Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has designed some of the world's most beautiful skyscrapers, often sheathed in curtain walls of floor-to-ceiling glass. But glass wasn't an option for one of its latest projects—an emergency call center in the Bronx that brings together response workers from multiple New York City agencies. Completed last year, the $800 million building needed to be able to withstand all manner of disasters. It is, essentially, a bunker.
Windows had to be few and far between. But that didn’t stop SOM from making the building beautiful. The firm covered it in brushed-aluminum panels, arranged in a saw- tooth pattern. The serrated surface provides soft, pixilated reflections of the sky, which change throughout the day. Without any obvious indicators of scale, the perfect cube, which spans more than 450,000 square feet and rises 240 feet (the equivalent of 24 stories), suggests a sculptural object of indeterminate size.