May 3 (Bloomberg) -- The new 13-story condo of glass and diagonal steel struts seems to sway gently over what was once a derelict elevated railroad, the High Line park.
Climb up there on a fresh spring day and you see why these tracks that for decades delivered dead animals to butchers on Manhattan’s lower west side now attract happy New Yorkers and curious tourists.
As builders put finishing touches on a new 20-block-long second phase of the park, HL23, as the condo is called, adds a pleasurable exclamation point to one of the best public spaces in New York.
A lush lawn, the only traditionally parklike element within the High Line’s cultivated wildness, stops in front of the building.
Los Angeles architect Neil Denari shaped HL23 to capture the unique views over the High Line’s 37-block length.
The lot is improbably skinny and complicated. The glass front of HL23 bulges toward West 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, dodging an awkward dogleg in the beefy, rivet-dotted rail bed. It slopes back at the top to respect the zoning envelope.
On the side that hugs the High Line, undulating wave-patterned stainless-steel panels peel away from each other as they corbel over the park in two softly rounded undulations.
Denari is a cerebral architect who composes with impeccable proportions and juggles the visual weight of materials. That’s usually thought unsellably arcane in residential buildings. Not here.
HL23 isn’t entirely finished yet. But a machined eloquence is coming into focus as the contractor tidies the building for a June 1 move-in date.
Denari balanced angularity with rounded corners in metal trim. He etched white patterns in the glass that trace the tubular structural tendons inside. The radiused diagonals whimsically bind the building like net stockings.
Thin frames of stainless steel hold massive sheets of unusually transparent glass (triple-glazed for superior energy performance). Tilt windows placed at random interrupt the rigor of the glass-and-metal grid. The wavy metal panels along the side suggest a metallic pelt.
Denari was an adventurous choice for developers Alf Naman and Garrett Heher, since he isn’t even a household name in California, where he has mainly designed finely detailed stores. He has never done an apartment building before.
HL23 encloses just 11 full-floor and duplex apartments, with prices ranging from $2.75 million to $12 million for a penthouse duplex.
The apartment interiors were designed by Thomas Juul-Hansen, with not quite the same delicacy. There’s a lot of thickly veined marble.
The building’s bulges and recesses frame dramatic vistas from the expansive living and dining areas. You get a surrealistically angled view down to the street from units where the glass rakes outward. The sloped-back planes of glass on the upper floors evoke artists’ garrets.
Massive retracting windows wrap the penthouse’s rooftop party room, panoramically framing the skyline in three directions. A terrace offers sliver views of the Hudson River and New York Bay.
The city has rebuffed several proposals to dangle buildings over the High Line. Denari was permitted to hug it so closely because he shaped HL23 in collaboration with the Department of City Planning to complement the park.
In its dance with the city, HL23 is an unusually graceful partner.
Sip or Sup
For a drink or a meal along the new stretch of the High Line, Muse food writer Ryan Sutton notes the Standard Grill for its Continental and American fare, Swiss brasserie Trestle on Tenth, for the crepinette of pork shoulder, and El Quinto Pino, with an exquisite $15 uni panini.
If parched, try the Standard Biergarten, known for its sausages as well, Mario Batali’s Del Posto, which has well-crafted drinks, and tapas bar Tia Pol, offering small plates and wine.
(James S. Russell writes on architecture for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Island Press will publish his book “The Agile City” in May. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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