Metals in Architecture Design Challenge – Reimagining New York’s MetLife Building


The “Reimagine a New York City Icon” competition, the 2016 Design Challenge sponsored by Metals in Construction magazine and the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York invited architects, engineers, students, designers, and others from all over the world to submit their vision for recladding 200 Park Avenue (formerly the Pan Am Building, now the MetLife Building), which was built a half-century ago as the world’s largest corporate structure.

The mandate of the competition was to reimagine 200 Park Avenue with a resource-conserving, eco-friendly enclosure—one that creates a highly efficient envelope with the lightness and transparency sought by today’s office workforce—while preserving and enhancing the aesthetic of the building’s heritage.


Ben Tranel, AIA, LEED AP - Gensler
Areta Pawlynsky, AIA - Heintges
Billie Faircloth, AIA, LEED AP BD+C - Kieran Timberlake
Fiona Cousins, PE, LEED AP BD+C - Arup
Sameer Kumar, AIA, LEED AP - SHoP
Hauke Jungjohann - Thornton Tomasetti


“If your contribution has been vital there will always be somebody to pick up where you left off, and that will be your claim to immortality.” – Walter Gropius

A building is arguably its most sustainable when valued by the people.

PERPETUUM endeavors to improve the vitality of the MetLife building by honoring its history and iconography through sustainable strategies and improved spatial quality and variety indicative of a contemporary work place. The MetLife Building with its efficient, repetitive building plate and stark symmetry interrupts the city grid and audaciously asserts itself in the center of Park Avenue. It is a landmark within a city of landmarks; the original building however remains ill-prepared to adapt to the needs and desires of an evolving work force.

PERPETUUM, takes a holistic approach to the design challenge and implements strategies beyond just the introduction of a new exterior skin. Reskinning the building as a singular notion is conceptually straightforward. In the spirit of respecting Architectural Icons and improving the existing building stock it is most certainly a step in the right direction - socially, economically and environmentally. Only reskinning the building, however, doesn’t guarantee it will remain in use for another 50-100 years. The workplace is no longer a place for lone geniuses to sequester themselves in cubicles and enclosed offices. Modern workplaces rely on collaboration and informal gathering. PERPETUUM challenges the brief and argues that adding programmatically nimble amenity spaces must be considered if it is to truly remain vital.

The strategies implemented improve the building’s vitality through lowered energy consumption and a variety of naturally lit spaces in turn lengthening its life expectancy.

All the design strategies proposed for PERPETUUM are tailored specifically to this site and the form of the building with the goal to modernize it with regards to sustainability, constructability, and functionality.

Cladding systems are devised to be componentized and sized for installation from within the footprint of the building. Additionally, crane mechanisms may be employed on the podium roof and from the tower roof to hoist or lower components into position respectively. The unitized system will reduce on site construction and limit interruptions at street level caused by construction operations.

Additional thought to the disposal of the existing cladding materials must be considered as well. PERPETUUM proposes to donate the precast concrete panels to local municipalities for reuse in flood protection measures along Manhattan’s river fronts such as planned in the Big U project. This solution aligns with ongoing efforts by the city to mitigate future damage caused by catastrophic flooding as was seen in Super Storm Sandy. It’s anticipated the glass and curtainwall framing can be recycled, thus by-passing the waste stream.

Team members included Laura Battaglia, Jordan Gray, RJ Hartman, Ryan Johnson, Erika Jolleys, Mingfan Li, Albert McDonald, Gabriela Orizondo, Will Pate, Brian Turner, and Alec Yuzhbabenko.