Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue

BY Rebecca Anne Proctor / Dec 20 2016 / 21:40 PM

Now the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York marks a grand achievement in architecture and design. Rebecca Anne Proctor visits two model apartments in this modern urban sanctuary

Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue
The sitting room in Robert Couturier’s model apartment
Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue
The bathtub on the 86th floor features a stunning view of New York
Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue
Blue mirrored flowers by Hubert Le Gall are scattered on the wall above a brass credenza by Maarten Baas in Robert Couturier’s model apartment
Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue
Robert Couturier’s design incorporates warm tones, vibrant wallpaper and a mix of modern and contemporary art
Dreaming High: 432 Park Avenue
The children’s room in Robert Couturier’s model apartment

For years visitors and residents of New York were intrigued by what appeared to be a constantly shifting skyline. A slim, rectangular building underlined by its notable grid structure continued to rise higher and higher so that it towered over the city’s already-dense field of high residential and commercial properties. Jetting out into the sky at 1,396 feet, the tower moved confidently to occupy a height that no residential building had ever before. Located near Central Park between 56th and 57th street and developed by CIM Group and Macklowe Properties, 432 Park Avenue surpasses the Chrysler Building (1,046 feet) and the Empire State Building (1,250 feet). It’s a visionary statement and architectural wonder.

Designed by New York-based Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, whose eponymous firm is headquartered in New York City with branch offices in London, Manchester, Abu Dhabi, Buenos Aires, Chicago, and Palo Alto, 432 Park Avenue boasts 106 luxury condominium complexes beginning at 356 feet from the ground. Utmost privacy combines with state-of-the-art facilities and design by some of the best names in the industry. Each complex comes with private elevator landings, heated bathroom floors, and the option to purchase a climate-controlled grape cellar as well as access to the building’s array of luxurious amenities, including a swimming pool, spa, and Michelin-star dining. Owning a pad at 432 Park Avenue is like having a five-star concierge service at your fingertips.

A view from Robert Couturier’s model apartment on the 86th floor

The building is an otherworldly man-made structure within which all the pinnacles of beauty, order, and harmony are honoured. But it comes with a price tag, and a hefty one at that. The penthouse sold in September 2016 to Saudi Arabian billionaire Fawaz Al Hokair for $87.66 million. Available units start at $16.95 million on the lower levels and work up to around $44 million and higher. From wherever one is positioned, they will have the treat of magnificent views of New York. On the upper floors the city is witnessed from above, offering splendid views of Central Park and far away from the chaotic madness, traffic and throngs of people. One is literally in a modern palace in the clouds.

Fashion consultant Tim Gunn referred to the building as “just a thin column. It needs a little cap.” Fashionably slim it might be, but the grace of 432 Park Avenue is derived from a complex grid system and a focus on balanced proportions. From the exterior to the interior, the design is one that adheres to the classical principles of order and symmetry. “A grid-system drives the structure refined by the vision of Mr. Viñoly’s to create a building of the most pure geometry,” says Jae In Choi, Project Architect at Rafael Viñoly Architects who worked on the project since its inception in 2010. “There is no skin to the building,” he says. “We are basically exposing the backbone of the building and using it as a design of the building. We designed this building as a system – it’s not just an architectural gesture. What you see is also an expression of what this building is about.” The building’s perfectly square footprint continues straight to the top. As In Choi emphasised, the tower has an exposed concrete structural frame enabling its column-free interiors. The structural columns are engaged in the exterior walls – you can see them between the windows. What you behold from outside is what is holding the building up. In addition, several open floors allow wind to pass through the building.

The dining room table in Robert Couturier’s model apartment

Within the building’s elegant frame a universe of tailored luxury amenities and activities is offered. On the 14th floor residents can benefit from a fitness center, yoga studio, billiards room with the addition of a library curated by luxury book publisher Assouline. There’s also an 18-seat screening room with projection equipment complete with a 220-inch screen and to top it off, a warm mahogany paneled boardroom. Head up to the 16th floor and enjoy a space replete with travertine walls and flooring surrounding a 75-foot two-lane indoor swimming pool as well as separate Jacuzzi. There are separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, as well as steam, sauna, and treatment rooms for spa services and an on-site fitness manager who can assist residents curate a wellness, nutrition, and fitness regime. A highlight is the private restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hergatt and restaurateur Scott Sozmen. And such lavish lifestyle additions are provided only to residents.

