It’s hard to avoid the advertisements for Mercedes House; they’re everywhere. The ads, with their renderings of a completed project, employ the recent trend of touting the building’s architectural credentials, in this case “designed by Enrique Norten” of TEN Arquitectos. One could be forgiven for thinking the project was finished a long time ago. But could real estate savvy New Yorkers not notice a huge serpentine-shaped building rising on Manhattan’s West Side? Not likely. In fact, the Two Trees development is only about one quarter complete. However, as the ads note, you can move in right now–if you want to rent. More than 220 rentals are done, and when we took our walk-through last month financing was in place to complete the remaining 665 units, which includes 170 condos.
The most distinctive feature of the building is its “S” shape, a very unique solution to massing in New York City. If viewed from a above, the foot of the “S” forms along Eleventh Avenue. Then the building slowly accrues mass as it literally steps back from the Avenue. The setbacks form generous terraces for two apartments on each floor. With each setback the building gently glides north before returning abruptly turning south at the top tier of the S-plan. The negative space provides two generous courtyards with distinct atmospheres dictated by the sun’s movement throughout the day. The sunny southern courtyard will feature a pool while the shady north court will host quieter activities.
The building is riot of textures. One wall facing the courtyard has a louver systems of shading, which also hides the vents for heating/cooling units. On another wall, tiny horizontal slats hide the vents and work their way into a pattern of olive green glass. It’s an eclectic solution to say the least. On the smooth street-side facades, perforated screens covering the vents abut sheets of matte gray aluminum. TEN Arquitecto’s project manager Angela DeRiggi compared the contrast between the street and courtyard facades to “cutting into a grapefruit where you have the rind on the outside and the delicate pieces on the inside.”
Perhaps one of the stranger elements that has come out of the land use process with the community is a large interior space meant to house, feed, and exercise police horses. Whether the Police Department will be able to afford the space is still being debated. Nevertheless, the space is there, and Mercedes House is probably only new development in New York that boasts practice ring for horses.