Rem Koolhaas’ Answer to Lego Bricks: Cantilevers & Deconstructivity

Think Lego Bricks. See Koolhaas’ 23rd East 22nd West. Spot the step-pyramid like ascension. The comparison stops just there. Folks, let’s peek a sneak at Rem Koolhaas’ answer to Lego: Cantilevers & Deconstructivity, on show at 23rd East, 22nd West in New York City, USA.

Hitching a ride on the haunches of the 60-storey One Madison Square high-rise, no straight-viewing person would label Koolhaas’ new design as being ‘slighted’ by its big brother. The 24-storey luxury condominium appears de-constructed at every level, making it a challenge for the onlooker to define its outer form.

If it was the ‘Tango of Buildings’ in 1978 – as seen in his book ‘Delirious New York’ – then it’s outright games and mischief in 23rd East 22nd West, circa 2009. Note the clever – I say hostile cheekiness – way that Koolhaas and company give the Cetra & Ruddy-designed monolith a ‘finger’ right at its back, and like a true upstart rises from a ‘base’ platform of four storeys, to stretch up and eastwards, “gaining additional area as well as views of Madison Square Park as it cantilevers 30 feet over its 23rd Street neighbor.”

At a height of 107 meters (355 feet) and with a total area of 50,052 square feet, 23rd East is nowhere close to hogging the landmass or the skies, which big brother is pretty good at doing by now. Developers didn’t even have to scratch their heads for big brother’s marketing slogan: “It’s not lonely at the top, just very exclusive”, and, the rarified, “the ultimate home in the sky”. Now, how many other high rises in the East Coast (forget New York) can actually claim that as true?

One Madison Park
Rem Koolhaas' Design for 23ed East 22nd West in New York City

However, what the Two Towers can claim as common blood is their asking price. While, 23rd Street does have studio apartments for $7 million, both the buildings’ upper reaches come at a steep $45-50 million, a tag that the developers aren’t willing to lower, recession be damned.

So, what have you that makes Koolhaas’ structure so special? The building will include 18 residences with an entire floor devoted to a CAA Screening Room (which will have a ready-made audience from the Two Towers, thank you), a Koolhaas designed main lobby, the second-floor gym, spa, pool and the third-floor bar/lounge, club room, wine cellar (seriously!) and adjacent tasting room (what’s the vintage special here huh?).

If the amenities don’t wow you, then the structural component of the interiors sure will. Glass floors for the cantilevered sections means a literal ‘walk in mid air’ for residents (or a stamp on adjacent big brother’s sanctum). There are six residencies with outdoor terraces, located on levels three, six, 17, 19 (duplex), and the penthouse levels 21, 23 and on the roof. The smallest residency is 1,800 square feet while the penthouse is 6,100 square feet. Comfy and roomy I say.

So, do you go and grab a share of the ziggernaut or hope to get a foot into One Madison Square. I think you should just sit back and watch the drama unfold. For opening credits, one New York Magazine writer has already slung a pie at big brother by calling it a “glassosaur”. Doesn’t that count as a compliment anymore?

Written as part of World Interior Design Network’s blog on architecture and design.

By Nilofar Ansher

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