Made in Manhattan

Wednesday 04 Jan 2012

Selldorf Architects completes new residential tower in West Chelsea

This residential high-rise is located in New York's West Chelsea neighbourhood, a burgeoning residential area forged from a former industrial zone and home to the City’s contemporary art galleries. The client desired a building that would make a unique contribution to the neighbourhood, as well as one that would draw together uptown and downtown clienteles, through a contemporary design that echoes tradition.

Parking was critical to the client, given the site’s distance from subway lines, that residents would likely own cars, and that the site’s small footprint would prohibit building a conventional parking garage. In response, the design blends the context and tradition of West Chelsea with contemporary innovation.

The 3-storey plinth is designed to connect the building to the surrounding context by reflecting the neighbourhood’s low-rise scale, and through a material palette (terracotta cladding and blackened steel window frames) that matches the masonry façades and industrial details of the surrounding buildings. Terracotta, widely used as architectural ornament during the 19th century in New York, is applied to the plinth but with a pared down, contemporary tone. Above the plinth, the tower energises the neighbourhood with a new architectural expression: the metallic sheen and curvilinear forms of its custom-fabricated stainless steel rainscreen.

The sculptural curves of the rainscreen are matched in the terracotta base, creating formal continuity between the tower and the plinth. The 16 units are configured as duplexes - a strategy which increases the building height to maximise river views. Inside, a double-height living space gives each unit the feel of a private home. Interiors are modern, but also recall the tradition of prewar apartments with tall ceilings and casement windows. In response to the parking requirement, each unit has a private en-suite garage which is serviced by a car elevator.

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