I always enjoy talking to users of high profile architect’s buildings. I was having a conversation with someone who works for the New York Times as we strolled past Central Saint Giles, Renzo Piano Building Workshop‘s latest project in London, the subject turned to what is was like to work in the New York Times Building. Amongst what was a suspected reply of how comfortable it was, with great views and its beautiful external aesthetics was the building’s inability to deal with the New York winter.

One of the building’s key design features is a ceramic screen over a glass curtain wall system (shown above) which is used for daylight harvesting. Basically ceramics have a high thermal mass (they hold on to heat for longer) and so create a thermal boundary between the glass and outside. What was clearly not thought about is that ceramics, as well as holding onto heat very well also hold on to cold very well. This has resulted, so I am informed, with sheet ice forming on the ceramic screen during the colder winter months and the building having to close its main entrance for health and safety reasons (so you don’t get chopped in half by falling sheet ice). I suppose even the most highly regarded architects occasionally miss a detail.