BY MARTHA WILKIE | Remember when far West Chelsea was mostly warehouses and nightclubs, or as The New York Times put it in 1987, “the largely uninhabited far west”?
Today it’s transformed, thanks to an influx of galleries, which was followed later by an explosion of commercial and residential development — much of it spurred by the success of the High Line.
One of the most expensive and architecturally significant (the two decidedly don’t always go together) homes now for sale is the penthouse at 520 W. 28th St., a new residential building by famed architect Zaha Hadid.
When I studied architectural history in college, Zaha Hadid was a rock star. Her designs swooped and flew in strikingly original, gravity-defying ways.
Hadid, who was born in Iraq, trained at the Architectural Association in London. She was the first woman and first Muslim to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize (along with many other prizes and honors) and became an international “starchitect.”
Most of her work isn’t residential, but rather large-scale major buildings — art museums, an opera house, an aquatics center for the 2012 Olympics in London.
The building at 520 W. 28th St. was Hadid’s first, and sadly last, in New York City. She died during its construction, of a heart attack.
The 11-story building with 39 units has all the modern amenities, including a 75-foot lap pool, IMAX screening room and helpful robots, which (theoretically) will fetch your summer clothes from storage or arrange for a car.
Julie Lasky beautifully described the design in The New York Times in 2018:
“Achieving the liquid effect of her architecture — the rounded corners and smooth, sculptured surfaces — takes skill and a pile of money. The bendy 520 West 28th Street facade was trimmed in 954 pieces of hand-cut and hand-ground stainless steel. A lobby mural consists of elephantine slabs of marble carved with a water jet.”
Is one of the most ridiculously expensive apartments in the city actually that amazing?
Penthouse 37 is spread out over three levels, on 6,853 square feet, linked by a spectacular swirling staircase. It has five bedrooms, 6.5 baths, and a 2,218-square-foot terrace with incredible views. The night I was there, it had just snowed, and the High Line was a magical, ghostly, pure white wonderland.
I loved the bathroom with its dramatic, huge white bathtub. And sitting in the big leather chair in the office made me feel like a titan of the business world. The living room was glamorous and I’d love to attend a fabulous party there.
But in the end, would I want to live there? No. I admire the design without finding it warm and welcoming or homey — which is what you want in a home. Or at least, I do. Actually I can’t really imagine who would live there. Perhaps a rock star or foreign oligarch would use it as a pied-à-terre?
With five bedrooms, you’d think it’d be good for a family with lots of kids and dogs. But it’s hard to imagine spoiling that sleek, perfect look with the detritus of family life. Apartments like these seem to exist on a different plane, not for us mortals.
But if you’re interested in Penthouse 37 at 520 W. 28th St. — or just interested in looking — click here.
So what’s in West Chelsea for a bit less than $50 million?
In the glorious London Terrace Towers, which has been a Chelsea stalwart since 1929, here’s a nice studio co-op with a completely separate bedroom alcove for $565,000. I’d rather swim with my neighbors in an Olympic-size pool than alone in a lap pool.
At 460 W. 23rd St., here’s a one-bedroom, one-bath in the Chelsea Historic District with a gorgeous patio, wood-burning fireplace, and high-tech Google Home controls for $750,000.
For rentals, a new building at 507 W. 28th St. offers a studio at $3,675 per month with use of a roof deck, pool, fitness room, recreation room and children’s play area.
And if you’re in need of a lovely furnished house in Chelsea, check out this wonderful kitchen in a four-story 1901 row house with a 400-square-foot garden for $22,000 a month.