Brilliant splendor describes New York’s newest skyscraper, the 34-story International Gem Tower, which opened mid-2013 on West 47th Street in the heart of the Diamond District. Inspired by its setting and diamonds themselves, the building’s design features angular geometry and a faceted exterior rendered in stainless steel supplied by Contrarian Metal Resources of Allison Park, PA.
The postmodern building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM) New York. It has state-of-the-art security including iris scanners, tracking technology, 350 cameras and secure underground delivery bays. And while impressive and necessary, it is the building’s appearance that passersby will notice. SOM chose Starlight 7J stainless steel, manufactured by Tsukiboshi Art Co., Ltd. of Japan and distributed in North America by Contrarian. Starlight 7J is a uniformly textured stainless steel finish designed for architectural applications with excellent finish consistency resulting in panel-to-panel matching.
The stainless steel adds to the impact of the curtainwall, transforming the façade, explained SOM’s Todd Shapiro. “The stainless steel material captures and refracts light and the panel texture heightens the visual effect,” he added. The tower features embedded hexagonal shaped panels on a clear glass curtain wall as well as unobstructed 360’ views, creating an abundance of natural light.
The project, like so many since 2008, suffered delays as a result of America’s sagging economy. Construction resumed in April of 2011 largely due to the efforts of Gary Barnett, President of Extell Development Company, the developer of the project. Barnett began his career in Antwerp as a diamond dealer and that knowledge was instrumental in the development of the building.
Another distinction is that it is actually two buildings in one. The 14 floors at the upper portion of the tower have their own entrance and are being leased to more Class A office tenants; their address is 55 West 46th Street. The lower twenty floors are reserved for the diamond industry. There is a public park behind 1166 Sixth Avenue that allows a great perspective of the tower throughout the day.
The shimmering 680,000 square-foot building was skinned by Permasteelisa North America. The contractor created multiple prototypes and mock-ups to make sure the desired results were achieved. “The only challenge we faced was to ensure we had no oil canning, over the length of the larger panels, and we solved this by using three vertical stiffeners which resulted in extremely flat panels,” explained Larry Platman, PNA Project Manager II. “The Starlight 7J was a great success,” he added.
Tishman Construction served as the general contractor.
The largest presence in the building is the Gemological Society of America which has purchased three floors, approximately 65,000 square-feet. The Gem Institute is bringing their Madison Avenue educational campus and their Fifth Avenue laboratory to the tower. The standard-setter for the jewelry industry has a presence in 14 countries which includes additional campuses and laboratories.
Another major tenant, Gulayar Group (Turkish) has purchased the first three floors and will develop a modern jewelry exchange.
© Photographs by Larry Platman