The Impresario Imperative: Roy Kim
Why practicing architect Roy Kim left the drafting table to take a meeting
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 1/1/2010 12:00:00 AM
The pool in the basement of Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors's Aldyn, a condominium with 300-plus units; courtesy of Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors.
As a child, Roy Kim watched his father, an architect manqué, design and build house after family house in Calgary, Alberta. The younger Kim learned by osmosis to punch-list—and to love the smell of new construction. He went on to study architecture and even practiced for seven years before deciding to leave the profession. Though he still considers himself a designer and admits to sketching "all the time," he now directs an in-house team at New York's Extell Development Company.
As senior vice president of design, he hires and supervises those charged with constructing and embellishing the company's residential and commercial high-rises. "My job is a lot like being a producer and director," he says. "Star architects are our actors." For example, he's working with Atelier Christian de Portzamparc on a high-rise hotel-condominium opposite Carnegie Hall and Shamir Shah Design on two projects, a condominium and a hotel.
Roman and Williams's computer rendering of a teak-finished Aldyn kitchen; courtesy of Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors.
Kim requires outside collaborators to excel in many areas at once. "I look for the best of everything—someone with experience on large projects and the ability to detail," he says. "It's hard to fool me." The self-described "hyper-generalist" has also obtained a real-estate license. (He's not legally permitted to sell the apartments he shows buyers, but he was curious about the process.) Wearing yet another hat, he helps identify the marketing profile of the target customers for each building, be it a condominium, a hotel, or offices.
At a Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors condominium overlooking the Hudson River, the pitch centers on the cutting-edge conveniences of ground-up apartments counterbalanced by the timelessness of wood. A first pass by Roman and Williams principals Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer produced renderings of a teak kitchen with a tang of mid-century California. "I suggested it be more balanced—a mix of Napa Valley with a little Italian modernism in the Scarpa mode," Kim says. Extell president Gary Barnett subsequently encouraged the sheen of a lacquer finish for the kitchen cabinets. Apartments will also boast solid teak sinks in powder rooms and teak paneling in master bathrooms.
"I serve as the design advocate and, at the end of the day, participate with Gary in the approval process," Kim says. "The company kind of is Gary, because it's privately held."
Two other hotels are currently in the planning stage. For a Times Square four- or five-star with interiors by Stonely Pelsinski Architects Neukomm, Kim endorsed a nature-versus-neon theme. Monitors on the lobby's ceiling will play video of wind-riffled branches, and the penthouse bar will feature ceiling panels of polished stainless steel laser-cut in a forest-canopy motif. Meanwhile, for a five-plus-star Park Hyatt, he's been flying to Toronto for top-secret meetings with Yabu Pushelberg.
A rendering of the lobby of the Times Square hotel by Stonely Pelsinski Architects Neukomm; courtesy of Stonely Pelsinki Architects Neukomm.
Kim also travels extensively to gauge the competition. At the sales office for Mandarin Oriental's residential development 1 Hyde Park in London, he discovered the artisans' collaborative Based Upon. He proceeded to fly the group to New York to create a wall installation for the lobby at the Lucida, a condominium with interiors by S. Russell Groves. Inspired by the proximity to Central Park, the artisans used dental molding plaster to take impressions of rocks, a huge tree, and benches with graffiti. Resulting silicon molds produced bas-reliefs adhered to MDF panels onto which powdered metals were sprayed according to a patented process. The whole thing was done by hand, then burnished for an alluring metallized effect.
"We always ask, 'What makes a building stand out?'" Kim says. In the profit-driven world of real-estate development, he and his boss believe that design should be a gift to the city at large.
One of the hotel's guest rooms; courtesy of The Extell Development Company.
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