Manhattan Duplex
Friday 31 Jan 2014


Lilian H. Weinreich Architects has transformed the 36th and 37th floors of an existing post-war, residential tower in the premier upper west side of Manhattan into a stunning duplex renovation. Designed for a retired couple with a love of classical music and ballet, it provides an urban retreat for their frequent visits to NY. The brief was to completely remodel the existing duplex apartment into a bright, open space drawing on the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-Sabi.

The architects worked with the Co-Owner's wife in her role as Interior Designer to include the founding principles: wabi (transient/stark beauty), sabi (beauty of the natural, ageing), and y?gen (profound grace, subtlety), as a conceptual theme throughout the project. A subdued neutral palette of rich, subtle hues provides a clean, sophisticated backdrop to the delicate Noh mask carved from a solid block of wood using traditional techniques by the client's daughter, welcoming each visitor to the space. The same mirror backed glass provides a ghostlike aura to the translucent glass cabinet over the dry bar.

Part of the client's brief was to incorporate the mesmerizing views, so Lilian H. Weinreich added sliding, glazed Shoji screens capturing the entire floor width view and bringing a sense of the outside, in. The private bedroom quarters on the upper level feature rhythmic forms flowing around the central core wall forming a contextual relationship with the adjacent Art Deco apartment and lake beyond, seen from the window view.

One of the main challenges for the architects was to create a feeling of openness, with 8 foot low ceiling height restrictions. This was addressed through the clever use of dropped ceiling planes, floated with lit infinity edges, delivering a taller and grander feel.

To address sustainability despite poor prior quality and structural limitations, they were able to completely remodel a contemporary version of the existing apartment salvaging 30% of the original materials. Hot dipped galvanized zinc from 100% recyclable materials was used to refinish and refresh the classic Poulsen light fixtures and the existing steel stair components were reclaimed and cleaned. Wood was locally lumbered and materials and appliances selected for their low impact/low energy credentials. Sound insulation mats made of 100% recycled rubber were installed under the entire flooring throughout.

Inside, Lilian H. Weinreich Architects has created a unified space that is both tranquil and energising, extending the life of a tired, unloved post-war tower in to a beautiful tranquil duplex fit for use in the 21st century.

Lilian H. Weinreich Architects