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Forget the glass and chrome, spaceship-like towers of Midtown West — glossy new luxury condo “The West” marries Hell’s Kitchen industrial grit and Hudson Yards glamor in eco-friendly style, with bricks composed of 208,000 kilograms (229.28 tons) of recycled construction debris.
The 219-residential building stretching along 11th Avenue between W47/48th Streets broke ground in 2018 and is designed by Dutch architectural firm Concrete, known previously for the CitizenM global hotel chain. Concrete worked with Rotterdam-based company StoneCycling to engineer the massive brick facade, composed of 30 differently sized and shaped bricks made of a mix of construction debris and clay sourced from the Netherlands.
This is the first time WasteBasedBricks® have been used in the United States. The revolutionary process reduces building energy by 25%. Traditional brick laying is an environmentally draining process, due to the extraction of clay for materials and energy-intensive kiln firing, whereas these bricks are made of 60% waste. The StoneCycling team has upcycled over 966 tons (876,714 kilograms) of waste since 2011 and is in the process of developing a kiln-firing oven that uses hydro-oxygen power rather than natural gas to further reduce emissions.
The West’s brick matrix lines the lobby (protruding from one wall to spell out a poem about Hell’s Kitchen in morse code) and the large glass windows of its lower floor studio lofts and 1 bedrooms, while the upper floors support large, glass box terraces jutting out in multiple directions, creating unique views of the Hudson River, Hell’s Kitchen, and the West Side.
The surfaces of the bricks are brushed with reflective glass, giving them an ultra-fine, all-season shimmer. Due to the variety of materials used in each batch, every brick has a slightly different color and sheen, lending itself well to the character and charm of neighboring historic buildings like Ink48 Hotel/PRINT restaurant (once a 1930s printing press) and 636 11th Ave, most recently known as The Ogilvy Building and as the Auerbach Chocolate Factory in the early 1900s. Concrete founding partner Erikjan Vermeulen told Fast Company, “This area has such a bumpy and rough history. It’s industrial, so we felt we wanted to create a connection to both a little bit of the past and the future.” StoneCycling says that WasteBasedBricks® can last more than 100 years before being recycled into new building materials.
The newest eco-friendly addition to Hell’s Kitchen joins other sustainable building projects, like co-living residence The Hell’s Kitchen House, an Outpost property featuring solar canopies, low-flow shower heads and toilets, motion sensor lights, rooftop gardens and composting facilities. A few blocks uptown at the Irish Arts Center (726 11th Ave bw W51/52nd St), the newly renovated theater managed to preserve the original brick facade of its previous tenant, historic early 20th-century autobody shop Cybert Tires.
Over in Hudson Yards, Related CEO Jeff Blau declared the company’s intent to build an $11 billion wind and solar power project and 200 mile transmission line in upstate New York capable of powering 16% of NYC’s energy needs (Related’s buildings in NYC are currently powered 80% by fossil fuels and only 20% by renewable sources). Javits Center has also joined in on the neighborhood’s newest renewable, sustainable practices — their state-of-the-art rooftop space contains both solar panels and a one-acre working farm that can yield as much as 40,000 pounds of produce a year.
As Hell’s Kitchen becomes a hot spot for new construction city and nationwide — adding 3,189 apartments to the area over the past five years, a commitment to maintaining the historic charm of its oldest buildings while designing newer projects with sustainability in mind seems the way forward for a neighborhood inextricably tied to its industrial past and high-rise present.