Starchitects Helmut Jahn and Annabelle Selldorf Discuss Latest in Luxury Real Estate

In this part of our power player architects feature, starchitects Helmut Jahn and Annabelle Selldorf discuss the latest luxury real estate trends in New York

An international star for decades, Jahn takes his formidable talents to New York’s Financial District. 

Helmut Jahn. Photos: Courtesy of 50 West

How does 50 West differ from your previous work, or how does it advance your concepts about architectural design? 

50 West connects to several projects that we’ve done in the past, but the concept has been taken a bit further this time around. Downtown Manhattan is quite unique, and ensuring that 50 West connects into the surrounding landscape while also being a standout building was an exciting challenge. Everything from the shape—especially the building’s curved façade—to the materials used were of the highest quality, which helped us ultimately create such an elegant building.

DBOX is a design agency dedicated to craft and innovation in the strategic development of brands. We create stories and experiences in the fields of architecture, art, hospitality, and culture. DBOX’s work has been recognized by organizations including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Emmy® Awards), Communication Arts, The Art Directors Club, World Luxury Award, American Design Awards, and The International Property Awards, and has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. DBOX was founded in 1996 and maintains studios in New York, London, Miami, and Taipei.
With 64 stories, 50 West is over 780 feet tall.

What makes 50 West unique in the competitive New York real estate market?
Aside from its high-quality design elements, the building’s coveted Downtown location, extraordinary views of the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, and New Jersey, and unparalleled access to transportation. Following the 2001 World Trade Center attack and the 2008 recession, I’m amazed by the neighborhood’s resiliency.

What’s next for the luxury residential market? How will design concepts evolve for this sector? 

While we can’t necessarily determine what’s next for the luxury market, it will be imperative to see how best we can accommodate the needs of the evolving consumer and take the overall living experience of a project to the next level. Improved structural forms will make buildings more efficient and elevate overall quality. While many design trends don’t age well, the quality of a building can only be measured by the concept of time.

The pool in The Water Club at 50 West.

Which iconic New York structure or structures do you admire?

I love the design of both the older and current World Trade Center developments. The Empire State and Seagram Buildings are also iconic pro- jects that personify New York architecture. One57 is also impressive, due to both its form and height.



The German-born architect’s elegant minimalism has transformed cultural institutions, galleries, and residential spaces. 

Annabelle Selldorf: Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

How do your current projects differ from your previous work and how do they advance your design concepts?

We very much believe that architecture should be specific to its location, context, and program. As such, two current residential condominium buildings under construction (21 East 12th Street, in Greenwich Village, and 42 Crosby Street, in SoHo) are very different in their architectural expression. 21 East 12th Street is clad in limestone, which is appropriate for the character of the neighboring prewar buildings. 42 Crosby Street, on the other hand, is responsive to SoHo’s history, with a façade comprised of stainless steel, brushed aluminum, and glass, revealing a contemporary interpretation of the Cast Iron vocabulary.

What makes these two projects unique in the very competitive New York real estate market? 

At 21 East 12th, all the apartments are corner units, which allows for great natural light and are also very flexible in their layouts. Both projects are designed with great precision and attention to detail— the materials are of the highest quality and provide excellent space for living. We take great care and time in ensuring that the layouts of our apartments really work for the way people live today.

An interior at 21 East 12th Street. Photo: Courtesy of 21 East 12th Street. Photo: Wordsearch

What’s next for the luxury residential market? How will design concepts evolve for this sector?

I think that luxury in the future will be less defined by amenities or materials and more by the quality of the experience. True luxury is found in well-proportioned, balanced spaces with good light, which allows for a sense of calm and respite.

Which iconic New York structures do you admire?

The Seagram Building and the New York Public Library’s main reading room.