20 East End
In the 1880s, the style that is now considered the quintessential New York City architectural aesthetic was born. Borrowing elements from traditional European design and reformulating them to accommodate modern apartment living, famed architects built a multitude of venerable New York icons. The Janes & Leo-designed Beaux-Arts beauty The Dorilton is still, after 115 years, one of the most stunning and vibrant structures in Manhattan. And Henry J. Hardenbergh’s paradigmatic design for the Upper West Side landmark The Dakota—which is steeped in the lore of its own storied history and famous inhabitants—is undeniably iconic.
Beaux-Arts buildings were the settings of la dolce vita in late 19th-century New York City. Their elegant exteriors housed apartments now referred to with the desirable “prewar” moniker. Characterized by thick walls, decorative moldings and plasterwork, and large windows that framed equally sizable rooms with high ceilings, these sprawling, elegant spaces would set the tone for luxury living in New York City through the next century.
Famed NYC architect Robert A.M. Stern grew up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and ’50s and lived through a period during which New York City was transformed by “master builder” Robert Moses. It was during this time that icons of International Style modernism sprang up all over Midtown. These changes inspired Stern to reclaim the architectural heritage of the New York, whose past he could glimpse in older buildings. Since founding his eponymous firm in 1977, he has often referred to himself as a “modern traditionalist,” as most of his designs tend to draw influence from the past while still remaining contemporary in their overall aesthetic. The balance he strikes is one of meticulous refinement that involves a delicate dance between the past and the present.
Stern created a neoclassic with 15 Central Park West, and his new Upper East Side condo, 20 East End Avenue, seems bound to follow suit. With 20 East End, Stern is continuing his practice of extending the classic New York City aesthetic into the modern era in a style that could accurately be called Prewar-Postmodern. The gracious proportions of his latest interiors with their eleven- and twelve-foot ceilings make the residences at 20 East End feel expansive, while large windows let natural light suffuse each room. The two-story, 17-room “mansion in the sky” Penthouse atop 20 East End is so spacious and elegant that it stands out dramatically among even the most celebrated Upper East Side condos.
Outside, the bright, limestone exterior, beautiful stone arches, and layered setback terraces of 20 East End Avenue help make this a prime example of what Stern does so well: create buildings that feel both modern and fresh, yet as natural and “right” as if they had always been there.