comfort level was.”
Jamie von Klemperer, president of KPF, noted that the firm worked with SL Green on only one project — the renovation of 1515 Broadway — before winning the One Vanderbilt gig.
“We never had the feeling that this gave us any advantage,” he said. “It appeared to us that all three firms were on an even footing.”
Regardless of whether one firm had a leg up (or not) in that giant project, for architecture firms, relationships with developers are crucial to scoring commissions.
This month, The Real Deal pored over permit applications filed with the city’s Department of Buildings and ranked the most prolific architecture shops in the city to determine which of them have maximized those relationships and designed the most square footage of new buildings in the five boroughs between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2018.
Taking the top spot was the Manhattan-based firm SLCE Architects with 20.69 million square feet across 87 New York City projects. It was followed by Hill West Architects with 13.09 million square feet across 43 projects and Dattner Architects with 9.54 million square feet across 65 projects. Rounding out the top five were Perkins Eastman and Adamson Associates Architects with 8.80 million square feet and 8.69 million square feet, respectively.
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