West Chelsea Residence by LUCE et Studio Architects
Architects & Firms
Steps from the cacophony of Manhattan’s High Line and traffic-clogged Tenth Avenue, Zaha Hadid’s bold residential complex on West 28th Street is an unlikely location for a California-style urban retreat. Yet on an upper floor of the 11-story structure’s west wing, a recently completed apartment designed by San Diego–based LUCE et Studio, for a couple from Del Mar, seems distant from the congestion below, a surprisingly tranquil escape that also exploits the city views around it.
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Entering the apartment from the cool, dark corridor it shares with one other residence, you are transported by its warmth and sense of place, largely due to a clever open plan, sensitive choice of materials, and seductive quality of light. Most of the floors, walls, and doors are thick planks of California oak, while the building’s triple-glazed windows and balcony doors at east, west, and south exposures block street noise and admit sunlight, which can be tempered by sheer draperies and shades.
The 3,000-square-foot unit was originally earmarked for Hadid to live in herself. The prospective owners contacted LUCE when it went on the market after the Pritzker laureate’s death in 2016, before the building was complete. Avid collectors of modern and contemporary art and furnishings (much of it Latin American), as well as architecture, they own a house designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach on a woodsy site near the Pacific in San Diego County and an apartment (currently for sale) in the Perry Street condominiums designed by Richard Meier in Greenwich Village. The couple was making the move to Chelsea to be closer to the New York art scene, but also looking for a change from the aggressive concrete and glass environs at Perry Street, where they had lived since 2003. They wanted their new pied-à-terre to evoke their comfortable West Coast home, where they could enjoy and rotate their collections. “It has been a long journey,” says architect Jennifer Luce, founder of the firm. “The project took two years to plan and a year to build.”
The existing interior configuration and prominent curves of the fenestration were a challenge. The architect, who had known Hadid since the 1980s and was an admirer of her work, embraced the commission but knew that the slick white finishes and carved-up layout of the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath unit, as it was planned and marketed, didn’t speak to the clients’ desires. “We decided to begin new, and negotiated with the developer to buy the space raw,” she explains.
Employing a rich palette of oak, waxed stainless steel, and stone, Luce and her team streamlined the space, creating a bigger living/ cooking/dining room on the north and two generous private spaces—a sitting room/library and master bedroom—on the south. Soft-gray antiqued plaster provides a muted contrast on select walls and two columns left exposed in the bedroom, while stainless-steel window surrounds nod to the assertive metal forms that shape Hadid’s architecture outside.
Perhaps what most differentiates Luce’s scheme from the building’s original plan is its simplicity and straightforward flow. Surfaces are homogeneous throughout, and doors literally fade into the woodwork. The open sitting room adjacent to the dining area can become a guest suite with a drop-down bed tucked into one wall, the whole space disappearing behind a wall-size sliding oak door when privacy is desired. To the east, and separated by four sound-insulated floor-to-ceiling closets, the master suite is modest and Zen-like, with expertly crafted appointments designed by LUCE, including an oak bed and bath vanities, and sensuous fixtures carved from solid blocks of Pietra Cardosa. The shower, positioned at a full-height window, is shielded by a layer of glass that transitions from opaque to almost clear at the top, taking advantage of glorious views of the Empire State Building.
Yet, as a tribute to Hadid, Luce searched for a device that might replace what would have been a unique architectural element in the apartment, such as a sculptural feature wall, designed by the late architect for every unit. She recalled a work at an exhibition in Brazil by German photographer Veronika Kellndorfer, called Tree House, a silk-screened image of Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro on a glass panel, supported by replicas of concrete pedestals designed by the Brazilian architect. This celebration of an equally dominant woman in architecture, Luce felt, “would be a wonderful way to honor Zaha’s passion for modernism.” Her clients agreed. Now, as daylight filters through the vitreous screen separating the living area and matte-glass kitchen, this personal homage to the building’s architect is a focal point of their new home.
Luce et Studio Architects, Inc. 5070 Santa Fe Street ‘A’, San Diego, California 858-274-0223 www.lucestudio.com
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Jennifer Luce, FAIA, Principal
Kei Tsukamoto, Project Manager
Ann Worth, AIA, Designer
Lori Krause, Project Administrative Coordinator
Architect of record:
Domani Consulting, Inc Self Certification Architect
Luce et Studio Architects, Inc., Ismael Leyva Architects
Luce et Studio Architects, Inc.
MEP: AKF Group, Mark Richter PE, James Qiu PE
Structural: Desimones Consulting Engineers, Calogero Castania, PE
Structural: KPFF, Bryon Spicer, PE
Waterproofing + Glazing: Surface Design Group/AJ LaBelle Partners, Armand Labelle, Benson Gillespie, AIA LEED
AV/IT: CIS Tech, Victor Rivera
Art Transportation and Handling: ArtWorks San Diego, Wendell Eckholm
Art Installation: Ben Polsky
Stone Cutting CNC: Quarra Stone, Lincoln Durham, Jesse Kauppila, Brian Smith
Silver Lining Interiors
Glass: Galaxy Fade Glass
Metal doors: Cousins Furniture, Argent Fabrication
Wood doors: Cousins Furniture
Sliding doors: Cousins Furniture
Special doors: Cousins Furniture
Locksets: H. Theophile
Closers: H. Theophile
Exit devices: H. Theophile
Pulls: H. Theophile, LUCE Limited
Security devices: H. Theophile
Other special hardware: H. Theophile
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Cousins Furniture, Jacobs Woodworks
Paints and stains: Dunn Edwards, Stucco Antico
Paneling: Jacobs Woodworks, Cousins Furniture
Solid surfacing: LUCE Limited Custom Pietra Cordosa sinks and tub
Special surfacing: Argent Fabricators
Carpet: Vintage Rugs
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Stitch NYC Drapery, Michael D’Angelo Custom floors and wall cladding, Valcucine Kitchen
Chairs: Vintage Collection, Fritz Hansen, Cassina, Kristalia, De La Espada
Tables: Vintage Collection, Espasso, Fritz Hansen
Upholstery: Kvadrat, Kravet, Lizzo,
Other furniture: B&B Italia, LUCE Limited
Interior ambient lighting: DeltaLight, Kreon, Flos
Downlights: DeltaLight, Kreon
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lutron
Faucets: Vola, Valcucine