BY: Julie V. Iovine
DATE: February 12, 2011
See the original article at The Architect’s Newspaper Feature
Boston Valley Terra Cotta provided large, metallic-glazed terra cotta units for the first several floors of the 200 11th Avenue condominium, as seen in the photo to the right.
200 11th Avenue – Selldorf Architects
The 16-unit condominium at 200 Eleventh took a long time to be completed, and not just because of the garage elevator that delivers cars directly to each apartment. Begun in 2006, there were stop-work orders, developer splits, media mauling, the usual residential real-estate mayhem, and then the economy collapsed. Now, with all four penthouses and the 2,400 square feet on average apartments – duplexes all – sold, the 19-story condominium designed by Annabelle Selldorf still looks impressively au courant.
That enduring freshness is thanks in part to the refined modern classicism that Selldorf practices. But it is also the result of her thorough understanding of the floor plan. At a time when it is fashionable to undermine expectations, throw in some curved walls, tight angles, and perhaps a window too high to reach, Selldorf has remained resolutely straightforward: “Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I am obsessed with floor plans. Others work on sections or 3D; I can’t visualize without a plan. It allows me to think about how to walk through and use a space – and that’s the beginning of everything.”
Selldorf makes spaces understandable in terms of everyday life – there is a place to hang a coat on entering, guests can go to a powder room without barging through a guest or children’s bedroom. She arrives at her floor plans, she said, using furniture layouts, and imagining lives as they unfold: How would 12 people sit around the table. How would someone eat alone? “It’s layered work, perhaps even pedestrian – but I go over and over it until it is all worked out.” The master bedroom, for instance, is surprisingly, impressively small. More bulkhead than the baronial condominiums, it is efficient, with a freestanding piece serving as both storage and headboard. (Mind you, there’s also a view to the horizon of the Hudson River, plus, for some, perhaps a double-height terrace). The apartments are assumed to be, as with so many new luxury dwellings these days, pied-a-terres, and Selldorf addresses that reality in plan, putting her emphasis on the grand two-story living space, allowing bedrooms to be utilitarian and the kitchen to disappear entirely behind folding walls.
Materials distinguish the bathroom, and here Selldorf admits succumbing to some “outlandish” indulgences. The freestanding tub is made of granite (“Everyone knows the Corian tub, so I wanted one in stone”); the walls are big slabs of lava ceramic – difficult to install, visually intriguing, beautifully tactile, and well worth the effort. Overall, materials – and especially the (sustainably sourced) teak used for the floors, kitchen counters, and stair risers – convey the message of a classic calm that will remain timely for as long as luxury means quality. And then there are those personal garages.