TOP ARCHITECTS CREATING LUXE HOMES WITH A SINGLE DESIGN VISION
By Deborah Wilk
February 25, 2014 | 6:46pm
It’s been 10 years since the arrival of Richard Meier’s twin glass towers on the West Village’s Perry Street — whose iconic architecture and celebrity residents helped the project achieve record pricing. Yet while the bold-named buyers were certainly newsworthy, the towers also came with an undeniable downside: The apartments’ concrete, open-plan interiors required ample time, money and effort to make livable — despite their original seven-figure price tags.
But that was then.
Today, instead of delivering multimillion-dollar units raw, the more recent wave of architecturally significant luxury developments — Annabelle Selldorf’s 10 Bond St., Steven Harris’ 7 Harrison, 56 Leonard by Herzog & de Meuron, and Singaporean architect/developer Soo K. Chan’s Soori High Line, among them — are coming to market ready for occupancy.
What truly makes these properties, along with other notable newcomers in Manhattan and Miami, stand out from the upmarket crowd are their unusual design bona fides. Unlike the Meier towers (where the starchitect simply handled the exterior) or at the forthcoming “billionaire buildings” 432 Park Ave. and One57 — which rely on a name-brand architect for the outside and top-tier interior designer for within — these new developments feature a single stellar designer tackling the inside and out. And this means both the exteriors and interiors are thoughtfully and equally conceived by a sole talent and vision.
The aesthetic value of this inside/out approach is clear — but so too is its ability to increase a project’s bottom line. “The use of a well-regarded architect from the exterior of the building to the interior of the apartment has the potential to add a premium to the project’s value,” says Jonathan Miller, president of leading real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. “By providing such continuity, it tends to raise the bar and places the project at or near the top of the food chain.”
For architects, the appeal of this type of design and development approach is obvious: Finally they have a chance to create a great building from tip to toe — sometimes even from the ground up. “There’s always a disconnect when there are several designers on one project,” says Nancy Ruddy, principal of CetraRuddy, a firm long known for offering architectural and interior design services. “When you do both [elements], you can manipulate the exterior to maximize the interior.”
In Ruddy’s case, her firm was tasked with both the exterior renovations and interior innovations of Chelsea’s famed 1929 Art Deco Walker Tower. “We did view studies throughout every angle of the building, so we could place rooms with respect to sunrise and sunset,” explains Ruddy of her approach to Walker Tower. “That enabled us to create magical apartments.” Magical — and profitable. Walker Tower’s nearly 6,000-square-foot penthouse commanded one of the highest prices for a downtown residential unit with the completion of an all-cash deal of $50.9 million this past January.
CetraRuddy has also given the inside/out treatment to smaller-scale projects, such as the former garage at 12 E. 13th St., now home to eight luxury condos. The 5,700-square-foot triplex penthouse with two terraces is crowned by a glass structure and runs $30.5 million. “We formed the glass top around the floor plan, which is a kind of architecture that wouldn’t exist if there had been two designers,” says Ruddy. And in doing so, they were able to meld the exteriors to fit with the design inside.
Beyond securing record prices, this approach to new luxury developments is becoming a crucial marketing tool. “Properties with interiors and exteriors by the same architect are seen differently by buyers, especially when the architect is globally recognized,” says Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of The Corcoran Group. “It helps with marketability, and more importantly, it can create an exceptional product. When one designer has touched every aspect of a building, from the doorknobs to the façade to its silhouette on the skyline, a home feels as if it’s been designed from the inside out.” And like Miller, Liebman also sees this philosophy boosting the bottom line — up to 25 percent when executed at its highest form.
World-class architecture — along with world-class pricing — is also helping to convince major developers of the value of using just one talent. “Great architecture is a common thread to great properties,” explains Will Zeckendorf, co-chairman of Zeckendorf Development. Currently Zeckendorf — along with Global Holdings — is developing two major projects with single architects: 50 UN Plaza — created by Norman Foster — and 18 Gramercy Park, designed by Robert A.M. Stern. This makes perfect sense on both an aesthetic and commercial level, Zeckendorf says. “If you have an architect like Foster or Stern, you want them inside and out.”
Inside/out design “was something we’ve been seeking for the last several years to do,” notes architect Thomas Juul-Hansen, and his vision has finally come to fruition with two New York projects, 505 W. 19th St. and 60 E. 86th St. “The objective is to make incredible residences,” he says, and to do so, he believes “there needs to be synergy with what happens inside and outside. Everything should have … the same intent.” On 19th Street, Juul-Hansen’s project consists of two buildings straddling the High Line, with 35 units that will range from $2,500 to $3,000 per square foot. In the upper-floor units — which span upwards of 6,000 square feet — natural light floods through 8¹/₂-foot-wide windows. A ground-floor duplex offers a 60-by-30-foot garden with a 50-foot pool. Throughout the project, brick, steel and wood speak to the neighborhood’s warehouse past.
Up on 86th Street, meanwhile, Juul-Hansen’s forms are less experimental — as befits the neighborhood’s classic style. The 50-foot-wide site will give way to 15 floor-through units clad in fluted limestone. “The architecture is very toned down,” says Juul-Hansen, who compares the exterior to a raked Zen garden. Clean lines, grand proportions and an abundance of light speak to contemporary sleekness inside, but solid oak and marble surfaces, as well as custom rosewood details, lend themselves to traditional tastes. The asking price for the penthouse is $20 million; a three-bedroom runs $6.85 million.
Down in Miami, the inside/out movement is also taking foot. There’s the 10-unit Glass Miami Beach, for which architect Rene Gonzalez is devising both the interiors and exteriors. The city’s highest profile proponent of the trend, however, is venerable Italian architect and industrial designer Piero Lissoni. The longtime art director of furniture brands Boffi and Porro, Lissoni found his ideal first American commission in the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach — a new development for which he is creating nearly every aspect. “To be an architect in Italy means you have to be able to design anything,” says Lissoni. “To be able to think from inside to outside is absolutely crucial.”