Manhattan Penthouse
1,600 ft. sq plus 1,000 ft. sq. terrace


This penthouse, situated on the north-western edge of Central Park, is surrounded by extraordinary uninterrupted views to the south, west and north. The challenge of the project was to develop strategies at the small scale of details, which would create continuity with the large scale of those deep urban views. The interior organization of rooms, a typical 1920s pinwheel structure, was efficient and intelligent. It also had the potential to offer spatial continuity through the apartment along oblique view lines.

The façade openings and the existing windows, however, did little to extend those view lines out towards the surrounding skyline. Therefore, all interventions were concentrated on resolving the desire to encourage the inhabitant's relationship to the views and to the connections between inside and outside. One of the most effect interventions in this regard was the reconfiguration of the master bathroom. Originally, this space was separated from the west-facing terrace by a closet. By removing the closet, cutting a new opening into the brick cavity wall façade and positioning the bathtub immediately next to the new window, the dialogue between interior, terrace and skyline was enacted. The bathroom, including its CNC-milled solid stone slab bathtub and shower basin, was prefabricated in Germany, shipped jig-saw puzzle-like in pieces, and installed over the course of two days. The coordination of pluming, dimensional tolerances and floor level height coordinates, all the responsibility of the architect, were a terrific and fulfilling challenge.

The relationship between interior and exterior was further articulated in the design for the terrace built-ins. By transferring the heights of the window sills (in many cases, new or enlarged openings with the thinnest possible sight-lines specified for the installation and fabrication of the new steel windows) to the exterior, the teak and cedar-striated built-ins create a datum that marks continuity on both sides of the wall. Planters for the client's garden were integrated into the built-ins in the form of cubic stainless steel containers. The wooden boxes conceal an irrigation system, outdoor speakers, A/C exhaust outlets and strip lighting, which creates a continuous glow at the base of the terrace wall at night and provides adequate exterior lighting without competing with the lights of the skyline. A stainless steel cable trellis system on the south and west terrace walls extends the layer of plant life upwards, so that the built-ins and the garden they house are read as a continuous threshold between apartment and terrace.
Photos: Paùl Rivera, ArchPhoto

Date of Completion: August 2005

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south-west facing terrace at night  

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