Tag Archives: luxury

Dakota Apartments

The Dakota Apartments were New York’s first luxury apartments, built by Singer Sewing Machine’s Edward S. Clark and designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (of Plaza Hotel fame). It was named the Dakota, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, because Clark’s colleagues teased him that if he built it a few blocks further away he could build it in Dakota (Indian territory). *

The grand structure overlooking Central Park has a 20-foot-high covered entryway into its central courtyard – designed to accommodate carriages and horses, which were stabled nearby. The apartments were served by four entrances, at the corners of the courtyard. The adjoining lot – now a white brick apartment building – used to contain The Dakota’s tennis courts and a power station.

Though most recently known as the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono – and the site where Lennon was murdered – the building has in fact been home to dozens of celebrities. Celebrity status isn’t enough to gain admittance, though: The Board of Directors (The Dakota is a cooperative) is notorious for rejecting would-be tenants. Among the rejected: Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Cher, Billy Joel, Madonna, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriguez, Judd Apatow and Tea Leoni.

When apartments become available, their prices are in the tens of millions of dollars. That doesn’t seem to bother some people: John Lennon had six apartments; Rudolf Nureyev’s apartment was just one of several homes.

When built, The Dakota Apartments offered many services of a hotel. A private dining room served residents – or delivered (and served) meals in their apartments. A substantial housekeeping staff included porters, janitors, maids, laundresses, elevator operators and more. The staff delivered coal and firewood for the apartments’ stoves and fireplaces – and hauled away the resulting ashes. The top two floors were originally for the building’s laundry, and servants quarters.

All in all, beautiful architecture and fascinating history. See some of the interiors at the Dakota Projects documentary website.

* This story, though widely quoted, actually has no documentary basis according to historian Andrew Alpern. The quote was pure speculation of a property manager, years after Clark died, says Mr. Alpern.

There is a new book by architectural historian Andrew Alpern – the most comprehensive history of The Dakota imaginable! Mr. Alpern documents the building, its builder (and family!), the architect, the neighborhood, the architectural and historical context, and even the Dakota’s residents. Fascinating reading that illuminates not only The Dakota, but also the world of apartment living in New York City. I’m honored that he chose photos from this gallery to help illustrate the volume.

Dakota Apartments Vital Statistics
Dakota Apartments Recommended Reading

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Chatsworth Apartments and Annex

The Chatsworth Apartments and Annex are magnificent Beaux Arts buildings at the foot of West 72nd Street, overlooking the Hudson River and Riverside Park. The eight-story annex was built two years after the 12-story main building; the two are distinctively separate except for a unifying limestone base. Although not apparent from the front (W 72nd Street), the Chatsworth itself is two buildings. The second, with a less elaborate facade, is now visible only from W 71st Street. Donald Trump’s Harmony House condo (2003) blocks the buildings’ west facades, which used to overlook the abandoned West Side rail yard (and the Hudson River, beyond).

The most lavish of Chatsworth’s 66 apartments ranged from five to 15 rooms, which rented for $900 to $5,000 per year (1904 dollars!). The smaller Chatsworth Apartments Annex had one apartment per each of its eight floors.

Take time to read the Daytonian in Manhattan piece for some fascinating history; The New York Times three pieces detail tenants’ battles with the landlord and with Donald Trump.

Chatsworth Apartments and Annex Vital Statistics
Chatsworth Apartments and Annex Recommended Reading

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Studio Building

Studio Building aka Studio Apartments (not to be confused with 140 W 57th Street Studio Building – The Beaufort) has just 32 apartments – but what apartments! At this writing, one of those three-bedroom cooperative apartments is on the market for $15.5 million. The mid-block building overlooks the Museum of Natural History on wide W 77th Street; the views more spectacular because living rooms (originally studios) are double height with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The building’s original facade was even more ornate – there was a massive oriel projecting from the top three floors, and an elaborate cornice that added a story to the building’s height. The New York Times notes that three quarters of the original ornament was stripped in the 1940s.

