March 7, 2016
by Canadian Architect
Montreal firm Lemay has won top honours in an open anonymous international ideas competition to reimagine the MetLife Building in New York City. The “Reimagine a New York City Icon” competition was sponsored by Metals in Construction magazine and the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York. Lemay is one of six winners in the competition, and the only winner from Canada.
Inspired by the United States Climate Action Plan and the Architecture 2030 Challenge, the mandate of the competition was to reimagine 200 Park Avenue (formerly the Pan Am Building, now the MetLife Building) which was built a half‐century ago as the world’s largest corporate structure and was also the last building designed by Modernist architect Walter Gropius.
Lemay’s proposal, titled “Farm Follows Fiction”, was retained as one of the winners of the competition that received 109 participants from around the world. Five proposals shared the top honors alongside Lemay, including FXFOWLE, SHoP and AECOM.
Created through a collaborative design effort led by the design innovation cell LemayLAB and involving multidisciplinary talents from Lemay’s Sustainability and Escobar Design teams as well as from Ecosystem and Sefaira (two firms specialized in energy efficiency), the concept repositions the architectural icon in the heart of New Yorkers while drastically reducing its energy consumption by targeting a net zero carbon footprint.
With a bold visual style inspired by graphic novels, the proposal playfully narrates how the MetLife building is transformed into a collective resource for the Midtown community, therefore becoming the world’s tallest farm. The concept also innovates by proposing that the new building actively promotes healthy lifestyles and quality of life, thus embodying the insurance company’s core mission.
During the unveiling of the winners, the jury commented that the Lemay proposal was inspiring and clearly visionary. The citation called it “a project for the future of building,” and an essential project that exudes the level of innovation required to achieve the Architecture 2030 Challenge.
The panel of six competition jurors included experts in sustainable design Ben Tranel, AIA, LEED AP, of Gensler; Areta Pawlynsky, AIA, of Heintges; Billie Faircloth, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, of Kieran Timberlake; Fiona Cousins, PE, LEED AP BD+C, of Arup; Sameer Kumar, AIA, LEED AP, of SHoP; and Hauke Jungjohann of Thornton Tomasetti.