In terms of design, the model apartments, one on the 86th floor and the other on the 35th floor, both exude Palladian structures. Furnished by internationally respected architect and designer Robert Couturier, the former presents Couturier’s signature palette of quirky art and design objects combined with elegant fabrics and finishings. There’s a charm here with a touch of fantasy as if the visitor had walked into someone’s private wonderland. Fornasetti wallpaper depicting a series of Roman columns gives the corridors historical context while works by Hubert le Gall, Christopher Kutz, Michael Eastman as well as a dramatic floor-to-ceiling installation of Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #678 occupying the entire south wall of the living and dining room, provide mesmerising artistry and a happy colour palette that fills the space with brightness. Couturier famously proclaimed in his book Design Paradises,

“I’m completely addicted to luxury. I have no ability for anything else”

432 Park Avenue is indeed a natural fit for one with such an addiction. “The brief, to create a cultured apartment, has been perfectly met through the use of inspired coloured choice and knout furnishings from various eras, by designers including Vladimir Kagan and Gio Ponti, and some truly fun and wild pieces such as the welded bronze desk and credenza by Maartan Baas,” says Couturier.

The bedroom in Robert Couturier’s model apartment

There’s an element of surprise everywhere. Even the children’s room is basked in playful flair with a teddy bear on the window seat positioned nonchalantly in front of an incredible view of New York City – it’s a teddy on top of the world and one which garnered many snaps for the building on Instagram.

Synonymous with 432 Park Avenue are the oversized 10-foot by 10-foot windows, which allow for a constant flow of natural light. In Couturier’s apartment streams of sunlight illuminate the space and further accentuate the artworks, as well as the long dining room table with its daintily positioned white floors and the cream coloured snaking sofa that provides for an intriguing way to entertain and position guests. One feels as if they are floating amidst the clouds and yet strangely grounded through Viñoly’s strong grid system and columnar structure that keeps this slim tower forever in place.

The library room in Deborah Berke’s model apartment. Photography by Scott Frances

The signature 10 foot by 10 foot windows and window seats similarly endow Deborah Berke’s (newly appointed Dean of Yale’s School of Architecture) model apartment on the 35th floor with magic. The character is different from Couturier’s – less playful and more focused on a serious occupation of the space through line, colour and volume. Berke paid homage to the traditional Park Avenue apartment in her design of the space. Each area is connected so there doesn’t appear to be a specific beginning or end; the apartment offers a continuous movement between each room. Details are found in precise and minimalist objects, offering continual elegance with no clutter. This is quiet luxury where the simplicity of the design allows the objects the ability to breathe and communicate. The living and dining room area offers a space that is at once smart and cool, with sculptural furnishings including an Yves Klein coffee table filled with sheets of gold leaf as well as a custom dining table made in a beautiful slab of uneven wood reflecting the beauty of imperfection while simultaneously balancing the geometry found in the rest of the apartment. Deborah Berke worked with Ryan Lee Gallery to select works of art by Ellsworth Kelly, Kiki Smith, and Donald Sultan, among many others. Sultan’s large blue poppy canvas, for example, provides the ideal backdrop for the long wooden dining table while a Fortuny chandelier hangs elegantly above.

The kitchen boasts views of the New York skyline 

From the kitchen with its marble breakfast bar to the bathroom and bedrooms, the views accentuate every room. Such remarkable vistas provide much inspiration for Berke who believes one should always enter a room in line with the view. And it is those views that offer so much character to this sleekly designed space. Outside New York buildings appear to be like glistening gemstones – they seem to wrap around the apartment as if offering a giant hug or protection. At dusk little lights come on and the vistas illuminate as if they were shiny beads on a dazzling necklace only here the necklace is New York City. Once again the visitor feels close and yet far away from the city – irrevocably separated from what is happening outside and yet undeniably near through sheer physical proximity. It’s then that one realises the breathtaking achievement of this new residential monument. 432 Park Avenue is a dream in the sky – a New York gem. It’s impossible to forget where you are.  432parkavenue.com

Words by Rebecca Anne Proctor. Photography by Chika Kobari

This article first appears in the winter issue of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors