Circular City + Living Systems Lab

May 5, 2016

The Shape of Global Wealth: Slender Towers from New York to Seattle

John Reynders, MArch 2016

John Reynders, MArch 2016


With the financialization of a major segment of the world economy, the built environment has, in turn, experienced a new level of commodification. For the super rich, residential real estate promises strong return on investment, safe sheltering of funds outside the home country, and in most cases, a view. In Manhattan this development has recently taken physical form in the very tall slender tower. With extraordinary values predicated on location, views, and exclusivity, these buildings are shaped by careful manipulation of zoning and building codes, supported by innovative structural solutions, presented in enticing renderings, all to maximize profit potential. Application of new building technologies allows designers to create buildings with very high floor areas (FAR) on very small sites while maximizing height and, consequently, unit prices. This thesis explores this phenomenon as a built manifestation of global processes and local influences based on current developments in New York City. It transfers its findings to Seattle, which is growing in prominence in the international real estate market, as a physical location in which to explore the potential opportunities allowed by local building and zoning code that could shape a new typology of ultra-luxury real estate in the city. Projecting into the near future, this project manifests itself as a slender residential tower that embodies and embraces both the legal and physical gymnastics undertaken in its design.

Thesis Committee

Jeffrey Ochsner
Gundula Proksch