As I hope you
read on a regular basis, I am lucky
to see lots of new buildings around town, sometimes with great design, sometimes with great views, sometimes with great ideas for modern living.
Rarely do I see properties that simply jump out and grab me, properties that are clearly “Best in Show” types.
Rarer still are those properties that not only completely grab my attention, but also take the art of selling real estate to the next level and are just drop-dead amazing.
In that situation, not only is the sales office experience heads and shoulders above the rest, but I have this feeling that New York City finally has embraced modern architecture – New Development 2.0.
I had this feeling
after I left the office of 53 West 53rd Street, Jean Nouvel’s latest New York City design.
This building, which will sit next door to the Museum of Modern Art, has to be compared to his other projects at 40 Mercer Street and 100 Eleventh Avenue.
Apart from his designs, I see so few properties that have captured the imagination in the same way.
And yet, the success of a current crop of properties, including 432 Park, 625 West 57th Street (The Pyramid, a rental), 111 West 57th Street and a few from the tail end of last cycle that are sold out – such as 56 Leonard
(just topping out – or reaching
its full height now) – finally shows support for new architecture.
Surely, just as much success is happening for the traditional “New-Old” that Robert Stern is designing – 220 Central Park South
20 East End among them – but I would argue that we’re seeing
the acceptance level for contemporary design reach its highest point to date, across the city – that is, acceptance of the Modern Building, on the outside of the building.
interior design in NYC resists the call of the contemporary.
For some time, contemporary design had been limited to Downtown, where Gehry, Herzog & DeMeuron, Zaha Hadid, and newer names like Thomas Juul-Hansen could create more freely.
The skyline indeed is changing across the Southern side of Central Park South, with excitement and furor.
New York City has proved itself to be far more buttoned up than adventurous with its interiors, though.
With 53 West 53rd, Nouvel was brought in again by Hines (who collaborated on 100 Eleventh Avenue), while Thierry Despont was brought in to design the interiors.
The combination is nothing short of astounding.
First, 53rd Street requires its own architectural words.
Enter the “Diagrid.”
Inspired by other architectural icons stretching into the sky, this design looks like a alien crystal brightening from steel to gold, architectural alchemy, as it reaches its top.
The exoskeleton of the building ends up allowing for far fewer interior columns for the support structure, while framing the views of the building with these diagonal moments.
Some units will have one diagrid crossing a living room, or a bath, or a kitchen.
Others may have at most a two-diagrid crossing.
The battle for interiors, on the other hand, has been won, by a large margin, by those who incorporate the gracious way human beings have been living for centuries.
Thierry Despont creates this marvelous counterpoint to Nouvel, while using every modern technology to enhance his work.
His design shines most brightly in contrast to Nouvel.
LED-backlit, thinly sliced onyx in the baths, with large nautical-themed round motorized makeup mirrors that may be adjusted to their owners’ height.
This design is well-beyond what I’ve seen even in
the most exhaustively done properties.
The kitchens and living spaces are done stylishly, and even in a building of this height – over 1000 feet – there are operable openings in the windows to allow fresh air in for residents.
All kitchens and washer/dryers are venting – another rare feat for a building this tall.
Further, the amenity spaces were well-conceived.
From a 14th floor wine tasting room, to the 12th floor pool and fitness facilities, every consideration was given to an extremely high level of amenity.
I was reminded of the sales office of One57 when I entered, with this feeling of classic “Gotham.”
Once I realized that Thierry Despont was involved, and that the entrance
to the sales office is how the entrance
to the building will be outfitted, the feeling took on more dimension.
From showing the actual windows that will go into the building, to
stunning array of models, Hines has gone to extra lengths to give interested buyers the understanding they’ll need to make a decision whether
The building soars upward, like sunstone crystal shooting up from the earth, like the scenes in Superman Returns.
This very well may be a fortress of solitude for the ultra-wealthy.
But there is no question that buyers looking for quality and execution will get grand design here, if not marvelous views across Manhattan and beyond.
If there is a an issue here, it is that 53 West 53rd is not the view building one might want, compared to 220 CPS and 432 Park.
Apart from that, it should find much interest at the $4500-9000 per square foot level it is seeking.
The units facing away from Central Park start at the lower range, while a 72nd floor unit facing the Park will be at the higher end.
Perks like the top level membership to MoMa next door, room service access to the certainly 5 star restaurant in the building’s base, pet spa, wine tasting room, curated fitness center – are
all inspirational and sure to help cement this building as a standout.
172 Madison Avenue
At the same time, I was able to take a look at 172 Madison Avenue, located at 33rd and Madison, considered NoMad by some, or Park Avenue South by others.
The neighborhood is convenient, full of low-slung buildings selling high-end rugs, and primed for a crop of its own new buildings.
If you click through the building link, you’ll notice that 172 Madison and 53 West 53rd are playing with the same black and gold color palette.
Perhaps both were inspired by the bronze and black of the Peninsula Hotel website, but who knows.
Perhaps this is the color of luxury.
Either way, I have enjoyed watching this area blossom over the last 3-4 years, seeing each new development surpass the last, in pricing and quality.
Tessler’s latest project is a collaboration honed over time with interior designer Samir Shah and Karl Fischer, a prolific architect whose work appears all over Brooklyn.
While in some ways the interiors appear a bit too value-engineered, there are many important design elements that stood out to me.
First, ceiling heights are a minimum of eleven (11) feet.
The full-floor units above the 20th floor showcase 18′ ceilings; similarly, for the mid-level full-floor “Mansion” unit at the building’s set-back,
has 20′ ceilings, as well as
a private pool and marvelous terrace.
If anything, this building, as a ground-up construction, has allowed the developer to create something that I find far more unique and interesting – in some ways because it is contrasted nicely with the prewar buildings surrounding it, and partially because it lives in the afternoon shadow of the Empire State and doesn’t try to outdo itself.
Either way, it still falls into the category of New Development 1.0, with a lovely sales office featuring what will be a stunning lobby installation.
It calls to mind much of what has been on offer from Extell over the last few years, within One Riverside Park, for instance.
This design doesn’t try to overreach, while giving buyers the option between a white lacquer kitchen and an all-wood, darker design.
Either way, the buyer
left feeling this is a solid option, if
he or she
is willing to wait until 2017 for delivery.
I can imagine some buyers may be concerned about that delay, curious to see what else might be available more readily, before rates change.
At $2000+ per square foot, fully amenitized, maxing out at 69 units, and offering excellent location for foreign and/or domestic use, this property doesn’t have the same level of value that
Setai had on 35th and 5th, in my view, with
its extraordinary views (one has to be on the Southeast corner of this building to get light and views, and really above the 25th floor to have clear open views), but it holds great appeal in this market – with a much stronger appeal to the primary user and domestic user.
With properties like Toll Brothers’ 400 Park Avenue South just a few blocks away, there is no question that a dense and popular area will not give a buyer guaranteed views for very long, anyway.
There are a handful of additional developments from 26th-34th Streets between Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue that not only complement to Murray Hill, but are quite the anchors to this once-commercial district.