KPF reclads a prominent Fifth Avenue office building with custom oversize IGUs

Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox
Location: New York City
Completion Date: 2023

In 2018, Jared Kushner sold 666 Fifth Avenue to Brookfield Properties. Originally built in 1957, the midcentury skyscraper was due for an overhaul. This began with a renumbering of the address, which was changed to 660 to avoid satanic associations.

glass building next to historic church
660 Fifth has high visibility on a famous stretch of Fifth Avenue. (Raimund Koch)

The tower’s original facade, an early unitized system made from aluminum, was extremely energy inefficient by today’s standards. After more than a half century of service, it was removed through a coordinated effort above Fifth Avenue, one of Manhattan’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares: The construction team hauled the disassembled panels down through the building’s elevator core.

construction of 660 Fifth Avenue
During construction, old and new existed simultaneously. (Raimund Koch)

Brookfield then hired Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to design a new facade. To maximize views, the firm opted for a curtain wall system—a choice that was complicated by the age of the existing structure. Unable to hang the curtain wall from the tower’s thin slab edge, as is typical in new construction, the architects could only suspend the system from the building’s perimeter columns.

Detail showing the oversize IGUs
Detail showing the oversize IGUs. (Raimund Koch)

Taking advantage of the relatively short 18-foot span between perimeter columns (usually closer to 30 feet in a standard Class A office), KPF worked with German glazier Interpane to develop an oversized insulated glass unit fitted to this distance. Coincidentally, the building’s floor-to-floor height nearly matched Interpane’s 10-foot standard width for jumbo glass panels. When width is preset by machine standardization, length—created through an extrusion process—is less constrained.

This allowed for the fabrication of approximately 18-by-10-foot panels, each rotated to fit the dimensions of 660 Fifth Avenue’s perimeter structure, offering unobstructed views between columns. Lauren Schmidt, principal at KPF, told AN, “In the end the fabricators came back to us and said it’s actually easier [to manufacture large panels] because there’s less handling, less cuts, and less waste.”

interior office space has high ceilings
Double-height spaces were carved out in places, improving upon the low ceilings of the original building. (Raimund Koch)

The building’s lobby was also subject to significant interventions. Originally facing 5th Avenue, 666’s entrance was transformed into retail space in 2000: What was initially a grand, T-shaped lobby became a mere corridor between 52nd and 53rd streets, with a connection to the 5th Avenue/53rd Street subway entrance. But because of the amount of traffic as well as security concerns, the subway access was closed, leaving one remaining entrance on 52nd Street.

lobby interior
Class A amenities and security blend seamlessly with neutral interior palettes. (Raimund Koch)

In the process, Brookfield chose to remove Isamu Noguchi’s Landscape of Clouds. The installation, consisting of a waterfall and a ceiling ornament of stainless-steel fins, was dismantled and donated to the artist’s eponymous museum in Long Island City.

Though it was never one of Manhattan’s most significant towers, 660 Fifth Avenue has now been thoroughly improved for 21st-century occupants. This has meant the removal of unsavory bits of its history, namely The Grand Havana Room, a private cigar club frequented by Rudy Giuliani and Paul Manafort, but also one of its gems—tenants will surely miss Noguchi’s Landscape of Clouds.

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