CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
New York | HotelSeptember 4, 2009

The Standard

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Located in Manhattan's thriving Meatpacking District, the latest in hotelier Andre Balazs' collection of Standard Hotels stands commandingly above The High Line, the former elevated railroad undergoing redevelopment as a public park.

Some buildings are coy about showing  what holds them up. The Standard Hotel flaunts its musculature—its naked concrete piers ripple like a bodybuilder’s legs, heaving the glass-walled structure 60 feet in the air.

Those shapely supports hit the ground in a sensitive part of Manhattan, a knot of cobblestones and weathered brick that still release an occasional smell of butchered meat. It’s not a tough area anymore, but it is pleasingly rough to the touch. So is the Standard’s concrete, textured with the grain of wooden planks.

That’s how a big new building can fit neatly in a historic neighborhood—not by donning antique-y cornices, but by interpreting the spirit of a place.

Designed by Todd Schliemann of Polshek Partnership Architects for André Balazs, the Standard doesn’t apologize for its stature. At 265 feet tall, it’s hardly a monster, but it does present a raised fist to the low-slung meatpacking district. Get close-up, though, and the building nearly disappears.

At street level, a bar occupies a one-story shed costumed like an old warehouse in recycled brick. And not to sound petulant, but, well, the beer garden— a massive, tree-lined, brick-encased courtyard, with picnic tables and plastic furniture -- a place where starlets could frolic about with beer, sausage and Ping-Pong paddles, and dreams would come true.

And for little over a week on any given night, you'll find a crowd about 300 deep—think skinny blonde girls in sundresses, gents in button-downs, all enjoying a casual drink before challenging each other to table tennis, as sundown gives way to mood lighting.

Like the rest of the neighborhood, this structure offers a carefully stylized illusion of old-time grittiness.

Practically every room equipped with stunning skyline or Hudson River vistas. Vast swaths of glass work to that end.

At full operation later this year, the hotel will have two restaurants and five bars (don’t miss the sunset views from the one on the 18th floor) and the building straddles the High Line, the freight railway that’s being turned into a much-hyped city park.

In some rooms, it’s possible to sit in the tub and see the Statue of Liberty. Draw the curtains if you don’t want to be an accidental exhibitionist. This might seem an odd time to open any hotel, much less the 39 scheduled for this year, but there are benefits to the room featuring unparalleled views of the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan, full business amenities, extensive event space and a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

The designers Stephenen Alesh and Robin Standever (nom de guerre -- Roman & Williams)  picked up the job after beating out Yabu Pushelberg, and from the beginning there were a lot of opinions to balance. On top of the strength of André Balazs’s own vision—which means he is never an easy client—was the presence of Shawn Hausman (the designer of previous Standard hotels), Polshek Partnership which was responsible for the powerful, nearly brutalist tower straddling the High Line park, and a team of in-house designers.

In the guest rooms, the tambour walls and garnet bathroom tiles are classic Roman & Williams, somehow simultaneously evoking ocean liners and Spanish castles. But the hyper-modern lobby, with its long, green catwalk stretching to the curb, seems far too glossy. “André Balzas had a challenge for us in that he didn’t want objects that carried a lot of memory,” Alesch says. “He didn’t want it to emote, to remind him of something else."

"We’re not the most nostalgic people ourselves, so it’s not a hard thing for us to be a little more icy or cleaner with our choices. We can leave nostalgia behind in a heartbeat. It’s no problem at all for us.” He doth protest too much. It’s easy to see that it’s not who they really are—in sharp contrast with the Ace experience.

Joelle's Tips:

The Hotel: The Standard Hotel 848 Washington at 13th Street New York 10014 1 212 645-4646  Enquires: nyccontact@standardhotel.com

The Restaurant: The Standard Grill:  The hotel’s flagship restaurant like an Americanized Pastis, is already as jammed as Keith McNally’s still-bustling brasserie. Eat the “Million Dollar” roasted chicken. Pastries are by chef Frederick Aquino, who last worked at Spice - 846 Washington St at 13th St New York, NY 10014  1 212-645-4100 Average main course $20

The Beer Bar: The Standard Beer Garden. I recommend artfully double-fisting a bottle of Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout and a Summer Bramble before sidling up to one of two Ping-Pong tables. -848 Washington St New York, NY 10014  1 212-645-4646

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