The Real Deal New York

Meet the architects bringing NYC’s biggest 2016 projects to life

Many are doing grunt work in the shadows
By Kathryn Brenzel | December 29, 2016 05:06PM

Clockwise from left: Renderings of 50 Hudson Yards, Court Square City View Tower at 23-15 44th Drive (credit: United Construction and Development), the Spiral at 66 Hudson Boulevard, and 28-07 Jackson Avenue

The most prolific architects in New York City also tend to be the least visible.

These are the firms that are often involved in development projects from the very beginning, filing necessary paperwork with the city’s Department of Buildings and navigating the labyrinth that is the city’s zoning codes. These are the architects of record, who sometimes pair up with international superstar architects who aren’t technically licensed to work in New York City. One such firm is Adamson Associates Architects, which is collaborating with Bjarke Ingels to design Tishman Speyer’s “the Spiral” — a 2.2-million-square-foot office tower that features stair-like outdoor terraces that wrap around the building, accomplishing what Ingels is fond of describing as an extension of the High Line “to the sky.”

Ingels is the building’s design architect, but Adamson is the architect of record. The division of work between these two roles differs on a project-by-project basis, but Adamson’s responsibilities generally boil down to preparing construction documents, working with the city to both expedite and get the project underway, and supporting the design architect in whatever way they need.

“We’re not the high-profile, sexy architect,” Nick Zigomanis, principal at the firm’s New York office, told The Real Deal. “We just get the work done.”

Still, the firm’s role in Speyer’s tower and another project in Hudson Yards means that Adamson is working on the biggest projects proposed in 2016. Using permit applications filed with the city’s Department of Buildings from Jan. 1 to Dec. 23, TRD has ranked the top 10 architecture firms embarking on the most square footage this year. Applications for new buildings and full-building renovations were included in the analysis.

Here’s a look at some of the unsung firms working on the largest projects proposed in 2016:

1. Adamson Associates Architects
Square feet: 5.8 million
Projects: Four

Adamson Associates Architects is based in Toronto, Canada, and has offices in New York, Los Angeles and London. The majority of the firm’s work in New York is in collaboration with other architects. Two projects that were filed with the DOB this year — 509 West 34th Street and 50 Hudson Yards — catapulted the firm to the ranking’s top spot. The former office tower, which is being developed by Tishman Speyer and is known as “the Spiral,” is expected to span 2.2 million square feet. The firm is also working on Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group’s 50 Hudson Yards, a planned 2.9-million-square foot office tower. Norman Foster is the design architect on that project. Preliminary plans for the tower were filed on Dec. 22, but do not reflect the project’s expected actual size. The permit application only calls for an 887,661-square-foot tower, but the developers have repeatedly said that they plan to build a much bigger project.

From left: Alan Goldstein, L. Stephen Hill and David West

2. Goldstein Hill & West
Square feet: 1.8 million
Projects: Three

Alan Goldstein, Stephen Hill and David West founded their firm in 2009, after breaking off with their former partner, Costas Kondylis. Kondylis, a giant in the industry best known for his extensive design work for Donald Trump, went on to form another firm in 2010. At the time, Hill told the Architectural Record that the split was due to “competing visions” — that he and his partners wanted to focus on New York projects rather than international ones. In the past seven years, GHW has become one of the city’s most prolific firms, taking on high-profile clients like Extell Development, Silverstein Properties and Forest City Ratner. The firm was tapped to work on two projects in Long Island City this year. One is Chris Jiashu Xu’s proposed 79-story, 779,958-square-foot residential tower at 23-15 44 Drive. The other is Stawski Partners’ mixed-use, 934,864-square-foot tower at 23-03 44th Road. GHW is also working on three buildings at Waterline Square, a long-delayed residential development project on the Upper West Side. Developer GID Development Group has hired three starchitects — Richard Meier and Partners Architects, Rafael Viñoly Architects, and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates — as design architects for the project. GHW is the architect of record.

3. SLCE Architects
Square feet: 1.6 million
Projects: 13

Rendering of One Flushing in Queens (credit: Bernheimer Architecture)

In the past five years, SLCE has been one of the most active architecture firms in the city. A TRD analysis last year showed that the firm was the most prolific in Manhattan from 2010 to 2015, as the design architect or the architect of record for 27 projects during that time. The firm was founded in 1941 and has worked as the architect of record on many high-profile projects with the likes of Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Renzo Piano. The biggest project filed in 2016 involving SLCE was an affordable housing development in Flushing. In March, affordable builder Monadnock Development filed a permit application for “One Flushing,” a 232-unit, 227,000-square-foot residential, retail and community facility. The second-biggest project filed this year that SLCE had a hand in was a 30-story residential tower at 301 East 80th Street. Developer Icon Realty Management filed the permit application in August, calling for a 69-unit, 208,545-square-foot building.

