When the 30-story tower Greenwich West opened late last year, its architect Franoise Raynaudthe first French woman to complete a tower in New York Citywasnt there.
Instead, the founder of Loci Anima, the Paris-based architecture, design and urban planning studio, was at her country home on the west coast of France. Shes been working from there since the first lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic were implemented more than a year ago.
Fortunately, the work on Greenwich West, located on Charlton Street in Manhattans Hudson Square neighborhood, was advanced to the point where Ms. Raynaud did not have to supervise. Her design for the facade features pewter-glazed bricks from Austria, curved corners with Art Deco vibe and oversized windows to frame views of the Hudson River and New York Harbor.
Ms. Raynaud was part of a team of designers from France working on Greenwich West. Interiors for the project were helmed by Paris-based Sebastien Segers, and French botanist Patrick Blanc created a 18-foot vertical viewing garden in the courtyard. There will be 170 residences, ranging from $1.1 million to $7.95 million.
Mansion Global spoke with Ms. Raynaud about her inspiration for the tower and her desire to see the completed project soon, plus how small imperfections can make some things even more precious.
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Mansion Global: How have you spent the pandemic year?
Franoise Raynaud: In France, lockdown was mandatory. It was forbidden to leave the home or [youd] face a fine. Ive been at my country house near Deauville on the west coast of France. With the digital tools we have these days, its very easy to work from home. Im aware of being extremely privileged, as the majority of Parisians were confined to their small and even large apartments.
MG: What are the most valuable amenities to have in a home right now?
FR: A garden, a terrace and a beautiful view.
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MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
FR: During the first lockdown, I wanted to buy the house next door, imagining that it would be practical to bring in staff and clients from the office to work in a green workshop. But in the spring of last year, after lockdown was eased and people could travel again, there was a run on all the properties within two or three hours of Paris and I did not bid high enough.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
FR: Old or new is not the main criteria for me. It really depends on the character of the property and its situation.
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MG: What was your inspiration for Greenwich West?
FR: Few parts of Manhattan have such a visible urban history, so its influence on the context of the built environment is fundamental. The building is a reflection of the way that the Hudson Square district has evolved over the centuries, adapting itself to the changing social and urban context that has formed the area. Greenwich West is a contemporary insertion in a changing context that seats itself in a complex urban environment seeking stability and innovation.
MG: How has it been to continue work on projects like Greenwich West when you cant be there in person?
FR: Fortunately, the Greenwich project was very advanced and would no longer require our presence, as in the earlier phases. What we missed a lot is not being able to participate in this beautiful, very rewarding and emotional moment which is the completion of a project of this magnitude. We will hopefully be able to come back to NYC soon and catch up with this.
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MG: Whats the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
FR: Real estate in Europe is doing quite well despite the long months of economic shutdown; it is still a safe haven.
MG: Where is the next hotspot for luxury homes and why?
FR: There could be an increased attraction to destinations where there are less coercive health measures in place, either because of better management or thanks to less contamination. That freedom may be a new luxury criterion for some.
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MG: Whats your favorite part of your own home?
FR: I have a passionate love for my Normandy house. It is an Anglo-Norman style house dating from the beginning of the last century. Each room has an extremely beautiful fireplace decorated with wood, brick and ceramic details.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
FR: For me it is a more Japanese conception of the precious objectsomething that was made as a unique model and which could even have some small flaws, which gives it all its singularity. Its something far from the industrialized product of luxury brands.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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