For his firm’s first project in New York City, REX principal Joshua Prince-Ramus is giving an unloved Brutalist office building a $200 million makeover. The firm unveiled plans yesterday for the renovation of 450 West 33rd Street, a 16-story, pyramid-shaped edifice dating to 1969 in Midtown Manhattan.
Originally designed by Davis, Brody & Associates (now Davis Brody Bond), the 1.8-million-square-foot building—formerly named the Westyard Distribution Center—has long been criticized for its imposing form and heavy materials. Prince-Ramus says he plans to replace the current facade of pre-cast concrete and metal panels with a zigzagging glass curtain wall.

“This geometry has unusual environmental benefits—the overslung portions shade the underslung glass below,” says the architect. The kinking glass panels will not impact energy performance, even though the pleats will increase the surface area of the building. REX is also renovating the lobby, elevators, and mechanical systems in the building, which is being renamed Five Manhattan West.

The architect and the real estate developer, Brookfield, say the slick new facade will complement the various glazed skyscrapers under construction nearby as part of the massive Hudson Yards development project. Brookfield is currently building three Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed (SOM) high-end residential and commercial towers next door. (An acre-long plaza, designed by James Corner Field Operations, will run between the two 60-story office towers, directly above the train tracks leading into New York’s Penn Station.)

With the building’s unusually tall 14- to 27-foot ceilings and large 100,000-square-foot floor plates—there used to be an indoor ice rink on the top floor—the developers are currently courting tenants in the creative, technology, and media sectors that favor open plans. (The developer says it has received inquiries about constructing a rock-climbing wall, running track, and skateboarding ramp.) The building will continue to be the headquarters of the Associated Press, though the other major tenant, Coach, previously announced plans to move into one of the new Hudson Yards towers in 2015.