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Your Home Should be a Respite From the Chaos of the City, Says NYC Architect

Chris Cooper, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, says convenience is the biggest luxury for today’s buyers

Chris Cooper is design partner at famed architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). His latest project, the 32-story The Park Loggia, is located at the nexus of Columbus Circle and the Upper West Side.

The building, which houses 172 luxury residences, has a terra-cotta exterior—a nod to the historic masonry of the Upper West Side neighborhood.

Instead of balconies and terraces, the building features loggias built into the building’s facade that act almost as rooms, for better indoor/outdoor living.

At SOM, Mr. Cooper, 50, has worked on high-rise commercial office space, as well as residential and mixed-use developments, including 7 World Trade Center, the Time Warner Center, 101 Warren Street in Tribeca and 18 India Street, a new residential development on the Brooklyn waterfront.

The New York-based architect has also worked on a number of projects overseas, including supertall towers with notable achievements, such as a ventilation patent for Seoul Light DMC and an original structural solution for Teardrop Tower, also located in Seoul.

We caught up with Mr. Cooper to discuss New Yorkers’ “extreme priority” of views, his favorite European cities and more.

Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.

Chris Cooper: I’ll put this in the context that I’m an urban dweller and I love to be in the city. So daylight-filled, open and spacious are important to me. I always choose to have open space. And because I’m a city-liver I like views of the horizon. It offers a little bit of a release.

MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?

CC: I do. My wife and I were in contract on a brownstone in Brooklyn, in Cobble Hill. It was an extra-wide, white-marble brownstone. I’m really a modern person but I love the richness and integrity of historical pieces. We were literally in contract, and the family decided they couldn’t agree to sell. It sat empty for years.

We were already imagining ourselves in it.

MG: What does luxury mean to you?

CC: Luxury today is convenience, given our pace and our schedules. Having immediate access to the things that are most important to us— shops, parks, culture, good food—that’s luxury.

You can think of it on a more micro level as the amenities in your building. For example, an apartment that’s thought about the access to the outdoors. It’s about convenience more than a stylistic definition of luxury.

Luxury is also, for me, natural, rich materials, but it doesn’t have to be equated with opulence. It can also be quite understated, using real wood, real stone and natural finishes.

MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?

CC: In New York, there’s an extreme priority of views. The most extreme illustration of this is the supertall building. This idea that the higher you are, the better your apartment is.

MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?

CC: My answer ties back to the fact that I’m a city dweller. To me, the centers of European cities are most luxurious—to be in the center of London or Paris is hard to beat. That’s also why I think New York is a great place to be, it’s in the center of it.

MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?

CC: Our dining room. We have this amazing old dining table from a Swedish monastery. It has great oak detailing. And it’s where our family has meals together every night. It’s the one place we can be connected every day. And I love to cook, drink wine and entertain. Some of the best memories, are from around there.

MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?

CC: It’s neutral, contemplative. Your home should be a respite from the chaos of the city, with calm-setting simple lines, and a reduction of clutter, so that just objects that we love stand out.

MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?

CC: Our art. We have art that is meaningful to us on a personal level. Some are chosen for their message, or they’re from trips we’ve been on, so they’re reminders of that. We have some small pieces from artists I’ve collaborated with on buildings I’ve worked on—either sketches or maquettes, which are models of a larger sculpture.

MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?

CC: In New York, the one that’s most valued is outdoor space. Landscaped outdoor space is the greatest amenity you can bring in.

MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?

CC: Get as many rooms as you can possibly afford. You’ll always use them, and that always maintains value for the future.

MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?

CC: Because I’m an architect I’ve always wanted to find a beautiful shell and renovate it to customize it myself. But as I get older, I also find it attractive to move into a place with all the conveniences around me and all the amenities I need.

Mansion Global

By Lucy Cohen Blatter