Westyard Distribution Center (1970)
New York, NY
Completed at the beginning of the 1970s, the Westyard Distribution Center is located over the railroad tracks one block west of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. The 380,000 sf building was originally designed to accommodate either warehouse or loft-type spaces, but during construction, tenants requested more conventional office space. The result was that the exterior form was stabilized early on in construction, securing a maximum amount of flexible interior space. The interior could be transformed via the manipulation of windows and panels built into the interior spaces of the building.
The exterior, of unfinished concrete, reflects the industrial nature of the building’s users. Its varied, sculptural exterior resulted from the varied interior uses with many different ventilation and spatial needs. Its angular form allowed for large uninterrupted warehouse spaces on the lower floors while also providing smaller office spaces with many views on the upper floors. Upon its opening, The New York Times ran a feature entitled “Project Combats Lure of Suburbs,” which praised the building’s ziggurat-like design and 32 acres of rentable space as “an urban rebuttal to arguments for landscaped suburban warehouses.”
Westyard initially housed a skating rink in its penthouse over several floors of offices, residences, and warehouse space. Over the years, however, its glory faded. During the 1980s, the facade’s striking precast-concrete infill panels were sheathed in brown-colored metal siding, and the concrete painted beige. The once handsome project came to be seen a brutalist eyesore in a bleak part of town. Yet it its most impressive asset remained: immense floor plates that range from nearly 90,000 to over 120,000 square feet. During the recent development of Hudson Yards and surrounding areas, the project came to be seen as a perfect space to attract higher-paying commercial tenants. In 2011, Brookfield developers hired REX in to re-clad the striking building in glass, rebranding it as Five Manhattan West.