It's All in the Balance pix
Spirit and art, work and home—contrasts achieve harmony at a New York yoga studio and residence by Steve E. Blatz
Judd Tully -- Interior Design, 10/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
A former sculptor, now a yoga instructor and reflexologist, hired Steve E. Blatz, Architect, to turn a New York industrial space into her live-work loft. In the gallery, Blatz built a platform of Bateig Azul limestone to showcase the client's own work as well as pieces by Anne Rochette and Ana Mendieta.
What would a New York loft look like if it had to embrace the suppleness of ancient yoga poses, the richness of provocative contemporary art, and the day-to-day requirements of eating and sleeping? Just ask architect Steve E. Blatz. Hired by a former sculptor who's now a collector, yoga instructor, and reflexologist, his namesake firm had to come up with a design flexible enough to accommodate her yoga studio, a reflexology room, an office, a sitting area, a kitchen, bedrooms, and baths, all without sacrificing her passion for privacy and serenity.
On top of that, Blatz says, "The architecture had to glorify the art." Some 750 pieces of it—or 751. "The client considered my work another part of her collection," he adds. "She commissioned me just as she would an artist, with very few restrictions." So the architect set about devising his own public/private construct for the loft, 4,500 square feet of former manufacturing space two stories above a busy street near the Empire State Building.
The urban bustle ceases the moment you step off the elevator. Immediately in front of you stand two folded planes composed of horizontal bands of pale ash, stacked 10 feet high. Between these two objects—more like striking pieces of furniture than architectural elements—a mysterious gap beckons. Walk in, turn right, then left, and a hidden universe emerges.
Bathed in northern light, a handful of students proceed through a tailored, 60- or 90-minute regimen of shoulder or head stands and standing or seated asanas, or postures. All are based on the teachings of 87-year-old B.K.S. Iyengar—who developed his own yoga method incorporating supportive wooden blocks and cotton straps—so students here practice back bends and twists using ropes tethered to a pair of special walls that Blatz built in front of two structural columns. Apart from some audible breathing and the instructor's detailed instructions, the space is serenely quiet.
Running along the far wall, out of the way of the students, is Blatz's second sculptural intervention: a limestone platform that extends two thirds the length of the rectangular interior, presenting a stunning inventory of sculpture and paintings by artists ' both established and emerging. Cuban painter Ana Mendieta's biomorphic mixed-media work on paper strikes an arresting note in counterpoint to French sculptor Anne Rochette's stoic bronze female warrior. "It's a garden for art," Blatz says.
The combined yoga studio and gallery takes up the center of the loft's public half. During class time, the space is enclosed by aluminum-framed fiberglass folding screens that slide out from behind the two yoga walls. After students leave—they change back to their street clothes in a small room housed in one of the ash partitions—the screens slide away to reveal a kitchen on one side and a living area on the other.
In the living area, vintage, classic, and contemporary pieces mix: The curves of a mahogany-topped ' cocktail table by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and a tomato-red Womb chair and ottoman by Eero Saarinen balance the angularity of a low taupe sofa and Blatz's own white-lacquered drop-front desk. In the kitchen, the delicate black lines of a David Weeks ceiling fixture play off the honey-toned oak brawn of a vintage table designed for a law library.
The corners of the loft's public half actually fulfill more private functions. One holds the reflexology room, where a focal wall in the palest mist color ties in with Blatz's overall palette of blues. He placed the guest room in the opposite corner. Here, the reposeful lines of an Indonesian daybed meet the gnarled form of a Petah Coyne sculpture of barbed wire, swamp roots, black dust, and chain, suspended rather menacingly from the ceiling.
The guest bathroom, distinguished by a door with a porthole of acid-etched glass, stands next to the self-effacing white door that swings open to the private quarters. The domestic sequence begins with a long dressing room, really a hallway. Lined at its widest point by ash-fronted closets and drawers, the hall then narrows to make space for the bathroom and its glass-enclosed steam shower, paved in glass mosaic tile.
To set off the master bedroom, Blatz built another ash wall, this one banded with inset acrylic strips. (An Isamu Noguchi–esque lantern brings out their translucent quality.) But the heart and soul of the master suite is the separate meditation room, a limestone platform that feels like a private island, sheltered beneath an arching ribbon of ash. This is where the client practices her daily Pranayama breathing exercises—and prepares herself to walk through the swing door, to work.