April 24, 2015
With 505 West 19th Street, Thomas Juul-Hansen, a socialist architect beloved by billionaires, adds his signature to a street that has become a design walk of fame.
Thomas Juul-Hansen designed both the exterior and interiors at 505 West 19th Street.
West 19th Street by the High Line, from 10th Avenue to the West Side Highway, can feel like a design hall of fame, with buildings by such brand-name architects as Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, and Frank Gehry. It may be a good place, then, for a creation by of-the-moment architect Thomas Juul-Hansen, who designed No. 505, a 35-unit limestone-walled condo building, as he tears an architectural path through the city (he also designed the interiors for One57, the billionaire haven). But Juul-Hansen, who is fond of sneakers and tieless shirts, won’t indulge the comparisons. “Everything you see,” he says, “these are ideas I have been working on for years.”
Once focused mostly on interiors but now tackling entire buildings, from their foyers to their façades, Juul-Hansen says that No. 505 is the first residential job in which he had full creative control. “It was a pivot for him, but he was absolutely ready for it,” says James Lansill, a director with Corcoran Sunshine MarketingGroup, which is handling No. 505’s sales. “The block will always be looked at as an architectural feast, and I think that Thomas’s design will sit very comfortably, shoulder to shoulder, with the others.”
An inventive layout may have something to do with it. Developed by HFZ Capital Group, No. 505 has a lobby that sits directly under the High Line and a 10-story tower on either side of it, so the U-shaped building essentially cradles the popular park. Offering units ranging from 1,100-square-foot one bedrooms to 5,900-square-foot four-bedrooms, the building, which will open to residents by year’s end, also gives Juul-Hansen a chance to show his fondness for traditional, unadorned metals and stones.
An airy living space at 505 West 19th Street, where apartments range in size from 1,100 square feet for one-bedrooms to 5,900 square feet for units with four bedrooms.
Travertine, for instance, turns up in the master baths, as it does in the lobby of Midtown’s skyscraping One57 condo building, another Juul-Hansen project. He also deployed the veiny material in a dining- room wall in the triplex penthouse at Tribeca’s One York, a unit owned by Michael Hirtenstein, a real estate investor. “Our goal is to strive for timelessness,” Juul-Hansen explains. “Nobody goes to Rome and says, ‘This travertine is so 200 BC.’”
That old-world approach has appeal. As of late February, 505 West 19th had sold 21 of its 35 units in 11 months, at an average cost of $2,700 a square foot, according to a project spokesman. While those prices may seem steep—in the fourth quarter of last year, the average price per foot for new condos in Manhattan was about $1,800, according to a Corcoran Group report—it can feel like a bargain compared with new condos in West Chelsea, most of which also stand close to the High Line and have a snazzy vibe. Indeed, their average price in early March, according to StreetEasy.com, was about $3,000 a foot.
If Juul-Hansen, 45, has a minimalist touch—his website features a single grayed-out page with contact information—it’s understandable. A Dane who attended the University of Miami before enrolling in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he worked for Richard Meier, the esteemed modernist, when he first started out. And one of Meier’s jobs in the 2000s was 66, a restaurant in Tribeca, which introduced Juul-Hansen to a client who would shape his career: chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Juul- Hansen would go on to design his apartment, at 176 Perry Street, a crystalline tower overlooking the Hudson River in the West Village, as well as the restaurant on its ground floor. Later commissions for Vongerichten included the redesign of his restaurant Jean-Georges, at Columbus Circle, and Nougatine next door as well.
505 West 19th Street consists of two buildings that cradle the High Line.
Soon developers needing someone with glass wall expertise came calling. Alf Naman hired Juul-Hansen for the interiors of the shimmering HL23, which grazes the High Line on West 23rd Street. And Time Equities enlisted him for 50 West, a 188-unit tower now rising in the Financial District, where Juul-Hansen fitted the kitchens with stained walnut cabinets and brushed granite counters. Travertine, of course, is found in the baths. “I will tell you, buyers love what they see,” says broker Javier Lattanzio, who handles sales at the building, which in late January was 50 percent sold after six months of marketing. Juul-Hansen even snapped up a unit for himself, where he plans to relocate in fall 2016.
Meanwhile, other developers are taking note and giving him freer rein. For Glenwood Management, Juul-Hansen recently created the 15-unit 60 East 86th Street, an inside/outside job. The architect is also giving the whole-cloth treatment to a pair of new condo buildings from Naftali Group that will face one another on West 77th Street.
With a higher profile, though, comes closer scrutiny. Comments that Juul-Hansen made last year about being a socialist led to criticism about hypocrisy, since his homes are usually bought by wealthy capitalists. Juul-Hansen says he was grossly misquoted: “I was raised in a socialist country, and I think we have a humanitarian obligation to help those who have less and are in deep trouble.”
But with his recent success, he can also award bonuses to his 25-person staff, he notes, “and everyone is living better. They buy more expensive dinners, they buy a little more wine, and the money trickles down incredibly fast.” 505 W. 19th St., 212- 308-5050