New York, NY
It is a poorly kept secret that many Manhattanites own cars — even in a city that prides itself on a plethora of transit choices. The developer of 200 Eleventh Avenue condominiums at the western edge of Chelsea, where art galleries and apartment buildings have replaced light industry, knew this. But he did not just build underground parking in his new residential project; he created New York City’s first apartment tower with a high-rise car elevator and private garages. “We wanted a building that would stand out in concept and architecture,” says Young Woo, the developer whose eponymous firm put together the $41 million real estate deal with Urban Muse Management. Woo had seen automated high-rise parking being used in Japan and Korea and was certain that even in a city of pedestrians it would give his apartments a certain edge.
After interviewing a handful of architects, Woo enlisted Annabelle Selldorf to design the 19-story tower with a manageable density of 16 apartments, 14 of which are served by his trademarked sky-garage system. In integrating the car into the tower, Selldorf has residents enter a driveway on Eleventh Avenue, pull up to the car elevator on the tower’s east side, then ascend to the garages adjoining the individual apartments. (Passenger elevators and a stairwell buffer the garages from the apartments’ front doors.)
Upon arriving at their dwellings far above the street, residents find a panorama of the Hudson River unfolding before them. Ceilings heights are typically 11 feet high but soar to 23 feet in a dozen duplexes and to 15 feet in the remaining simplexes. The expansive and well-proportioned design of Selldorf’s plan for the poured-in-place concrete-frame structure bears a certain affinity to the Immeuble Villas in Le Corbusier’s Contemporary City for 3 Million People (1922). Selldorf remarks half-jokingly, “You have to look at Corb: I do every night before going to sleep.” The major difference: Whereas Le Corbusier envisioned an outdoor terrace for relaxing or exercise within the building’s volume, Selldorf has inserted space for a BMW.
In working with this small 7,400-square-foot corner site with unimpeded views of the Hudson over a park, Selldorf faced certain zoning restrictions, including a street wall that rose 60 feet before setting back and an overall height limit of 250 feet. With a Floor Area Ratio of 7.5 for the lot, the developers and architect realized they could offer residents both duplexes and extremely high ceilings yet stay under the obligatory height cap.
Needless to say, permits were also required for a sky-garage, along with special monitors that help coordinate movement and parking in the air. Fire safety precautions called for building the garage as a separate concrete structure.
The tower’s three-story base contains the lobby, a gym, and several simplex apartments. Clad in gunmetal glazed terra-cotta blocks, the base intentionally refers to the vintage materials and solidity of existing loft structures in Chelsea, many now converted to art galleries. Since Selldorf had designed two galleries for dealer Barbara Gladstone, plus another apartment building there, she was familiar with the neighborhood’s architecture and wanted to retain its industrial character.
“The streetscape is already starting to get lost among glass high-rises,” Selldorf points out, explaining why she opted for the tactility of the terra-cotta. Similarly, the faintly rounded elements framing the openings recalls 19th-century arched facades nearby. Above the three-story podium the architect designed a stainless steel rainscreen for the 16-story shaft — detailed with curvilinear profiles — which juts forth from the glazing to create deep shadow lines.
Because of its referential quality, the tower appears less assertive in the cityscape than the bold or brash apartment buildings by Jean Nouvel, Audrey Matlock, or Neil Denari a few blocks away. Nevertheless, it maintains a civilized commonality with both the existing neighborhood structures and the new construction now going up along the High Line. These houses, with garages in the sky, tap tellingly into the American dream, even if out of reach for the typical home buyer.
Size: 61,000 square feet
Cost: $41 million
Completion date: October 2010
860 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of record:
Esto Photographics Inc
CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Ceilings where concrete slab is exposed:
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Closet (master bedroom):
Headboard/ dresser unit (master bedroom):
Lava stone countertops for all vanities:
Trend, Lux, #376 (guest bath)
FontanaArte, Sillabone (Kitchen)
Wever & Ducré, Luna carr, White (downlights throughout)
Bartco, Display T5, BFL 293 (hallways)
Interior lighting (lobby):
Exterieur Vert, Phenix (inground lighting, sidewalk)
Jado, Borma (guest bath)