How to Build the Most Successful Building of All Time

stern cpw How to Build the Most Successful Building of All TimeSo what is the secret ingredient of artchitect Robert A.M. Stern’s special fairy dust? While it seems anybody can copycat old styles, there is something about the Yale architecture dean, editor and Brooklyn native that no one can top. A hint can be found in the The Times Magazine, which got a ritzy tour of 15 Central Park West, the greatest apartment building of all time, from the architect himself, along with developer William Lie Zeckendorf. 

Among the features Stern points out are a restaurant exclusively for residents, like the now-defunct eatery once housed at the Dakota; a reflecting pool that doubles as a skylight for the gym; and “a cobblestoned area that Stern refers to as the ‘motor court.'” 87,000 pieces of limestone cover the buildings exterior, all selected by Stern. As for inside:

As we took an elevator (“High ceiling, wood paneling, stone floor, carefully detailed doors—if I do say so myself,” Stern observed) to a high-floor apartment in the tower, the architect’s mood also seemed to ascend. After we walked through “the defined prewar foyer,” the view from the living room induced further giddiness: a sweeping vista that included Central Park and Lincoln Center through windows much larger than could be found in a typical prewar building.

The old maxim still holds–location, location, location–but the fact remains that Stern has figured out how to create the perfect balance, combining typical elements to make something exceptional. One of his old employees tells the Times he is the supreme editor, “collating [...] ideas and editing them and assembling them.” He said the same thing in an interview with The Observer back in 2007, noting that the key to his work was to take the best elements of all the best buildings and fit them together like a giant, vertical jigsaw puzzle.

So it looks like the secret is having not only a motor court but also a chauffeur’s room adjoining it. 

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo