Álvaro Siza designs his first high-rise in the United States on the far west side of Manhattan.
A rendering of a high-rise that is the first building in the United States to be designed by Álvaro Siza, the award-winning architect from Portugal.Credit…Rendering by The Boundary
Another celebrated architect is about to have his New York moment. But, this time, there is no billowing sail-like form, jagged crystalline spire or curvaceous squiggle.
Instead, the condominium now rising at 611 West 56th Street will eventually resemble a sensible composition of Perla Bianca limestone and glass that stands out for its simplicity — as well as a monolithic four-story-tall crown.
The architect is Álvaro Siza, a widely admired practitioner of sober modernism who has been awarded his profession’s highest honors, including the 1992 Pritzker Architecture Prize, yet has remained largely out of the spotlight while toiling away in his studio in Porto, Portugal.
“I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to build in Manhattan,” said Mr. Siza, 86. “Now, at my age, I thought I had lost the opportunity. I was very happy to be invited and thought, ‘Well, let’s see if I still have energy for this project.’”
The resulting 450-foot-tall, 37-story building is Mr. Siza’s first project in the United States. However, during a recent interview, he recalled being smitten with New York from the moment he first visited in the 1960s.
At the time, he said, he was struck both by the crowns of great skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building, as well as the intricate level of detail these buildings had at street level. “It was a constant surprise,” he said. “It was so interesting, the imagination at the edges of the buildings: the floor and the sky.”
Mr. Siza said he aimed to give his building similar qualities — a “special point” at the top and a graceful presence where it meets the street. Then, realizing that the corners of the tower afforded views to Central Park to the northeast, and to the Hudson River to the southwest, he designed a gridded facade around corner windows.
The development companies that tapped Mr. Siza for the job are Sumaida and Khurana, which previously worked with the Japanese architect Tadao Ando on 152 Elizabeth Street, and LENY.
“We’ve always admired Álvaro Siza’s work,” said Saif Sumaida, a founding partner of Sumaida and Khurana, who studied architecture as a student at the Cooper Union. “He’s one of the masters.”
After acquiring the slender corner site at West 56th Street and 11th Avenue, just east of a city Department of Sanitation garage, and south of numerous new large-scale rental buildings (including the project’s immediate neighbor, the Max, at 606 West 57th Street), Mr. Sumaida said the developers decided Mr. Siza’s stripped-down geometric work would be an ideal fit for the project.
“We care about architecture that’s elemental and not over the top,” he said. Mr. Siza’s design, “focused on certain elemental components of the building, rather than going for a lot of glitz. He really focused on proportions, the detailing of windows, and the detailing of the stone.”
As Oded Norman, the chief executive of LENY, put it: “He’s a purist.”
The interiors of the building were designed by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, the same firm that designed the interiors at 152 Elizabeth Street.
Following Mr. Siza’s lead, the firm aimed to design simple yet visually warm interiors with oak floors and paneling, kitchens featuring Grigio Nicola marble counters and walnut cabinets, master bathrooms wrapped in Greek Volakas marble, and integrated lighting tucked into coves and behind mirrors.
The lobby “takes cues from how we see Siza and his focus on volumetric and planar design,” said Kimberly Sheppard, a partner at the firm, and includes “a floating cube of Pietra Cardosa stone, which hides the practical stuff of the mail room,” while integrated up lights make it double as an enormous light source.
Amenities include fitness, yoga and boxing rooms, a children’s playroom, a dining room with a catering kitchen, a library and a media room. There will also be a fourth-floor garden designed by the landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg featuring a sculpture by Mr. Siza.
Because of the slender nature of the tower, many floors have only one or two apartments, and more than half of the project’s 80 apartments will have direct, keyed elevator access. Sales are expected to launch later in September, with one-bedroom units from $1.26 million, two-bedrooms from $2.42 million, three-bedrooms from $4.22 million, and full-floor four-bedrooms from just over $11 million.
“I think there’s a vast group of people in this area who are renting at very high rents, who will look at these apartments,” said Leonard Steinberg, a broker at Compass, which is handling marketing and sales. “It offers a nice alternative.”
The penthouse, however, which comes with a private terrace beneath a notch cut into the crown of the building, at a price that has yet to be announced, won’t be quite so attainable.
“That’s a very Siza moment,” Mr. Steinberg said. “If you’re paying the price for the penthouse, you better get something really, extraordinarily, uniquely Siza.”
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