Light Fantastic

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Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty is thrilled with a Manhattan house, now to let, that has recieved inspired modernist treatment.

If ever there is a city where an architect can express his or her vision with apparent freedom and adventure it must be Manhattan. Of course such expression isn’t limited to this city by any means. But Manhattan provides a particularly good canvas, especially for modernist architecture that for me has been the defining vernacular here for over a hundred years. At its best modernism is light, crisp, sharp and, when the occasion arises, towering.  In Manhattan today this style seems as bold and as exciting as ever.

I was reminded of this when I visited the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero recently.  The power and drama of the architecture in the twin pools is achingly simple yet mesmerisingly strong. It reflects the principles that have led many of New York’s leading architects over the last century, but with cascading emotion.

Not that NYC architecture is limited to major commercial or public construction in the familiar skyline icons and landmarks that really define Manhattan.  It is also seen at street level, in lower rise residential buildings, and even lies unseen to passers-by in stylish interiors, often behind traditional Brownstone, Art Deco and industrial facades.

I visited a house that illustrates this perfectly. 6W9 is a townhouse located on a prime Gold Coast block in Greenwich Village that has been designed by Timothy Barry in partnership with SPaN Architects.

Rising up 65 feet through the five storeys, and wrapped by a floating sculptural steel staircase, is a granite monolith that encases the lift. This is now the building’s main artery.  A glass roof sits overhead.  It is all very clever and very beautiful.  Glass is such an important modernist material and this 9,000 sq ft building uses it brilliantly to capture light – a very precious commodity in a dense urban environment.  Here it floods in.

From top to bottom this is a very chic minimalist home.  On the lower level is a screening room, wine storage room, gym with bathroom, staff kitchen, dog grooming room and a dumb-waiter that services the entertaining floors.

Above are floors dedicated to entertaining, relaxation, cooking, dining, sleeping and washing.  Here steel, glass, wood and stone are all used to brilliant effect.  I loved the interconnecting bathrooms with their discreet pocket doors.

On top of it all is a wide private terrace with skyline views.  The house is ultra energy efficient and run with the most cutting-edge systems including radiant heated flooring and filtered air throughout.

Form certainly follows function here. Modernism when applied well to residential buildings does that – with particular reference to weather, safety and privacy.  But this is so much more.  This is modernism the Manhattan way.

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