Bank of America: Lessons in Glass from the Past

bankofamerica1When designing Bank of America tower in New York Cook+Fox Architects LLP used glass to meet not only today’s energy and safety goals, but also to reflect a sometimes forgotten slice of the city’s history. 

“We always consider the history of the site we are building on at the beginning of every project,” says Serge Appel, an architect with Cook+Fox Architects LLP in New York. “We discovered that our mid-town site was across the street from one of the most famous glass buildings in our history- the New York Crystal Palace.” Built in 1853 in Bryant Park for the World’s Fair, the building was the first glass and steel building in America and considered by many to be “an architectural masterpiece.” While the building was tragically destroyed by fire in 1858, the Cook+Fox was inspired by the design of the structure.

Rising 55 stories into the Mid-Manhattan skyline, the Bank of America 945-foot skyscraper will house 2.1 million square feet of office space and is expected to be the first LEED Platinum building in the city. The exterior wall is a clear glass curtainwall by Permasteelisa with glass fabricated by Viracon.

The crystal-like appearance of the new building, which is achieved with sculptural glass facets, was designed to harken back to the angular nature of the original Palace. The architects tapped into multiple glass technologies to achieve the shimmer and shine that characterizes Bank of America tower. A low iron glass was used with a VE-2M coating to give the building its crystalline, clear appearance.

But history also posed challenges of a classic glass problem in buildings: solar heat gain. The New York Crystal Palace was designed as a counterpart to the famed London Crystal Palace, which was constructed entirely from clear glass, which created heat problems, according to historical records. The New York Crystal Palace team sidestepped this by using an early form of ceramic frit, which was painted on with a brush and fired in kiln.
Architects with Cook+Fox faced the same challenge.

“Ceramic fritting was really the process that helped us meet the stringent LEED energy requirements for this building,” says Appel. The glass is floor to ceiling with a white graduated frit, similar to that in a car windshield. “At eye level, the glass is completely clear to provide stunning views of Bryant Park and Times Square,” says Appel. “We were pleasantly surprised that the frit ‘disappears’ as you look outwards from the building.”

He adds, “Even though this is the second tallest building in New York, this is one of the few skyscrapers you can see in its entirety as you stand in Bryant Park.”