This 19-story residential building exists between worlds. Not only does it bridge two unique Manhattan neighborhoods—Chelsea, the eclectic and diverse center of contemporary art in New York City, and Ladies’ Mile, the staid neoclassical commercial district—it also bridges two distinct design sensibilities: the understated refinement of modern architecture and the rough-hewn quality of traditional construction. The result is an unmistakably contemporary building that has the warmth and familiarity of classic New York City architecture.
This balance was achieved primarily by bringing texture to the building with a distinct palette of materials—most notably, white Petersen brick. This extra-long, rough clay brick is hand-made according to a centuries-old tradition that uses wooden molds along with a firing process that gives each brick a slightly different texture and shade. Although nothing in the area is exactly like it, the brick evokes the historic masonry buildings found throughout Chelsea and Ladies’ Mile, as well as the nearby Flatiron District. The connection to the past is reinforced by 55 West 17th Street’s composition, a familiar three-bay, tripartite scheme informed by zoning codes and tradition. Similar to the grand department stores of Ladies’ Mile, the building’s entry and lower floors are treated distinctively with bronze-colored metal cladding decorated with an abstract pattern of overlapping circles.
Other than the bronze detailing and a subtle cornice topping the two narrow outer bays, the facade is relatively devoid of ornament. Its modernist quality is reinforced by single-pane tilt-and-turn windows whose regularly spaced bronze-colored metal frames sit flush with the white brick to create a pronounced, almost graphic, grid.
Image Credits: Matthew Williams