The raw and the cooked
From red light to limelight, New York's meatpacking district redesigns for fashion
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
In Manhattan, even the toughest neighborhoods get tenderized eventually. All it takes is a handful of pioneers lured by bargain rents and the promise of street cred. A restaurant here, a contemporary-art gallery or vintage-furniture store there, and soon all the hipsters want in on the action.
So it is with the meatpacking district, the latest stretch of Manhattan real estate to experience the urban rite of passage from dicey to desirable. As meat wholesalers relocate to the outer boroughs, retailers are converting the processing plants into chic boutiques. Transvestite "ladies" of the night have made way for ladies who lunch—the downtown breed that prefers Seven jeans to Chanel suits.
Luckily, many of the newcomers are preserving and honoring the neighborhood's past, albeit in decidedly different ways. Rubin Chapelle arrived early on the scene, with a boutique by art-world favorite Annabelle Selldorf—whose matter-of-fact design draws attention to the act of construction in much the same spirit as Rubin Chapelle's architectonic clothing. Pushing to the opposite extreme is architect William Russell's design for the Alexander McQueen flagship, an upside-down landscape of undulating forms and ceiling-hung fixtures that update the iconic meat hook. Architect Jonathan Clarke's skin-toned scheme for Stella McCartney falls somewhere between raw and radical with its tactile, visceral fleshiness.
Despite these overt stylistic differences, all three spaces showcase an obsession with surfaces. Selldorf peels back Rubin Chapelle's interior to expose the beauty of the carcass beneath. Russell folds, puckers, and tailors a single continuous membrane to define a series of volumes. And Clarke celebrates touch, imbuing planes with three-dimensionality. Much has changed in this part of town, but skin, it seems, is still in.
This page: Selldorf Architects transformed a meatpacking plant into the Rubin Chapelle boutique. Stripping the 2,600-square-foot interior to its bones, principal Annabelle Selldorf exposed brick walls patinated with plaster and peeling paint; she also salvaged wood beams for reuse as decorative and display elements. Floors are concrete, surfaced in a liquid cement compound.
Project architect: Leander Grayson. Project manager: Anne Nixon. Liquid cement compound: Ardex.
Opposite: At William Russell Architecture and Design's flagship for Alexander McQueen, the ceiling descends to form floating columns in lacquered sheet aluminum. Director William Russell created a line of light around the 3,600-square-foot shop by recessing fluorescents behind 11-inch-wide horizontal panels of acrylic. Flooring is resin-based terrazzo.
Project team: Michelle Hotchkin; Pamela Chitolie-Porter. Terrazzo installation: D. Magnan & Co. Architect of record: Studios Architecture. General contractor: Interior Construction Corporation.
This page: Universal Design Studios principal Jonathan Clarke converted a 4,300-square-foot warehouse into Stella McCartney's first boutique. The quirky, feminine look emphasizes tactility, as evidenced by the curved wall of floral-motif hexagonal tile.
Project team: Edward Barber; Jay Osgerby; Matt Spoors.
Custom tile: Teamwork. Floor installation: Port Morris Tile & Marble Corp. Architect of record: Studios Architecture. General contractor: Interior Construction Corporation.
Opposite: Beyond Rubin Chapelle's cash-wrap desk, topped in plastic laminate, the owners screened back-of-house operations with a curtain of leather strips—scraps from the showroom. Selldorf set the track lights into narrow troughs. The ghostly woman's profile on the brick wall is by Sonja Rubin and Kip Chapelle's artist friend Lisa Stewart.
Plastic laminate: Formica Corporation. Lighting consultant: Nulux.
This page: Universal Design Studios developed nickel-footed display tables and glass shelving units for Stella McCartney. Slipped into the shelving, drawers wrapped in custom paper-backed fabric hold accessories and small clothing items.
Custom shelving, display tables: Cappellini. Custom drawer fabric: Madethought.