Skyhouse Penthouse by David Hotson Architect

Skyhouse Penthouse by David Hotson Architect

Location: New York City, USA
Photo courtesy: Eric Laignel

Skyhouse is a house in the sky, a residential penthouse located at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in New York City.


The four story penthouse structure, which had never been used as a residence, was designed in 1896 as an archetypal hip-roofed house form situated twenty-one stories above the street.  In the intervening decades this penthouse has been gradually surrounded by the astonishing vertical cityscape of Lower Manhattan. From the private elevator vestibule, lit by a skylight which frames the apex of the adjacent skyscraper sixty stories above, the ramped entrance hall passes through the facetted shaft of the stairwell.


The original riveted steel structure –among the very earliest steel frames used in skyscraper construction in New York City- threads through the stairwell, slipping past the seamless glass bridge to reach the glass floor of the attic four stories above the entrance level.


In the main living space the original steel frame was reconfigured to allow the space to ascend to the underside of the hipped penthouse roof four stories above.  The 50-foot-tall living space tapers upward past a mid-level balcony suspended in the steel framework, to an inclined glass wall which encloses one end of the at the attic level –and provides a vertiginous view down to the main level four stories below.


At the other end of the attic, a circular hole cut into a similar outward sloping glass partition provides the entrance to the slide.  The mirror polished tubular stainless steel slide provides for a quick descent –sweeping over a bedroom, out through a window, and over the stair, before coiling down through the library ceiling to arrive at the flared rectangular exit opposite the penthouse entrance.


All of the spaces of this residence exploit its situation above the Manhattan cityscape with vistas channeled through all four levels of the penthouse structure at a range of scale to capture framed views of iconic structures in the surrounding three-dimensional cityscape. While the true nature of these spaces can only be revealed to a visitor encountering them in the experienced present, the images re-presented here provide a glimpse of the experience of this house in the sky above the city of New York.

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