The Republic of Austria selected Faithful+Gould to oversee construction of the new Austrian Cultural Institute in New York. This mixed-use building includes residential apartments, an atrium, a 100 seat theater, art gallery, library and administrative offices. The site was tight – measuring 25 feet wide by 109 feet deep – and contained no street frontage for storage or staging. The entire 23 storey, 33,000ft2 building had to be squeezed into this restricted space between buildings on either side. The project resembled a 3D puzzle, and required us to closely coordinate and monitor the design and installation of all structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Normally simple tasks demanded unique solutions. Deliveries, for example, had to be smaller in size and tightly coordinated with subcontractors. New techniques for pouring concrete and installing glass and zinc curtain walls had to be developed. To install two heat pumps into their sub-cellar location, workers had to lower them down an elevator shaft with less than one inch clearance on all sides – a maneuver that required two days work to lower the pumps 30 feet.
Even the project’s beginning was fraught with difficulties. Austrian-born architect Raimund Abraham, a professor at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, referred to himself as a conceptual architect and did not provide sophisticated blueprints. It was left to Faithful+Gould to translate his ideas for the contractors. In addition, the project had to be re-bid three times due to cost overruns. This required intensive value engineering efforts by our team to keep the project buildable and affordable. In 2002, the Austrian Cultural Institute was given the Award of Merit (Institutional Project) from New York Construction News.