Prime Real Estate
Jeannie Rosenfeld -- Interior Design, 5/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
The sales office for the Chelsea Modern, a luxury condominium in the heart of New York's contemporary-art neighborhood, looks more like a gallery than a showroom. Note the floor's smooth white epoxy and the loftlike structural columns of exposed brick. Were it not for the model kitchen and bathroom, the space might seem more concerned with promoting architecture than real estate. Oversize samples of interior materials—black river rock, bluestone, wool carpet tile—are mounted like abstract paintings on the rear wall. An illuminated scale model of the building sits, sculpturally, on a pedestal in the nearby media lounge, where a pair of plasma monitors invite prospective buyers to soak in architectural renderings interspersed with shifting images of neighborhood sights. They range from Gehry Partners's first and only Manhattan building, IAC/InterActiveCorp, to the High Line, the elevated railway that Diller Scofidio + Renfro is converting into a park.
Dubbed a "sales + design gallery" by the developer, Madison Equities, this refreshing take on a sales office is on the seventh floor of a mixed-use building a couple of blocks from the site of the actual Chelsea Modern. The 12-story, 47-unit development was designed by Audrey Matlock Architect, so Madison Equities and the broker, Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, decided that it would be most effective to bring the same firm back for the 4,000-square-foot office. "A neighborhood with a park on an abandoned train track demanded an unconventional approach," Audrey Matlock says. "The challenge was to represent Chelsea Modern without replicating it." As well as to communicate the dynamism of living there.
The building's most marked characteristic is a shimmering faceted curtain wall. Its bands of blue-tinted and colorless glass will appear to shift continually over the course of the day as the sun moves along the variegated surface and residents open and close windows designed to project outward. The optical fluidity of all these sharp edges inspired Matlock to splash an image of the facade across the irregular angles of a wall in the sales office. She then underlined the angularity with modular benches that follow a similar jagged line.
"Reflectivity and transparency are huge aesthetic components of the building," she continues. In the office, those qualities are conveyed by multiple uses of floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Step off the elevator, walk down a meandering hallway, and the first things you see are a clear glass partition and, right behind it, a reception desk. Farther back in your line of vision, bold white letters spell out modern across sliding glass doors, which open to two offices and a conference room. At the opposite end of the space, just in front of a row of windows, a wall of glass sports the outline of a street grid dotted with neighborhood snapshots and labels for local hot spots.
This conceptual rendition is layered over the real view through the recessed windows behind, providing a multidimensional experience of a vibrant cityscape still very much in transition. Fittingly, the panorama includes Chelsea Modern itself. "Because we're not street-level," Matlock says, "it was important to create that dialogue." Contributing another voice is wall text in silver gray, steely blue, and black, three key shades from the project's palette. The blocks of text list every single component that makes up Chelsea Modern—quartz counters, tempered insulated glass, automatic drain valves, low-VOC organic adhesive. All appear lowercase in a font called FF Typestar, its strong lines and angles perfectly in tune with the building's.