Mercedes House 550 West 54th Street, Manhattan TEN Arquitectos Archtober-ites probably expected to enviously gawk at the views and wander through the wedge-shaped, amenity-filled, courtyards of Mercedes House, one of the recent luxury rental additions to Midtown West. What they probably didn’t expect was TEN Arquitectos partner Andrea Steele’s eloquent and educational lesson on the challenges and opportunities of zoning in New York. Standing around a model of the finished project, she outlined the slightly tired and trite as-of-right development schemes that the site offered: a courtyard “donut” or a low podium base topped by two residential towers. Rather than settle for these stale alternatives, TEN Arquitectos, with the support from the client (and Heritage Ball honoree) Two Trees, embraced and questioned the zoning constraints to propose a solution that, in their eyes, better aligned with the original intention of the codes (and resulted 20 percent inclusionary housing to boot). The result: a stepped, Z-shaped slope, rising first to 86 feet as it moves away from DeWitt Clinton Park at 11th Avenue and then to 328 feet as it reaches the heights of 10th Avenue. The move, while dramatic, does not merely register as a formal gesture – it resolved problems. The incline reconciles the disparity of scales between the two avenues. And pulling the massing away from the street created a thinned-out floor plate “corridor” (the Z’s long diagonal) that maximizes light for tenants and pedestrians alike. A low base provides storefronts for micro-retail, allowing Mercedes House to grow roots in its neighborhood. Despite being a private residential project, creating civically-minded projects is paramount to TEN Arquitectos. Nevertheless, luxury residential is luxury residential, and this means amenities: pools, bocce courts, and even an outdoor cinema grace the courtyards. But who needs giant projection screens when you have views like those at Mercedes House? Steele put it best: “Everything you do, juxtaposed with the skyline of New York, is just better.” And speaking of views, what about the endless comparisons to its neighbor to the north, Bjarke Ingels’ VIA at West 57th Street? One participant was even bold enough to ask if Mercedes House is driving change in the zoning process. Steele responded by encouraging all architects to propose innovative solutions to enhance the public realm. But in the words of one participant, an Aspen-based, Brooklyn-born architect, “I like this one better. It’s a very liveable project.” Camila Schaulsohn is communications director and editor-in-chief of e-Oculus.
Posts tagged with "Mercedes House":
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.