The architects – Herbert Spencer Harde and Richard Thomas Short – had a brief but showy partnership that resulted in four landmarked buildings: this and Red House, Alwyn Court, and 45 E 66th Street.

Studio Building Vital Statistics
Studio Building Recommended Reading

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Aire is a glass residential tower adjacent to the former Red Cross blood center just north of Lincoln Center. The building’s complex wedge-shaped plan presents an almost knife-edged profile when viewed from the south. Like any reflective facade, Aire’s appearance changes at the whim of the weather.

The former Red Cross building, meanwhile, was razed and rebuilt as a mixed-use low-rise structure – four floors above ground, two floors below grade. The street-level and underground floors are retail space, the upper floors are earmarked for community use.

The residential tower is a luxury rental building – a 2BR apartment lists for $14,000/month. The building’s amenities, however, are comparable to a luxury condominium: Landscaped private park, onsite health club, children’s indoor and outdoor play areas, and more. Not to mention awesome location – Central Park is two blocks east, Lincoln Center is two blocks south, Riverside Park is two blocks west.

Aire Vital Statistics
Aire Recommended Reading

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Chelsea Modern

Chelsea Modern is a stunning, award-winning residential design with innovative features – and with a perfect companion building next door on West 18th Street. Even with its mid-block location, the 12-story zig-zagging blue glass facade stands out.

Architect Audrey Matlock took a page from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building – perfectly matched window blinds are built in, so that no one can destroy the symmetry or color of the facade by installing, say, calico curtains. But condo buyers can alter their floor plans somewhat – some of the bedroom walls are movable. Handy when you need to make the guest room less hospitable. You can open the windows at Chelsea Modern – but not by sliding or swinging the sash: It moves straight out, parallel to the side of the building. Fresh air enters (or your culinary excesses exit) around the sides of the sash.

As with anything radical, Chelsea Modern has its passionate detractors. They lament “there goes the neighborhood” as historic architecture is razed and glazed. (See the Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog. Even if you don’t agree with the author, you have to appreciate the writing.) Two warehouses died in the making of this building.

Chelsea Modern Vital Statistics
Chelsea Modern Recommended Reading

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459 W 18th Street

459 W 18th Street so perfectly complements Chelsea Modern, the condo next door, you might think that they were one building. That’s quite a trick, considering that the two structures have different heights, widths, orientations, colors and materials – not to mention architects.

But 459’s vertically-aligned angles and stark black and white aluminum panels paradoxically marry the blue and white glass and horizontal lines of Chelsea Modern.

459 W 18th Street Vital Statistics
459 W 18th Street Recommended Reading

Click to access architecture090615.pdf

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Time Warner Center

Time Warner Center was controversial from the moment it was conceived – years before that name was even attached. Now that Time Warner is moving downtown to the Hudson Yards, who knows what new controversies will arise.

The oddly shaped site on Columbus Circle was inherited from the Coliseum, the Robert Moses-sponsored exhibition hall that was partly financed by federal slum clearance funds. Critics contend that the Coliseum was too small when it went up in 1956. In 1985 New York City and the MTA started shopping for a new developer. After nearly 14 years of design, political, and legal battles, Related Companies and Time Warner came up with the winning bid and design.

The project came with challenges: it had to follow the curve of Columbus Circle while aligning with the street grid – including angled Broadway; it had to include a “view corridor” of at least 65 feet; it had to contain less than 2.1 million square feet of space. (Like Grimm’s “Peasant’s Wise Daughter,” commanded to go to the king “neither naked nor clothed, neither walking nor riding, neither on the road nor off it.”)

