SOM’s 28&7 black terracotta facade shines in Chelsea

Adorned with a black terracotta grille and smooth glass, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) 28&7 opened in February 2022, near the north end of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Rising 12 stories, the building, developed by GDSNY, houses 100,000 square feet of office space, a lobby at 28e Street, ground floor shop facing 7e Avenue, and a 12e penthouse on the ground.

SOM partner Chris Cooper said 28&7 has a “typical New York setting.” It neighbors old masonry buildings on the 28e Street and 7e Street; the design team evoked the surroundings of 28&7 while providing a contemporary look for the corner spot. By selecting black glazed terracotta – customized by Shildan – the SOM team were able to contrast 28&7 harmoniously with the surrounding gray and beige stone buildings.

The ground floor of 28&7 opens onto the street, with a hall for offices and shops on 7th Avenue. (Dave Burk© SOM)

Floor-to-ceiling terracotta and glass windows form a grid on the facade, with structural columns built into the grid to leave unobstructed office spaces up to 40 feet long. The terracotta grid is divided over a “nominal” 10 foot module, giving tenants flexibility in office spaces. The grid has been widened at ground level, giving more visibility to the lobby and storefronts. The terracotta installation, laid entirely by hand, displays a high level of know-how. The design team allowed for small differences in the setting of the terracotta and the workers were able to meet the tolerances for which they were designed.

The shape of the custom terracotta was chosen to complement the flatness of the glass windows. (Dave Burk© SOM)

Black terracotta glazing was chosen by the design team for a number of reasons, and after studies of many shades of black. Cooper said the team carefully studied the profile, color and texture of the terracotta to understand how the material interacted with glass and light. After considering ribbed and fluted profiles for the terracotta frame, the design chose hollow panes to complement the flat glass. The glazing has been applied to form a balance with the mirror of the glass, capturing and reflecting the light. The SOM team worked with AJLP Consulting on the design, and with Icon on the construction and to draft mockups and methodology for the terracotta installation sequence.

28&7 was designed with triple glazed windows, respecting environmental performance and design considerations. Given the activity of the intersection, the glazing reduces noise levels and, through improved insulation, eliminates the need for radiators around the perimeter of the building, allowing the windows to extend from floor to ceiling. The windows also include a low-e coating to meet New York City Zone Green standards.

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