Architectural Thinspiration: The Rise Of Skinny Towers On Lilliputian Plots

James Bartolacci, a writer at Architizer, talks about the rise of the skinny skyscraper in architecture after the announcement comes of a new addition to New York’s skyline. 


This week, SHoP Architects revealed plans for its next distinctive building in New York City that will surely dominate headlines once the builder breaks ground in early 2014. However, unlike the voluminous designs of the rust-chic, space-age Barclays Center or the contentious plans to redevelop the Williamsburg waterfront, SHoP’s latest design has gained publicity for a noticeably different reason: it sits on a piece of land measuring only 13-meters in width. Proposed for a minuscule plot two blocks south of Central Park, where population density reaches over 70,000 people per square mile, SHoP’s new residential tower will soar 411 meters above ground—approximately 30 meters taller than the Empire State Building.



SHoP Architects’ Proposal

While the tower will be noteworthy for its height, its sheer thinness will make this skyscraper even more noteworthy. This skinny, shiny, and unabashedly lavish slice of a building marks a growing trend of architects designing sky-high palatial residences in increasingly dense and desirable neighborhoods. These sections of action-packed world cites that, seemed like they could not add anymore square footage (see Bruce Eichner’s proposal for an 800-feet-tall, 50-feet-wide condo tower in Manhattan). While proposals for supertall, super skinny buildings located on complicated plots of land continue to increase, this recent trend is nothing new. Today we look at noticeably svelte buildings that maximize their floor space will minimizing their urban footprint, and the building methods used to deal with restrictive site limitations.



One Madison Park by CetraRuddy, New York City

CetraRuddy’s luxury residential tower, named for its location adjacent to Midtown Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, features opulent condos that provide 360-degree view of the surrounding neighborhood with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Aside from its luxurious amenities and enviable location, this 50-story high tower’s façade widest side measures just 53 feet across.



Abercrombie & Fitch Store by Selldorf Architects, Tokyo

When designing Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza shopping district, Selldorf Architects had to deal with unusually compact site limitations. By emphasizing verticality, the architects squeezed over 23,000 square-feet and 11 stories of structure onto an extremely limiting plot of land. With such restrictions, Selldorf implemented two glass elevators to optimize circulation.



785 8th Ave by Ismael Leyva Architects, P.C., New York City

Situated on a tiny 25-foot-wide lot on Manhattan’s west side, Ismael Levya’s 785 8th Ave, packs 122 luxury residential condominiums into 43 floors. After sitting vacant for over a year, the mystifying tower opened its doors in 2012 to a captive set of post-recession buyers. On its 48th street side, the building measures a marginal 16-feet, 8-inches in width.



House and Garden by Ryue Nishizawa, Tokyo

Squeezed between two hi-rises in dense commercial neighborhood in Tokyo, the House and Garden was designed by Ryue Nishizawa for a plot of land measuring just 4 meters wide. To combat claustrophobia in the slender, 5-story living and working space, Nishizawa incorporated glass walls and placed gardens around the perimeter to ensure privacy for the home’s residents.



Keret House by Centrala Designers, Warsaw

Claiming the title as architect of the world’ skinniest house, Jakub Szczesny designed the Keret House in Warsaw with an incredibly cramped width of only four feet. Because of its nearly unlivable size constraints, the Keret House received a legal status as an “art installation.”


Learn more about SHoP’s industry impact here. For more on skyscrapers in context, read recent Architizer articles on London’s Cheese Grater, the world’s first invisible tower, and a look at the archetype’s evolution.




Written by James Bartolacci,