We all know that buildings don't always turn out like the renderings. Last-minute changes and real-life materials can all cause discrepancies between the vision and reality of a project. In our weekly Flash Forward Friday feature, we take a look at how different projects stack up.

New York City boasts an assemblage of unorthodox skyscrapers characterized by differing architectural elements. Tall spires crown towers like One World Trade Center and the Chrysler Building, large setbacks form distinct silhouettes on the Empire State Building, and intricate ornamentation on the Woolworth Building and other structures of the time period reflects a craftsmanship that has largely been abandoned today. But there are as many architectural duds as there are instant classics. Repetitive and anonymous, some buildings respond to their function and nothing more, showing little regard to the surrounding context. It's this sameness that Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron set out to avoid with their project in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood, 56 Leonard.

Rendering for 56 Leonard, image via Herzog and de Meuron

Renderings for the 57-storey tower surfaced online in 2008, one year after Alexico Group purchased the land and air rights from the New York Law School for $150 million. Construction for the building's foundation began in earnest that same year, but was halted mere months later. Anticipation for the project grew with each rendering released. They depicted a vertical volume of stacked individually identifiable houses. Each of the 145 units would have different conditions because of the development's shifting floor slabs, which created unconventional corners, cantilevers, and projecting balconies. Analogous to a vibrant New York neighbourhood, 56 Leonard accommodates privacy and community through its built form. Terraces provide visual and physical links to the outdoors and to neighbours, encouraging engagement between residents. The base would react to its immediate context, with a scale that seeks not to impose, but to invite. The top of the building, hosting ten expansive penthouses, dissipates like a cloud in the sky. 

The completed 56 Leonard, image by Stefan Novakovic

Construction of the Hines-developed project resumed in 2012 and was substantially complete by the end of 2016. Its real-life appearance is a near-perfect facsimile of the original renderings. As artistically illustrated, the project's glassy exterior and shifting pixels have taken shape. Tall and slender, a result of the small site, 56 Leonard also makes no attempt to hide its fabrication method. While a building's horizontal concrete slabs would normally be covered by spandrel or curtain wall glazing, the project leaves them exposed. This raw aesthetic choice is continued inside, where in-suite concrete columns are on display. Since renderings were first revealed, the building attracted significant attention in local and international media, which likened the eroding structural profile to that of a Jenga game. 

Looking up at the completed 56 Leonard, image by Stefan Novakovic

We will return next Friday with another comparison!

Related Companies:  Alexico Group, Herzog & de Meuron Architekten, Hines