14 Nov 2014

I Hate New York, Part 2

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All-GlassBathroom

The Times also describes a developing fashion for all-glass high-rise bathrooms.

Among the many vertiginous renderings for the penthouse apartments at 432 Park Avenue, the nearly 1,400-foot-high Cuisenaire rod that topped off last month, is one of its master (or mistress) of the universe bathrooms, a glittering, reflective container of glass and marble. The image shows a huge egg-shaped tub planted before a 10-foot-square window, 90 or more stories up. All of Lower Manhattan is spread out like the view from someone’s private plane.

Talk about power washing.

The dizzying aerial baths at 432 Park, while certainly the highest in the city, are not the only exposed throne rooms in New York. All across Manhattan, in glassy towers soon to be built or nearing completion, see-through chambers will flaunt their owners, naked, toweled or robed, like so many museum vitrines — although the audience for all this exposure is probably avian, not human.

It seems the former touchstones of bathroom luxury (Edwardian England, say, or ancient Rome) have been replaced by the glass cube of the Apple store on Fifth Avenue. In fact, Richard Dubrow, marketing director at Macklowe Properties, which built 432 and that Apple store, described the penthouse “wet rooms” (or shower rooms) in just those terms.

Everyone wants a window, said Vickey Barron, a broker at Douglas Elliman and director of sales at Walker Tower, a conversion of the old Verizon building on West 18th Street. “But now it has to be ­ a Window.” She made air quotes around the word. “Now what most people wanted in their living rooms, they want in their bathrooms. They’ll say, ‘What? No View?’ ” …

If there’s a view, there should be glass,” [Minimalist architect John] Pawson said. “It’s not about putting yourself on show, it’s about enjoying what’s outside. Any exhibitionism is an unfortunate by-product. I think what’s really nice is that at this level you’re creating a gathering space. You can congregate in the bathroom, you can even share the bath or bring a chair in.”

On a recent Thursday, there were seven people standing in the master bathroom of an apartment on the 20th floor of 737 Park, another Macklowe project that’s a new conversion of a 1940s building by Handel Architects. (The apartment, three bedrooms in 4,336 square feet, is listed for $19.695 million.) At 21 by 11 feet, there was certainly room in the bathroom for a few more. Along two opposing walls, two toilets and two showers faced off behind glass walls. The by-now-familiar egg floated in the center of the room.

“Some people don’t mind showing a little, and some don’t mind showing a lot,” said Gary Handel, the principal of Handel Architects. “They are totally comfortable in their bodies.” …

Nine of the building’s C-line apartments expressed an even clearer idea: a wall of glass with two toilets at either end and a shower in the middle, which raised many an eyebrow among brokers and their clients because the toilets face each other. Design clarity — and a well-lit room — suggests questions about how private we want to be in our private spaces.

Jill Roosevelt, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens who has been leading her clients through a few of the new, glassy offerings, said 737 in particular sparked conversations about habits of intimacy. “It’s about how much proximity do you want to your partner who is performing these tasks?” she said. “It doesn’t affect sales, but there is always a reaction, ranging from nonchalant to amusement. It depends on how comfortable you feel with your spouse or partner. My traditional couples will say, ‘We’ll frost the glass.’ ”

One couple — “this would be the amused couple,” Ms. Roosevelt said — pondered the dueling commodes of the C-line at 737 Park with interest. “Well, I guess we could watch each other read the newspaper,” the wife said finally. …

Privacy, of course, is not an absolute value, but a value that has changed over time and circumstances, as Winifred Gallagher, an author who has written about the behavioral and psychological science of place, pointed out.

“And like everything else, the rich can buy more of it,” she said. “In the city, privacy is about shielding yourself from all the stimuli. Most of us can’t drop the shield entirely even when we’re in our own homes, because the city is right outside. But if you’re high enough, you can waltz around pretending you’re in the garden of Versailles.”

Furthermore, Ms. Gallagher added, for many the bathroom can be the focus of a lot of anxiety. “You have the scale and there’s the magnifying mirror so you don’t put your makeup on and look like a clown,” she said. “And imagine yourself striding around the bathrooms with all that glass. It puts the pressure on you to be thin and fit, which are also perks of the rich. If you’re thin and fit, why wouldn’t you have this jewel box to show yourself off in?”

Read the whole thing.

Ann Althouse observes: “the rich folk of New York don’t mind if you look at them naked while they use the bathroom… as long as you have to look way, way up.

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