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category: Case History  Wednesday 08 June 2022

Best Practice Ventilated Façade: the stations of the Second Avenue Subway of New York

Who has never dreamed of climbing the Empire State Building, shopping on Fifth Avenue or taking a selfie in front of the Statue of Liberty? The Big Apple is a fascinating, magical destination full of opportunities.

Among the most famous iconic symbols of New York we need to mention the New York City Subway, one of the oldest and most extensive subway networks with 472 stations, 394 km long and 32 lines. A remarkable infrastructure, carrying more than 1.3 million passengers every day.

Reference: 86th Street Second Avenue Subway - Station

When in 2004 Aliva was contacted by a Spanish stoneware producer for advice on a major project in the USA, no one would have expected that Aliva would design and build such an ambitious public work: the Second Avenue Subway, which is the second line of the NY subway located in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side..

The numbers requested by the Second Avenue Line and made by Aliva are in fact mind-boggling:

- 4 stations built from 2014 to 2017; 

- Over 14.000 sqm of surfaces designed and delivered for the cladding of the internal and external ventilated façades of the stations;

- 170 tonnes of aluminium alloy used for structures;

- 7.000 hours of planning required at the various stages of the work;

- 130.000 flight miles between Italy and the United States made by those involved in the project;

- 55 meters below the ground at the lowest point where the ventilated façades were used.

Facciata ventilata in gres a NY
Reference: Costruzione seconda linea della metropolitana di New York a Manhattan

……Returning back to 2004, when on Wall Street Aliva was presented to the design studio DMJM Harris, then acquired by AECOM - today among the largest design studios in the world - which explained the need to engineer some mechanical mounting systems for ventilated façade porcelain stoneware tiles from 13 and 20 mm thick.

The aim was to create the "walls" inside the stations, as well as the trackwalls, that is the part of coverings not accessible to the public beyond the train, and the external parts of the stations, containing the plants. The performance these systems were supposed to provide was far above the usual construction standards. Let us not forget that 2001 was a short time ago and the safety measures for public works have been brought to unprecedented levels. The structural loads to be considered went far beyond what Aliva had achieved so far.

To make it even more complex the realization was the further request of the MTA (Metropolitan Transport Authority, as well as owners of the subway) and the city of New York, who had commissioned four world-famous artists to create works that would be incorporated into the walls of the ventilated façade.

Decorazioni su facciata ventilata in gres
Reference: Contemporary art - made by the Artists Sarah Sze, Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Jean Shin

The challenge was accepted and the result of those years of work is visible in the photos we show. Our wish for our readers is that you can visit in person at the 63rd, 72nd, 86th and 96th street stations of the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan. 

facciata ventilata ancillary station
Reference: Ancillary Building - Aliva has projected and delivered the systems of the external ventilated façade of the buildings.

Before we leave you with a curiosity, remember Hurricane Sandy? In 2012, it lapped the southern end of Manhattan and completely flooded the South Ferry Station, destroying the walls that covered it.

Given the results obtained with the Second Avenue Line, and an immediate availability on site, Aliva also participated in the restoration of that station, designing and providing a ventilated façade in stoneware that, thanks to the collaboration with the stoneware supplier who had already supplied the material previously, it is exactly the faithful replica of the one destroyed by the hurricane.

Esterno metropolitana di New York

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