Making the Grade
Resolution: 4's Joseph Tanney designs a Manhattan apartment for his onetime teacher Peter Eisenman
Henry Urbach -- Interior Design, 1/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Peter Eisenman's first built works, completed in the 1970s, were a series of small houses through which he elaborated a strictly formal and polemical approach to the design of domestic space—House VI, the Frank residence, became notorious for a large column positioned at the edge of the dining table and a slot of space that sliced the master bed in two. With this in mind, it is especially interesting to consider the more nuanced blend of architectural form and the comforts of home at Eisenman's own New York apartment, which he shares with writer and editor Cynthia Davidson, their two sons, and their cats.
To join three adjacent units on a high floor of a postwar building into one 2,000-square-foot apartment, Eisenman hired Resolution: 4 Architecture partner Joseph Tanney, who had studied with Eisenman at Ohio State University and later worked in his New York office. Tanney pursued a range of options, ultimately developing a clear logic to organize the apartment into overlapping public and private zones, each L-shape in plan and highly articulated in section. One enters into a space that opens laterally, to a study on one side and a living area on the other. Beyond these rooms are a guest closet and bathroom and, at the hinge between public and private zones, an eat-in kitchen. Three bedrooms follow, with each son enjoying ample private space. The couple's room faces north and accommodates a television, more books, and Davidson's collection of miniature buildings on shelving above the built-in bed.
Tanney unified all the spaces with continuous maple flooring (atop new sound insulation) and white-painted walls and ceilings, while a system of three distinct ceiling heights modulates interior volumes. The maximum available height, 8 feet, is used above individual rooms to create figural voids; the 7-foot 6-inch height occurs around the perimeter; and the 7-foot height demarcates circulation and hides mechanical systems. "Threading movement through these low spaces allows the perimeter to explode," Tanney explains, referring to the way the outer walls open toward a spectacular urban scene. A panorama that once included an unobstructed view of the World Trade Center now extends above the rotated street grid of the West Village, toward Wall Street, the Hudson River, and New Jersey.
Furniture from the couple's own collection includes white leather Barcelona chairs, Rietveld and Thonet chairs, and handsome chesterfield sofas. Tanney outfitted the kitchen with all new cabinetry and a rolling breakfast table that allows easy access to a built-in bench as well as rolling into the living area to extend the library table for dinner parties. Paying homage to bookshelves that Eisenman built years earlier and now stand in the bedroom, Tanney designed new ones for the study, employing the same dimensions and proportional system to arrive at an assemblage of generous cubes and slender horizontal slots for oversize books. "We were told to make room for a lot of books and a lot of art," he says. Among the artwork in question are wonderful architectural drawings by Le Corbusier, Aldo Rossi, John Hejduk, Rem Koolhaas, and Michael Graves, many dedicated to Eisenman and Davidson personally.