BusinessSo-Il gave every apartment the 9 Chapel high-rise its...

So-Il gave every apartment the 9 Chapel high-rise its own ‘front porch

I recently stayed in an AirBnb apartment on the sixth floor of a modern condo building. The elevators were always full because they served more than 40 floors; the narrow hallways were reminiscent of that scene in The Shining (minus the floral wallpaper); and the apartment itself, a studio, was mostly comprised of an open living space and a bathroom separated by a long corridor.

That apartment was in Toronto, but it could’ve been in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Amsterdam, or New York City. In fact, that apartment already is in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Amsterdam, and New York City. It is everywhere because it is the cheapest way to build: You start with a rectangle (or a circle, if you’re feeling fancy), extrude it, subdivide it, fill it with crazy amenities, and see how much above asking you can get on every single cookie cutter box inside. “[Buildings] are first built on an Excel sheet, then on a plan, so there’s a lot of financial planning before design happens, and those models foreclose the opportunity for design,” says Florian Idenburg of the Brooklyn-based architecture studio So-Il, which is fast becoming one of the country’s most exciting studios working on residential design today.

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Idenburg knows the process all too well as the architect recently designed a condo that is a complete 180° from the formulaic approach described above. Known as 9 Chapel, the building is located on the edge of Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn (or what some zealous developers have decided to rename Dumbo Heights). Technically, it is a high-rise—it counts 27 homes across 14 floors. In practice, it feels like an anthology of houses, each of them with their own front porch, at least two terraces, and at least two exposures.

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For future residents (the building is due to complete early next year), the array of options translates into highly versatile living spaces that are always connected to the outdoors. Once out of the elevator, you’re not confronted with a long, dank hallway striated with doors on either side. You’re faced with open-air terraces that are shielded from the elements by a rippled, perforated aluminum façade.  

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Inside, you can follow the sun with your morning coffee and your afternoon coffee, and savor each space without sharing a wall your teenager, who has just taken up electric guitar lessons and hasn’t progressed beyond the four chords yet. “In some of [the apartments], I put bedrooms as far apart from one another,” says Idenburg. The kitchen and living room are also separated to give people more spaces to choose from after the pandemic revealed the debacle of open-space living.

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For the developers (in this case a young start-up called Tankhouse, which was cofounded by a licensed architect and a construction specialist who is the son of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne), the multitude of exposures and configurations is also a selling point. The highest unit isn’t necessarily the one with the best views, says Idenburg, whose team spent a year designing the tower, twisting and cutting corners of it to put apartments on the sun path and maximize views throughout.

[Image Darcstudio]

The building is currently under construction and sales won’t launch until the fall, but if Tankhouse and So-Il’s former collaboration at 450 Warren (a handsome condo that ditches corridors in favor of open-air walkways in the building’s hollowed core) is any indication, the apartments might sell out before the building even opens.

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