The Landmark-designated Ritz Tower was the tallest residential building in New York City at the time it was built in 1925. Its designers—Emery Roth and Thomas Hastings—clad the steel-frame skyscraper in masonry using elaborate, classical detailing inspired by the Italian Renaissance. Originally, none of the units in the building had kitchens, which allowed the developer to avoid the height restrictions imposed by the Tenement House Law of 1916. Built as an apartment hotel, and managed by the Ritz Carlton Company the building offered residents access to a full-range of dining and service amenities. High-end retail and dining was originally located in the lower floors. Previous tenants of Ritz Tower include William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Greta Garbo. (NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission)
The 465PA apartment project occupies a full-floor towards the top of the Ritz Tower. It is a primary residence for a couple that wanted to do more than simply display their significant contemporary art collection, one that is deeply personal for them. They sought an architecture that would engage with their pieces—including several by Damien Hirst, Sam Francis, and John McCracken—formally and experientially. With an awareness that many of those artists are interested in the specific ways in which art occupies space, the architect conceived the design of the home with each individual painting or sculpture in mind. With its limited materials, manipulation of light, two-tone color palette, and rigorous detailing, the apartment blurs the lines between art and architecture, while heightening an awareness of how both interact with space.
The preexisting plan consisted of two separate pre-war apartments. The new plan consists of three systems, which are expressed materially: a continuous perimeter of white, reflective surfaces along living and circulation spaces; a core wrapped in dark, pleated millwork panels that house service and storage program; and an interstitial network of metal shelves and wall units that display art and organize the spaces in between the white and dark systems. A visitor is able move around the entire plan in 360 degrees, unobstructed; this is made possible by various pocketing doors that can temporarily partition rooms throughout the home when desired. The entire home appears to be devoid of conventional walls; rather, it uses its selective material palette, reflectivity, and sculptural elements to organize space. Our attention focuses on the playful interactions and reflections between art, building, and domestic living programs. The successful leap from concept to execution is the result of thoughtful collaboration between architect, client, and skilled craftsmen.
Photography by © David Sundberg / Esto