Set for completion later this year, Zaha Hadid’s luxury condominiums at 520 West 28th street have already garnered world-wide attention. The steel-and-glass modernist façade features Hadid’s signature “organic curves” and wow-factor design in an ultra-luxury setting, and will provide “varied living spaces [that] echo the multiple layers of public space on 28th Street and the High Line,” says Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) press release. But does the new residential building somehow subvert the idea of home into a public, performative arena? Is the building’s design and urban integration yet another glaring example of the blurred line between the private and the public spheres in our contemporary culture?
ZHA says the building upholds “the distinctive character of the [Chelsea] neighbourhood” while maintaining both its own “architectural presence” and that of its surroundings. The residential units are expressed in split levels “within the interlocking chevrons” of hand-crafted steel, which carry “the spirit of Chelsea’s industrial past…and the rich tradition within New York’s historic architecture of enhancing the public realm.”
Surely one has to wonder whether one of those enhancements within the “public realm” is that the building will provide yet another architectural stage for domestic performance and voyeurism within the home.
Like many existing buildings on the High Line, the new Chelsea apartments feature all-glass living spaces. With the neighboring park so near and the living spaces so exposed, the residences also hint at an open, exhibitionistic dynamic between the inhabitants and the park’s visitors. The building’s wow-factor is apparent at any angle, a worthy feat in architecture and surely deserved of design awards, but one has to wonder whether or not the the space is really concerned with liveability.
It will be interesting to see how this dynamic comes into play after the building’s completion and the units are inhabited. Will the residents close the curtains in their living spaces or will they embrace the high-visibility on the High Line?