Skyhouse by David Hotson

A unique architectural vision comes to life in a turn-of-the-century New York City skyscraper

SkyHouse is a residence constructed within a previously unoccupied penthouse structure at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in New York City. The height of the penthouse and the configuration of the existing steel framing supporting it, permitted four interior levels: a main level occupying the full floor at the base of the penthouse, a mezzanine of home office space overlooking the main level, a third level of bedrooms set at the base of the tapering roof, and a fourth attic level set into a triangular prism of space just beneath the truss which supports the roof ridge.

The film is a wordless spatial narrative, following dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker Lily Baldwin as she moves through the spaces of the SkyHouse by David Hotson.

ENTRY/STAIRWELL – The private elevator landing opens into a tall vestibule, tapering upward to a seamless rectangular oculus which provides a view of the sculpted summit of the adjacent skyscraper. From the elevator vestibule, the floor slopes gently upward, passing under the twisting shaft of the stairwell to arrive at the main level of the penthouse. The stairwell shaft ascends through the full height of the penthouse, visually linking the entry hall with the structural glass floor of the attic four stories above. The stair itself wraps around the stairwell. The facetted surfaces of the stairwell converge on apertures, trimmed in mirror polished stainless steel, which provide views into and through the stairwell from the surrounding spaces. At the third level a structural glass bridge traverses the stairwell shaft passing through stainless-trimmed openings at either end. The original riveted steel structure –clad in intumescent paint- threads through the faceted stairwell slipping through apertures into adjacent rooms.

LIVINGROOM – The main living space occupies the entire north end of the penthouse.  Here the ceiling rises to the underside of the third level terrace and then tapers upward through the full fifty-foot height of the penthouse structure.  At the midpoint, a reading balcony is suspended on the exposed structural girders.  At the attic level the outward sloping glass wall provides a vertiginous vista down to the Living Space four levels below.  Furniture, fabrics, and finishes were designed by Ghislaine Viñas of Ghislaine Viñas Interior Design.

CENTER BEDROOM – The vault of the arched dormer window extends into the center bedroom, carving out a volume of space over the glass topped desk. In addition to providing a well-lit surface for working and a perfectly framed view of the spire of the 1914 Woolworth Building, the glass desk provides light to the dining area and stairwell below; the enclosure beneath the glass desktop folds in to create space for sitting but the open space beneath the glass extends through to the levels below, allowing light from the third level dormer window to spill into the entry and creating inexplicable views between the different levels of the penthouse. Set into the dormer at the opposite side of the bedroom, the alcove bed occupies a wedge of space extending up to the attic level oculus window.

NORTH BEDROOM – In order to provide more sources of natural light for the tall pyramidal living room, the volume of the vault of the dormer windows at the third level is extruded in through the dormer window on one side of the penthouse, across the entire width of the third level, and out the window on the opposite side. This linear volume intersects with the sloping surfaces at the pyramidal living room volume, creating voids through the light from the dormers spills in to reach both the bedroom and the living space below.  A shutter slides across the dormer volume to provide privacy when the bedroom is in use.

SLIDE – The entrance to a tubular slide, constructed from mirror-polished stainless steel, emerges through a circular hole cut in the seamless sloping glass partition at the south end of the Attic. The cylindrical helical slide flares to an ellipse which is sectioned on the angle of the inclined glass wall  resulting in a circular opening where the slide emerges through the glass.  This circular opening creates an illusion of flatness contradicted by the sideways path of the slide as it begins its descent. Visitors are invited to select a yellow cashmere blanket from the pile beside the entrance to speed their trip to the bottom. The first leg of the slide passes through the attic glass, coils around the column and over the double-height guest bedroom, then slips through a second seamless glass window and out over the stair. Windows in the slide admit natural light from the dormer windows and provide a fleeting vistas through the entire length of the penthouse. To compete with the drama of the slide as it sweeps through the space and out the window to the stair, interior designer Ghislaine Vinas installed a startling mural, inspired by Michael Jackson’s Neverland, in the only vertical wall in the room.  The saturated colors of the mural are fractured in the mirror polished facets of the slide, scatting patterns of color along the inner surface of the slide.  At the bedroom entrance a landing provides an opportunity to make a local stop at the third level or to re-enter the slide to continue down to the entrance level. The lower slide coils down through the ceiling and into the Library on the main level, suspended from a single point within the floor structure above.  As it reaches the end, the helical slide tube flares out to create a distorted rectangular mirror which forms the wall of the Library and deposits the intrepid visitor back in the Entrance Gallery at the foot of the staircase.

Architect • David Hotson
Designer • Ghislaine Viñas
Builder • SilverLining Interiors

Movie: Producer-Director-Editor • Jonathan Robinson
Director of Photography • Ben Wolf with the RED EPIC
Original Music • CurioSound
Choreographer & Figure • Lily Baldwin

Info and images ©  David Hotson

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