The Prospect of a Shadowless NYC


New York City is known for its endless sea of skyscrapers. They sprout into the sky, and blocking interminable amount of sun, resulting in dreadful showdown-casting monsters. What if that was no longer a concern? The architects of London-based firm NBBJ are set on developing a new structure that will work to eliminate shade year-round, completely redefining the skyscraper.

NBBJ developed a custom algorithm, which allows them to take into concern the angle of the sun, the best views, and the site’s location. The firm used this data to design a pair of towers that are meticulously aligned with curved and angled facades. According to David Kosdruy, designer of the No Shade Tower, “The algorithm design is based on the law of reflection. Sun reflected from a straight facade provides an even distribution of light at just one point in time over a specific area. From a spherical facade it results in a concentration of light in one point. But these results are not desirable for a no shade tower.”

“Our facade on the other hand has varying angles of facade panels that distribute light over a certain area at multiple times during the day. Based on that principle we developed a Computational Design Script, using Grasshopper, a generic algorithm and in house python libraries that enabled us to find the optimal angles necessary to reduce the shadows in between the two towers at a desired time during the day.”

The firm primarily designed the concept for the “No Shadow” towers in response to Rafael Vinoly’s, Walkie Talkie building, which was highly criticized for its curved facade that reflected sunlight onto cars, and buildings. In New York City, Vinoly is responsible for designing 432 Park Avenue - located on Billionaire Row - another undesirable shadow caster. While the concept is not completely shadow-free, the towers will redirect sunlight offering a 60 percent shadow reduction. Christian Coop, the NBBJ design director, stated the project focused on “finding a way in which we can have the tall buildings we need without losing natural light on the areas below. The design ensures that the area between the towers is bright and pleasant, so is more likely to be used as a public space.”

The “No Shadow-Tower” remains a concept at present, but similar ideas have already been proposed. The concept is quite similar to the Chelsea bound “Solar Carve” – designed by Studio Gang – with precise angles that allow the tower to invert sunlight and air down towards the street. Architects will never stop building up but the issues of shadows may soon be obsolete.