“It’s a very key spot,” says Jason Long, “right where the East River meets the Newtown Creek.” The partner at the U.S. office of OMA is standing on the balcony of the firm’s latest project, the Eagle Tower on the northern Brooklyn waterfront—just a stone’s throw from Queens, and with a commanding view of the Midtown skyline.
The towers sit across the East River from Midtown Manhattan (1), with a landscaped area between them as another amenity (2). Photos by Jason O'Rear
For OMA’s client, Brookfield, the 745-unit, Eagle and West towers—actually three structures, two high-rises of 40 and 30 stories respectively with a seven-story midrise sandwiched between them—represent another step in the real estate company’s ongoing transformation of New York City’s shoreline. Beginning at the turn of the millennium, with the acquisition of the Cesar Pelli-designed World Financial Center on the Hudson, Brookfield has moved step-by-step to turn the city’s former industrial periphery into an attractive zone for high-end living, as signified most recently by the debut this year of the gigantic Bankside development in the South Bronx. Its collaboration with OMA represents only one small part of the planned eleven-building Greenpoint Landing project, though certainly the particular site, to say nothing of the architects behind it, lend the Eagle and West towers a special distinction.
The buildings open onto a waterfront park. Photo by Jason O'Rear
For OMA, the project represents arguably its most high-profile development in New York City to date, at least in terms of sheer visibility. As seen from the East Side of Manhattan, the high-rises resemble two halves of a puzzle, separated from each other by sixty feet, with the first telescoping upwards in a series of terraced setbacks and the second, southern member doing just the opposite—“the mass cascading downwards,” as Long puts it, creating an improbably top-heavy silhouette with an aggregate cantilever of 48 feet (achieved through the use of sloping and hanging columns). Connected via a raised platform, the multi-component development is larger by far than OMA’s previous residential building in the city, the understated 121 East 22nd Street, and will doubtless continue to draw notice even after the debut of its next big-city project, the expansion of the New Museum, which broke ground recently.
Generous interior amenity spaces feature ceiling heights that reach up to 30 feet. Photo by Jason O'Rear
As impressive as it appears from the outside, the complex’s interior—with apartment layouts and finishes by executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle and public spaces by Marmol Radziner—is still more lavish, thanks in large measure to an amenity suite on par with even the most over-the-top offerings in Manhattan’s tony new mega-talls. A woodworking studio; indoor and outdoor pools; a children’s playroom with a rubber-surfaced outdoor area; a game room; a shared entertainment space with thirty-foot-high ceilings and an exposed diagonal truss: the whole facility operates almost as a self-contained, super-luxurious terrarium—albeit without an all-glass curtainwall, though according to Long that actually makes it more suitable for domestic comfort. “The solid walls give you a place to hang your art,” he says. While generous windows with commanding views measure eight by eight feet, the textured precast panels of the facade feature “shingles” that run vertically, horizontally, and diagonally in two directions.
The “shingled” precast panels feature patterns in multiple directions. Photo by Floto+Warner
Not everything at the project is aimed at the uppermost tier of the market. In addition to select units in the Eagle tower, the entirety of the midrise volume is given over to subsidized apartments available for substantially less than the going rent in the neighborhood—a valuable asset in rapidly gentrifying Greenpoint. Better still, just as in its recent undertaking in the Bronx, Brookfield has followed through on a city-negotiated deal to ensure that the waterfront itself is open to the public, with a landscaped walkway skirting the edge of the project’s podium. Arguably the most important aspect of the company’s current campaign along the city’s watery edges, the slender ribbon of park, designed by James Corner Field Operations, also gives the towers an air of authentic organicism, an unusual quality for a project from the hyper-urban OMA.