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Five Manhattan West today/ photo credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu

NEW YORK CITY—Brookfield Property Partners took on the dark, heavy, cement-themed, Brutalist building, originally constructed in 1969, at 450 West 33rd St., invested $350 million in a redesign, and brought it into the 21st century. With changes to its physical body as well as a facelift, Brookfield renamed its shiny, newly refashioned building, Five Manhattan West.

Originally designed by the architect firm Davis Brody (now Davis Brody Bond), over the decades the building suffered from architectural drift. In the 1980s, painting the external structure beige, and adding brown metal siding did the building no aesthetic favors.

Five Manhattan West/ Rex Architecture Five Manhattan West vintage photo/ courtesy of REX architects

Brookfield hired REX architects in 2011, with construction beginning in 2014. On Wednesday during a Five Manhattan West tour, REX’s founding principal and president, Joshua Prince-Ramus, noted during the building’s architectural nadir, it was often called “the elephant’s foot” or the “Tyrell Building,” in reference to the headquarters from the movie “Blade Runner.”

Instead of demolishing the building, it became a once in a lifetime architectural opportunity for adaptive reuse of a massive urban structure. Today, the 16-story building features 1.8 million square feet of space. REX renovated the building, preserving and reusing its concrete columns, with a wink to its original postmodern slanted frame. Now, its signature pleated windows create a slope-like facade of undulating curves.

However, Prince-Ramus pointed out this was not just a design conceit. The vertical zigzag windows maximize natural light, improve energy performance, and facilitate cleaning.

Betsy Kim

Betsy Kim is the bureau chief, East Coast, and New York City reporter for Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. As a lawyer and journalist, Betsy has worked as the director of editorial and content for LexisNexis Lawyers.com, a TV/multi-media journalist for NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations in the Midwest, and an associate producer at Court TV.

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