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See JPMorgan Chase’s big bet on the future of the office

Deepak Chopra and Harvard’s Joseph Allen helped shape this 60-story tower.

[Source photo: dbox/Foster + Partners]

The ultimate post-COVID office could soon be rising in Manhattan.

[Image: dbox/Foster + Partners]

The new headquarters for banking giant JPMorgan Chase will be a 60-story office tower at 270 Park Avenue, and it has been designed to address some of the main lessons of the pandemic. At a time when many are questioning the need for offices at all, this design, by British architecture firm Foster + Partners, represents a loud argument in favor of them.The project encapsulates the key ways in which the pandemic has changed what we expect from an office building. The design of employee-wellness spaces had input from Deepak Chopra, and air quality controls were informed by Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard and an associate professor at the university’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

[Image: Foster + Partners]

Early renderings of the building show a bronze-colored tower looming over its neighbors in Midtown Manhattan. The project has been designed to high environmental standards. It will be an all-electric building, using no gas for its heating or kitchens, making it the tallest such building in New York City. Renewable hydroelectric energy will be its main power source. It’s also been designed to produce zero operational emissions, meaning that once the building is up and humming with office workers and all the electrical equipment, heating, and cooling they require, use of the building will create no greenhouse gas emissions. Triple-pane glass facades, automatic solar shade systems, and office floors designed to optimize the use of natural light and air are a few of the sustainability features that could help the building meet its goals. Actually achieving net zero emissions, though, is a challenge, and some skeptics doubt this project will succeed.

The pandemic is a clear influence in the design, particularly as many white collar companies try to reenvision what it means to come into the office and what those spaces should be used for. “We certainly learned from the last two years,” says JPMorgan Chase spokesperson Michael Fusco.

[Image: Foster + Partners]

Chopra, the renowned wellness expert, advised on the project’s employee-wellness amenities, which include fitness areas, yoga and cycling rooms, physical therapy and medical spaces, mother’s rooms, and prayer and meditation spaces. Allen, coauthor of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, advised on its ventilation, which will bring in a higher-than-normal amount of fresh air, and will have advanced filtration systems to ensure the air within the building remains clean.Before this design could even take form, the project was under a black cloud. Its site was home to another large office tower, known as the old Union Carbide Building. Designed by Natalie de Blois of Skidmore Owings & Merrill and completed in 1960, that building stood 52 stories, an iconic Modernist skyscraper—and was, for nearly 50 years, the tallest woman-designed building in the world. Renovations over the years brought it up to modern efficiency standards, eventually earning it the top green building certification, LEED Platinum. Nonetheless, 60 years after its construction, and despite the architecture community holding it in high regard, the building was razed, giving it the less impressive moniker of world’s tallest voluntarily demolished building.

[Image: dbox/Foster + Partners]

The new project’s announcement notes that 97% of the building materials from the previous tower will be recycled, reused, or upcycled but provided no details on how that will be accomplished. JPMorgan Chase did not respond to specific questions, but Fusco says the building “will exceed the highest standards of sustainability.” Foster + Partners did not respond to questions. A budget for the project was not announced, and construction has yet to begin.

[Image: LightField London]

The new 1,388-foot-tall building will be nearly twice as high as what it’s replacing but with only an additional eight floors. JPMorgan Chase expects the building to house 14,000 workers from multiple tenants, a huge bump up from the 3,500 for which the original building was designed and the 6,000 who were using it before its demolition. Overall, the building will have 50% more communal space than the previous tower. A large food hall will be operated by restaurateur Danny Meyer, and the top floor will be a conference center with unobstructed views of the city.How much of this comes to fruition remains to be seen. But with a deep pocketed client like JPMorgan Chase, it’s likely that whatever gets built will be a big bet on the future of the office building.

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