There are a great many new construction condominiums in Chelsea, which you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been to the neighborhood. There are some exceptional ones — we’ve covered Jean Nouvel’s justly acclaimed Nouvel here in the past — but there are enough unexceptional ones that it’s almost jarring. It’s not the biggest stretch in the world to imagine a Manhattan real estate turnaround eventually turning into a long savannah running over luxury retail and the art galleries, encased entirely in glass. Which, you know: we get it. Windows are pretty sweet. But it’s always a treat when a new condominium manages both to incorporate some basic green building common sense and an architectural aesthetic that extends beyond glossy Xeroxage. Cary Tamarkin’s new condo at 456 West 19th Street and 10th Avenue — that is, right on top of The High Line — manages to do both. That is, it has locked down LEED certification thanks to some basic low-VOC/FSC-certified interior design wisdom, and recently earned high marks from The Real Deal (and ex-New York Sun) architecture critic James Gardner.
The green design elements that earned 456 West 19th its LEED certification got a thorough going-over from Stephen last year, and aren’t necessarily remarkable enough to bear much repeating. (They’re also oddly soft-pedaled on the 456 West 19th Street website, which is kind of weird) In most respects, the basic diligence represented by the green design choices at 456 West 19th Street aren’t much different from those on display at the similarly LEED-certified Nouvel/100 11th Avenue. But the ways in which 456 West 19th Street is different from Nouvel — which wears its star-architect provenance on its big, awesome-looking sleeve, and is designed in every way to grab attention — are precisely the ways in which Gardner finds Tamarkin’s new condo, which he both developed and designed, to be especially admirable. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from 456 West 19th Street’s origins — Tamarkin himself is kind of hilarious, in an admittedly overstated real estate developer sort of way — but according to Gardner, the greatest strength of Tamarkin’s new green condo development in Chelsea is… understatement.
“So traditional is the brick work façade, which recalls the pared down style of the 1930s, that I initially wondered if the developer was merely repairing a building that had been there for decades without my realizing it,” Gardner writes. “What stands out about the building is its infallible sense of proportion. The building is comprised of 22 duplex condo units within its eight-story cubic base and four-story setback, recalling the typology, if not the design, of such artist-run studio buildings of an earlier era as the Hotel Des Artistes at 1 West 67th, the Gainsborough Studios at 222 West 59th and 44 West 77th Street, in the way in which the windows are deployed across the façade.”
There’s a lot of bloggy riffage in the Nouvel post I linked to above about the courage to be extraordinary or whatever, but it’s hard not to cheer Tamarkin for having created what was obviously a labor of love and managing, somehow, not to make it totally grandiose. I suppose Manhattan real estate needs more of that, but — as my Nouvel post proves — the world in general might be helped by an infusion of it, as well.