The Austrian Cultural Forum tower is the first major United States project for Austrian-born New York architect Raimund Abraham. The competition was held in 1992, the building was completed in 2002.
Twenty-five feet wide and 81 feet deep, glazed with dramatic glass panels, the 24-story Austrian Cultural Forum Tower soars upward 280 feet, occupying the full width of its footprint from street level to pinnacle. The narrow skyscraper is the venue for presentation of contemporary Austrian arts and Austrian-American collaboration in many disciplines: music, visual arts, architecture and design, digital and Web projects, literature, film and video.
The architect Raimund Abraham divided the building into three vertical parts; "the Mask", "the Vertebra" and "the Core". The most visible segment, "the Mask", is the facade of teal-colored glass that tapers upwards to comply with zoning laws. The diagonal steel braces are visible behind the glass skin. A protruding box-like volume, containing the director's office, cantilevers over the space housing the institute's glass enclosed Library. Next comes "the Core" that contains the main structural elements and enclosed spaces and, to the rear of the building, "the Vertebrae", the metal-sheathed double fire stairwell that lines the back of the building. Locating the prerequisite emergency fire stair at the rear of the building liberated the width of the site and at the same time enabled Abraham to transform an element of sheer utility into a decisive architectonic component. Light itself becomes the guiding factor in a visit to this building, you enter from the light of outdoors and move toward light filtering at the back from the north facade.
The main entrance, topped by a stainless steel canopy, opens to a double-height Lobby and Reception area. The glass facade offers views from the sidewalk all the way through to the back of the building; capturing the spirit of flexibility and openness. Space and circulation are united by a floating stairway, paved with bluestone, that connects the public spaces of the Forum on five levels. The generous landings double as exhibition areas. The 30 foot north wall, washed with natural daylight from a skylight on the north facade, unifies all the public spaces.