Right On Target
Bull's-eye architecture by SPAN, luxe furnishings by Studio Sofield, and a list of celebrity members set the power scene that is New York's Core Club
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
How do you design a social club where the member's roster lists Richard Meier, Vernon Jordan, Marianne Boesky, and John McEnroe, and your average hedge-fund manager pays $110,000 just to join? You do it with flair.
Stonely Pelsinski Architects Neukomm has filled the bill with New York's Core Club, a members-only stomping ground for moguls, luminaries, and other high-octane personalities—planned to be the first in a series of locations around the world. The concept involved all the trappings of an upper-echelon playground: a place to power-lunch, a spa for unwinding, a theater for private screenings, and a library compiled by a Paris Review veteran, not to mention a collection of contemporary art curated by powerhouse Yvonne Force Villareal. "We had to rethink the private club while infusing it with a certain level of culture," SPAN principal Jean-Gabriel Neukomm recalls. In other words, "jackets required" need not apply.
Core Group founder Jennie Saunders, a onetime lawyer turned entrepreneur, approached SPAN for the job after being impressed by the architects' Calvin Klein boutique in a Dallas suburb. Founded in 1998, SPAN unites Neukomm with Karen Stonely and Peter Pelsinski. Stonely, a former Robert A.M. Stern Architects intern, and Pelsinski, a recipient of the AIA's Henry Adams medal, previously practiced together under the name SPA. Neukomm, who knew Pelsinski from graduate architecture school at Princeton University, joined them after working at Eisenman Architects, then on his own. Together, the trio combine conceptual rigor with a sensitivity to materials.
The Core Club has a blazing-white lobby where a plaster sidewall's serrated-looking horizontal pleats seem to point directly toward a Damien Hirst spin painting, straight ahead. Beyond, an angular gallery hung with works by Andy Warhol, among others, doubles as an anteroom for a triple-bandshell theater. Inside, a David Salle scrim twinkles with a constellation of LED lights. Why all the angled surfaces? The entry's pleated wall, for one, was construed as what Stonely calls the "Core pattern," a motif that, in various iterations, instills a sense of movement and transformation throughout the seven-story 30,000-square-foot project.
Occasional references to clubs of yore are veiled with uncommon inventiveness and a lush use of materials. Take the lounge on the second floor. Meeting at odd angles on the walls, thin slats of oak "reinterpret the oak paneling of a classic New York club," Stonely says. A fireplace is surrounded by origami folds of book-matched black marble. The bar, meanwhile, dazzles with a kaleidoscope of reflective surfaces. Behind a counter of mirrored stainless steel, a wall ripples with backlit half cylinders of cast glass; overhead, cylinders of the same cast glass drop from the ceiling like glammed-up stalactites. The bar's swivel stools with laced brown leather backs are the work of the project's interior design consultant, Studio Sofield, which designed virtually all of the club's custom furniture. "It's a metropolitan cocktail of European and Hollywood luxe," Interior Design Hall of Fame member Bill Sofield explains. For the rest of the ipé-floored lounge, he designed a black leather-covered sofa with cushions in black-and-white banded silk, armchairs in cream bouclé with black leather piping, walnut cocktail tables, and wool-silk rugs in ocher and brown.
The visual pace accelerates even more in the restaurant, where a Willem de Kooning holds pride of place. On a carpet striped in gray, brown, and lavender, tables of bronze and polished rosewood are paired with armless chairs in cream silk and blue leather. Another pleated wall, this one covered in iridescent tangerine silk, rises behind a banquette in similarly colored crushed velvet. Columns clad in smoked mirror and silk support an elegantly coved ceiling. Outside on the terrace, a Julian Schnabel sculpture stands tall: Picture a giant bowling pin with legs.
Creating "vertical continuity," Pelsinkski says, involved a lot more than an elevator—even when it features a light installation by Leo Villareal. On level three, with its steam rooms, saunas, and lockers, the foyer's Carrara marble floor is punctuated by ipé strips that point the way to a stair that's partially concealed by an undulating screen of oak. At the top of the stair is the fitness room, which is next to the library. No club is complete without one, but the Core Club's is the "opposite of a dark, stuffy, book-lined room," Pelsinski says. Glass shelves, mounted on bronzed aluminum frames, allow views through the building's curtain wall, and the gleam of the finely ridged white-lacquered walls shows off works by Salle and Jean-Michel Basquiat. With button-tufted club chairs, at once tailored and cozy, there's no better place to relax after a day of moving and shaking.