Monday, September 28, 2009

NY Standard Hotel

Supper hot Standard Hotel and Highline Park on the West side. Carolyn and I went up for an evening retreat of cultural activities and decided to book a room at one of NY’s newest locations in the famed meatpacking fashion/nightlife district. We never know what to expect and have no expectations other than have a good time no matter what cards we are dealt. The reward for this traveling disposition was exceptional. We heard cynical and skeptical comments about the building from other architects and designers as being over designed, too hip, blah, blah.. Well, a thing is what it is and subjectively I did not find it that over the top. From the moment we walked through the yellow turnstile doors it was a comfortable experience and very unpretentious. It may be a subjective experience and depends on what you bring to the table and what baggage you arrive with (not the bags you packed). It is similar to walking a fashion runway from the front door through the lobby. Your destination is a one of several small desks that remind you of small airport and the staff is awesome, with there own unique style they immediately adjust to your demeanor and make you feel right at home. This is what a hotel experience should be like. You can tell it is a new space and staff adjusting to the accommodations but working outside your comfort zone and trying to get it right is what life is all about. It’s more interesting that way. They don’t have the “its not my job” attitude, the job gets done period and from our observation the people do enjoy working there. It was August, a hot muggy 90 degree day and the bell guy uniform was a pair of shorts, collared short sleeve dress shirt, and what looked to be a pair of brown Florsheim dress shoes. That closed the deal on my opinion of the place. A humane and comfortable solution and everyone is happier.

Once in the room, 14th floor, nice size with a queen bed, 32” flatscreen, I-Pod hook-up and an amazing floor to ceiling view of Manhattan and the Skyline Park below. The Standard seems to be famous for not only these spectacular views from the inside out but also at night for the outside in. If the guests are so kind as to not close the curtains, passersby on the street below can possibly catch an X and XXX show. An added bonus to spice up an otherwise puritan based society. The view and ambience created by the city lights was so inviting we slept with the curtains open.

The Meatpacking District and surrounding areas have a slew of great restaurants but we tried the hotel restaurant, The Standard Restaurant located on the ground floor just under the Skyline Park. Great food, great service. It seems to be the hottest spot in the area. The restaurant featured an outdoor bar and massive patio area and the place packed and energetic all night. As the night wore on the limo’s and flashy cars started rolling in. A great neighborhood for an after dinner walk. The people watching is phenomenal. A view of the elevated hotel from the street confirms the

The hotel has a small indoor lounge and in the evening, the doors open to an enclosed patio featuring cushy outdoor chairs, tables and ambient lighting, A fabulous place to hang and talk or possibly have a business meeting (not as noisy as the restaurant outdoor bar).

Awakening to 7:00am dawn light (lifted my head off the pillow and with one eye barely open caught a glimpse of the city, muttered a couple of complimentary words and my head hit the pillow for another hour). Once showered and dressed, had a croissant, fruit and coffee at a local French eatery we cruised Skyline Park. The elevated ex-train platform wraps its way past dilapidated brick warehouse buildings and cinderblock facades with interesting views of the waterfront and Chelsea neighborhood. Still under construction the park literally resides under a construction sight adjacent the Standard Hotel. From our room we had an interesting view of a concrete skeletal shell of a future hotel or office building. The project we are told is at a standstill due to financial constraints. I really enjoy buildings under construction. There is something about the raw and gritty reality of the object without its smooth polished skin. It’s a very textural reminder of how a city becomes and seeing a thing in a state of creative process is more interesting than the finished product. The most amount of information and experiential activity resides in the process. At night the bare bulbs lighting each floor awash the space in a beautiful somber and relaxed mood. 
By 9:00 am the park had a fair number of people. You can tell the architectural and design junkies from the typical tourists and locals. A lot of families, especially that early on a Sunday morning. There is distinct separation between the street below and park. Both exude there own characteristics. From sustainable tranquility with pockets of greenery to the hardened rough and dirty surfaces of a distant underworld. The park abruptly comes to an end with a chain link fence and the sight of future construction. A series of stairs are installed by a large billboard and parking lot with cars on lifts that extend to the height of the park, quickly bridges the two worlds, as you descend to the street below and back into the mayhem of NY.

If you get a chance, walk the park and check out the Standard. If you can spend a night, even better.

A good art exhibition to check out is the Dan Graham: Retrospective at the Whitney. The show is another confirmation that he is one of my favorite artists. Conceptual language and performance based art can sometimes come off as hokey. Graham is dead serious and does it very well. His mirror and reflective glass installations that intend to distort perception are very interesting and even more relevant today as architects are going to greater lengths to explore materials and physiological effects of spaces on there occupants. With advancements in architectural modeling and engineering through computer technologies buildings can organically twist move and shift to accommodate the perceptual gestalt of the participating community. Architecture is no longer an imposed art.