Sunday, April 19, 2009
Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture has never shied away from head-turning design. Its concept sales office for 23E22, O.M.A.’s slanted residential tower that appears to step up the sides of One Madison Park, literally asks you to cock your head 90 degrees. The narrow space on Mercer Street holds a room-size reproduction of 23E22 — toppled horizontally on one side to fit. Overturned and hollowed, the building’s miniature setbacks serve as steps. Floor-to-ceiling windows have become either long shelves (showcasing O.M.A.’s working models) or translucent light boxes that checker the walls. The flipped facsimile lacks floor slabs, offering the potential buyer a glimpse straight through all 18 stories, into a dazzling nightscape turned outside-in.
Since it doesn’t exactly feel like the right time for luxury real estate, the exhibition space plays a game of urban camouflage. Insinuating itself between longstanding relics of high culture — it is flanked by the likes of Visionaire and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts — the Koolhaas sign, emblazoned on the storefront glass in hatched lines of shocking neon, feels like it could belong to a pop-up art show. But the reflective surfaces on the interior suggest a boutique rather than a gallery, with silver-bound copies of Koolhaas’s hefty “S,M,L,XL” on display alongside a perforated maquette of the tower’s skin modeled in shiny chrome.
It’s too soon to tell if the architectural peep show has paid off. So far, the developers have sold eight of 23E22’s 18 units. In the meantime, the exhibition space — emerging out of the arid atmosphere of the current real estate market — appears like a spectacular mirage.