Time Warner Center is actually five buildings: Offices and television studios for Time Warner; the One Central Park residential condominium tower; the Mandarin Oriental hotel tower; the Jazz at Lincoln Center performance halls; and The Shops at Columbus Center (originally the Palladium). While David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was responsible for overall design, each block had its own architectural team. As reported by The New York Times, Rafael Viñoly Architects designed Jazz at Lincoln Center; Perkins & Will, the Time Warner headquarters; Elkus/Manfredi Architects, the Palladium; Brennan Beer Gorman Architects and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; and Ismael Leyva Architects and Thad Hayes, One Central Park.

The result, which The New York Times in 2001 termed “like a giant tuning fork vibrating to the zeitgeist,” had mixed reviews. On completion in 2004, The Times gushed, “the building has great glamour. It is far more romantic than the Jazz Age tributes conceived by Mr. Childs in his wanton postmodern youth. With 10 Columbus, the mood is modern noir. The two towers are worthy descendants of Radio City.”

New York Magazine credited Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) with conquering the complexities, but picked apart the details. “SOM got the big, difficult moves right, but for the success of any building to be complete, design decisions must reinforce each other consistently down the drafting chain. Unfortunately, sometime after the conceptual stages, SOM suffered a failure of attention span.”

Probably all will agree that Time Warner Center (whatever its future name) is a massive improvement over Robert Moses’ Coliseum.

Time Warner Center Vital Statistics
Time Warner Center Recommended Reading

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Langham Place

Langham Place (formerly Setai Fifth Avenue) is a towering grid of limestone, concrete and glass with emphatic vertical lines that mimic the nearby Empire State Building.

The 57-story building is a mix of retail (floors 1-3), 214-room hotel (4-26), and 164 condominium apartments (28-56). The 10-story limestone base has a rounded corner; a 46-story sheer concrete tower sits atop that. Unusual floor-to-ceiling windows – two panes angled with the bottom pane facing down, top pane facing up – are paired in columns all around. On the residential floors, corner apartments have wrap-around windows. The windows give Langham Place’s facade a unique faceted texture – quite striking from nearby.

The two-story flared stainless steel crown hides water tanks and other mechanical details, and elevator machinery. The crown is illuminated at night.

Among other notable projects in New York City, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates designed the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, W New York Downtown, and Astor Place Tower.

Langham Place Vital Statistics
Langham Place Recommended Reading

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UN Plaza

One UN Plaza and Two UN Plaza are the gleaming angular glass buildings opposite the United Nations on First Avenue, between E 44th and E 45th Streets. The towers are sculpture as much as they are buildings – their angled planes talk to each other and ignore the neighborhood. Their only connection, via color and material, is with the United Nations across First Avenue.

(A third building – Three UN Plaza – was built later in a different style and will be covered separately.)

Wrapped around the United States Mission to the UN and Uganda House, the buildings contain the One UN Plaza (formerly Millennium UN Plaza) hotel and United Nations offices space. The hotel occupies the top 11 floors of each tower and has a single entrance on E 44th Street. Offices occupy the lower floors (except for ground floor shops) and have separate entries in each tower.

One UN Plaza Vital Statistics
Two UN Plaza Vital Statistics
UN Plaza Recommended Reading

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Switch Building

Switch Building is an attempt to be “cool” yet stay in character with the neighborhood. So while 109 Norfolk has the same building line and approximate height as 111 Norfolk, Switch Building has a steel facade as opposed to brick, with windows on alternating floors angled counter to each other like oversized rocker switches (hence the name).

Some time after plans were drawn and construction started, the “neighborhood” constraint seems to have disappeared – the towering Blue condominiums next door certainly shattered that concept. One wonders what nArchitects would have planned without that constraint.

Another requirement of the building permit was that there be ground floor “community access” space, so a two-story (ground floor and basement) art gallery was included in the plan.

Above the gallery are four floor-through apartments with rear balconies (staggered, so each balcony gets maximum sun); a duplex penthouse apartment is above that.

Switch Building Vital Statistics
Switch Building Recommended Reading

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