Above and Below
You’d be hard-pressed to find a designer with a more above-ground past and subterranean present than Raad Studio founder James Ramsey. The Yale School of Architecture alum’s initial gig was as a NASA satellite engineer, a stark contrast to his current charge as the mind behind The Lowline, what will eventually be the world’s first underground flora and fauna park—thanks to a whole lot of solar-paneled circuitry—located within the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal.
“There’s a cool hand-pumped cart down there, like the one Wile E. Coyote used,” says Ramsey of the many unearthed treasures within the forgotten station. In Oct. 2015, Ramsey and Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch opened their proof-of-concept weekends-only exhibit, the Lowline Lab, inside an abandoned market on Essex Street. The space is designed to test light-gathering techniques and other theories, and more than 100,000 people have visited so far. The Lowline park itself is still years—and dozens of city approvals—away, but last July, the project got its first thumbs up. Ramsey and Barasch now are tasked with raising $10 million and completing early schematics.
Subterranian work isn’t Ramsey’s only area of interest—the architect also has many residential and commerical projects. His first architecture project was designing and building Moby’s New York City apartment, and since then, Raad has acquired some of NYC’s most influential people, from celebrities to CEOs, as clients, and they’re currently completing about 15 residential projects in and around New York, each with unique features like a 5-story bookcase and a 14-foot movable glass wall. Internationally, they’re working to refurbish a historical Brutalist building on the Thames in London and on a cultural center in Seoul, Korea, among other projects.
As for Ramsey’s innovation wishes for 2017 and beyond? You can take the boy out of NASA, but... “If we could make some real progress on the Hyperloop high speed rail this year, I’d be totally excited,” he says. “And if someone could take up the banner for the Space Elevator, that would be even better.”
The evolution of the Financial District is a tragically complicated one, from terror attacks to Hurricane Sandy. As always, the Big Apple triumphs. Real estate is proof, and new structures retell Gotham’s skyline narrative. Take AKA Wall Street, designed by Edward Asfour of Asfour Guzy Architects and one of the newest on these blocks. The luxury hotel residence rocks 132 studio suites, along with one- and two-bedroom suites and penthouses. Foodies will love the Blue Ribbon Federal Grill, opening mid-January. No one can overlook 30 Park Place—home of the Four Seasons and Wolfgang Puck’s first NYC grub hub. And then there’s The Beekman Residences. Adjoining the Beekman Hotel, its host to spots from both Keith McNally and Tom Colicchio—as well as a record-shattering $12 million penthouse, reportedly in contract. (The previous record, from 2007, was $6.57 million.) Then there’s the refit of the iconic Woolworth Tower. Reimagined by architect Thierry Despont, it’s slated for completion this year, and its penthouse, dubbed The Pinnacle, has a rumored $110 million price tag. There are also retail and food offerings at Westfield WTC, Brookfield Place and the South Street Seaport. We dare anyone to complain there’s nothing to do around Wall Street anymore.
Best Design Stores
Big brands—from a 100-plus-year-old design icon to the retail outpost of a museum that celebrates the previous century—made a big impact in NYC this year. Here are three must-visit design stores.
1. For the first time in its 110-year history, all of the Herman Miller brands can be found under one roof. The new flagship building contains textiles from Maharam, furnishings from Geiger, modern pieces from Design Within Reach and, of course, the full Herman Miller line itself. 251 Park Ave. South
2. After three months of renovations last year, the MoMA Design Store in Midtown is back and brighter than ever (literally—the refit included opening the windows to allow in more natural light). Inside, custom-built fixtures are tailored to tell stories of the store’s curator-approved wares. 44 W. 53rd St.
3. Designer Elad Yifrach brings his refined aesthetics to the West Village in L’Objet’s first branded NYC location. The boutique features luxe yet functional home goods, artisanal gifts, glassware and more, all handpicked by Yifrach to speak to New Yorkers’ sophisticated tastes. 370 Bleeker St.