SOM’s 28&7 black terra-cotta facade shines in Chelsea

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Adorned in a slick, black terra-cotta and glass grid, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) 28&7 opened February, 2022, near the northern end of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Rising 12 stories, the building—developed by GDSNY—is home to 100,000 square feet of office space, a lobby on 28th Street, ground floor retail facing 7th Avenue, and a 12th floor penthouse.

SOM Partner Chris Cooper said, 28&7 has a “typical New York City backdrop.” It neighbors older masonry buildings on both 28th Street and 7th Avenue; the design team evoked 28&7’s surroundings while providing a contemporary look for the corner spot. In selecting black-glazed terra-cotta—customized by Shildan—the team at SOM was able to harmoniously contrast 28&7 with the surrounding grey and tan stone buildings.

The ground floor of 28&7 opens up to the street, with a lobby for the offices and retail on 7th Avenue. (Dave Burk © SOM)

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The terra-cotta and floor-to-ceiling glass windows form a grid on the facade, with structural columns integrated into the grid to leave unobstructed office spaces up to 40 feet long. The terra-cotta grid is divided on a “nominal” 10-foot module, providing tenants the flexibility within office spaces. The grid was widened at the ground level, giving the lobby and retail storefronts more visibility. Terra-cotta installation, laid entirely by hand, displays a high level of craftsmanship. The design team allotted for small differences in setting the terra-cotta, and workers were able to meet the tolerances that had been designed for.

The shape of the customized terra-cotta was chosen to complement the flatness of the glass windows. (Dave Burk © SOM)

Black glazing for the terra-cotta was chosen by the design team for a number of reasons, and after studies of numerous shades of black. Cooper said the team carefully studied the profile, color, and texture of the terra-cotta to understand how the material interacted with glass and light. After considering ribbed and fluted profiles for the terra-cotta frame, the design chose hollowed tiles to complement the flat glass. The glazing was applied to form a balance with the mirroring of the glass, catching and reflecting light. The SOM team worked with AJLP Consulting on design, and with Icon on construction and to draft mock ups and a methodology for the terra-cotta’s installation sequence. 

28&7 was designed with triple-glazed windows, meeting environmental performance and design considerations. Given the business of the intersection, the glazing reduces noise levels, and with improved insulation, eliminates the need for radiators on the building’s perimeter, enabling the windows to span floor-to-ceiling. The windows also include a low e-coating to meet New York City’s Zone Green standards. 

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