How to Wash the Windows at Frank Gehry’s 76-Story Eight Spruce Street

Frank Gehry building 8 Spruce Street
Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos

Conventional window-washing rigs slide up, down, and side to side to get around a building, but at Eight Spruce, the apparatus has to contend with lots of curves and angles. (Only the south face is flat.) Starting on the roof, two washers load their low-tech supplies—squeegees, dish soap, a bag lunch­—into a custom-designed rig comprising six “baskets,” which move individually. A telescoping crane lowers the rig to a fixed position. Then a basket—or baskets, depending on the location—is pushed snugly against the glass-and-steel exterior. To get to the next floor, the crane moves the rig out from the curtain wall, realigns the basket, and drops. The job is managed by R&R Scaffolding, which also handles other unusually shaped skyscrapers, like the under-construction One57. Business is up 500 percent over the last five years.

Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos

$1.5 million to $3 million: Estimated combined cost of system installation (sans rig purchase) plus one round of cleaning.
428,000: Square feet of surface area.
2,000+: Windows.
25 mph: Maximum wind speed at which the rig actually works.
6: Months to complete annual cleaning
“I’m not really afraid of heights, but the first few months were a little iffy. You’re just looking out at those cables holding you up, wondering, Is this going to be enough?”
—Juan Portelles, R&R Scaffolding

*This article appears in the June 16, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.

How to Wash the Windows at Eight Spruce Street