4. Margulies Hoelzli Architecture
Square feet: 1.5 million
Projects: Two

Margulies Hoelzli, a consulting firm started in 2006, has expanded its design and project management services over the years. Its work in New York has included One Fulton Square, a massive $145 million mixed-use complex in Flushing. The firm also did the master planning and conceptual design for the complex, which includes retail, entertainment and a hotel. The firm also worked on the design and renovation of part of a building at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This year, F&T Group filed plans for a new 77,228-square-foot office building across the street from One Fulton Square, at 37-12 Prince Street. Margulies is designing the building.

Rendering of office building at 412 West 15th Street

5. CetraRuddy
Square feet: 1.47 million
Projects: Four

John Cetra and Nancy Ruddy founded their eponymous firm in 1987, focusing on residential, hospitality and education/culture-related projects, as well as interior design. The firm is based in New York City, but has work throughout the country and the Middle East. CetraRuddy is perhaps best known for its design of One Madison, a 60-story luxury condominium tower that had long stalled before Related Companies, HFZ Capital Group and the CIM Group took over the project in 2012. The architecture firm was also tapped this year to design 412 West 15th Street, an 18-story office building that is expected to be the Meatpacking District’s tallest. But the firm’s biggest new project filed this year was 20 Broad Street, where Metro Loft chief Nathan Berman plans to convert the old New York Stock Exchange home into a 521-unit luxury apartment building.

6. MdeAS
Square feet: 1.45 million
Projects: One
MdeAS, formerly known as Moed De Armas & Shannon, was formed in 1991 by two alumnus of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. The firm specializes in lobby renovations, having redesigned the Rockefeller Group’s 1221 Avenue of the Americas and Callahan Capital Properties’ 1411 Broadway. This year, the firm was tapped to work on Tishman Speyer’s 28-07 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, two planned 27-story office towers across located across the street from another huge Tishman project, the three-tower residential complex at 28-10 Jackson Avenue.

Bradford Perkins

7. Perkins Eastman
Square feet: 1 million
Projects: Four
Perkins Eastman, founded in 1981, is an international firm that has largely specialized in hotels and apartment towers. One of the firm’s more notable recent projects, however, is the redevelopment of Flushing Commons, a 1.8 million-square-foot mixed-use project being developed by AECOM Capital, the Rockefeller Group and F&T Group. This year the firm was tapped to design a new office tower at 821 United Nations Plaza, as the headquarters of the Consulate General of Turkey in New York. Perkins is also designing a 62-story tower for the Starrett Corp. in Two Bridges, one of four massive projects planned for the neighborhood.

8. Marvel Architects
Square feet: 788,053
Projects: Four
Jonathan Marvel started his New York-based firm in 2013, following in his father’s footsteps. Marvel’s late father, Thomas Marvel, ran his own architecture firm in Puerto Rico — Marvel & Marchand Architects. In a 2015 story, Jonathan Marvel told the New York Times that he set out for Manhattan after graduating college because he “wanted to carve out [his] own trajectory.” Three years later, the firm has built up a vast portfolio of adaptive reuse, public space and multifamily projects. The firm worked on the master plan for the redevelopment of parks and public space at Governors Island and designed the New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In 2016, the Hudson Companies filed plans for One Clinton Street, formerly the Brooklyn Heights Library, and tapped Marvel to design a 36-story condo tower and a new library for the site.

9. Dattner Architects
Square feet: 780,921
Projects: Five
Dattner Architects bills itself as a civic-focused firm, since its work largely consists of schools, affordable housing, recreation and infrastructure. The largest project the firm is currently working on — that was formally proposed in 2016 — is an affordable housing project in the Belmont section of the Bronx. Developers L+M Development Partners, SBS Health System and Hornig Capital Partners filed plans in February for 4511 Third Avenue, where they plan to build two mixed-use buildings that will rise 11 and seven stories and include 181 affordable units. Together the buildings span more than 300,000 square feet.

Rendering of Pier 57

10. Handel Architects
Square feet: 743,635
Projects: Three

The little-known architect who won the competition to design the 9/11 Memorial refined its ultimate design while at Handel Architects. Michael Arad joined Handel as a partner in April 2004, shortly after winning the insanely competitive design competition. That milestone came 10 years after the architecture firm was founded in New York City. One of the biggest projects the firm is working on this year is a 281,347-square-foot mixed-use building in Hell’s Kitchen. Hotelier Richard Born plans to bring 350 apartments to the building at 515 West 42nd Street. The firm is also designing Pier 57, where RXR Realty and Youngwoo & Associates are building 250,000 square feet of office space (anchored by Google) along with a night market by Anthony Bourdain.