New York City is so crammed with skyscrapers that there’s scarcely space left to build on. This creates a unique challenge for developer Tim Flynn. At 53 West 53rd street, Tim plans to construct an 82-storey skyscraper that will add 50,000 square feet to the Museum of Modern Art and provide luxury apartments with stunning views of Central Park. The ambition is for a giant skyscraper – one of the tallest in the city – but Tim must build it on a tiny plot of land scarcely large enough to park a few cars.
We follow the engineers and workers as they meet the challenge of building this uniquely tall and thin tower. They can’t build it the traditional way, with columns inside the building, as these would take up precious floor space. Instead, workers must construct a diagonal framework on the outside of the building – the largest of its type ever attempted.
But as the building rises, the small site presents another challenge. Because the building tapers inwards, there is no space on the upper floors to put a crane, and without a crane they can’t build higher. In a vertigo-inducing, palm-sweating scene, we see the engineers’ ingenious solution – workers construct a platform outside the building, high above the street below, and assemble their crane on this.
Down on New York’s streets, we follow concrete truck driver, Curt Reinecke. With no concrete manufacturing plant in Manhattan, he must deliver his load of concrete from the borough of Queens 13 miles away. But with just 90 minutes to get the concrete on site before it goes off, every delivery is a race against time.
With the completion deadline looming, steelworker, Frank Mahoney leads the team installing the skyscraper’s external skin. The glass and aluminium façade is fixed to the building using a technique pioneered by one of New York’s most iconic skyscrapers – the Flatiron Building, constructed over 100 years earlier.
With dramatic CGI animation, this film reveals the ingenious engineering that will enable 53 West 53rd to rise 1,050 feet above the New York streets, and become one of the most city’s most radical and elegant skyscrapers.