Six custom designed and
custom built homes

Crowning
the
Puck

A Conversation with jared kushner
the builder of the puck penthouses,
and architect jose ramirez

There are only six. The Puck Penthtouses are all different, each with its own dimensions, views and personality. What the apartments share is a sensibility, blending the classical 19th century architecture of the Puck Building with a contemporary sense of scale and a masterful use of state-of-the-art construction and fixtures. This is a building made for the moment, combining the best of what is possible today with a history and an aesthetic that can never be duplicated. Here the men who achieved this delicate balance describe the meticulous and painstaking process of reaching perfection.

Jared, can you give a quick background on your involvement with the project and how it came to pass?

Jared Kushner: My family has owned the Puck Building for a long time. I first became involved with the building when I joined the family business in 2003, and I’ve spent a lot of time considering its potential. Soho is one of the most remarkable places in the world—a destination with cultural significance, authenticity and an energy that is second to none, and the Puck Building is one of the neighborhood’s unique gems, an architectural masterpiece and New York City icon.

The Puck Building has an incredibly rich history, from housing the ground- breaking Puck magazine to hosting famously over-the-top affairs to inspiring Billy Joel to write his album “The Bridge.” And ultimately, the bones of the building are remarkably beauti- ful. Over the last ten years, I’ve been deeply involved in redeveloping every aspect of it.

The penthouse conversion was inspired by the fact that the top two floors have sweeping cinematic views of downtown and a separate entrance. I had been thinking, “What could we do here that would be truly special?” We played with different ideas, like a top-tier boutique hotel, but the thought of building truly customized, supremely luxurious residences on top of the building was ultimately more exciting. The more we looked into what could be created, the more we realized that it was a very natural fit.

Jared, you could have worked with anyone on this project. Why did you choose Jose Ramirez to design its interiors?

JK: We knew that the building had a special magic and that required the best spatial architect possible, someone who could accentuate every facet of its unique beauty. Creating luxury residences in a turn-of-the-century industrial building requires seamlessly integrating two very powerful and appealing aesthetics.

Jose Ramirez was a natural choice. We started with the premise that if we couldn’t make these apartments perfect, we weren’t going to build them at all. We brought Jose on because we knew he understood that uncompromising approach. We began by taking a tour of every major apartment in Manhattan..

Jose Ramirez: We didn’t find any “perfect” apartments. Some of them lacked attention to detail. Some lay- outs were flawed. Some buildings had natural limitations because of lot size, sight lines, ceiling heights. In each case something held the apartment back from being truly special.

Did you see apartments in older buildings that had been repurposed?

JR: Several. Loft apartments have great appeal, but it is difficult to make them truly luxurious. We set out to accomplish just that—to marry the very high-end, detailed apartment with that industrial loft feeling. We literally walked the space every week debating which original elements to expose and which materials we should use to finish rooms. I think we’ve settled on something that strikes the perfect balance.

Delivering true luxury while maintaining the loft-like, industrial feel of the Soho landscape takes a lot of analysis, as well as artistry. You have to maintain the character and the detail. The goal was to create penthouses that embodied a precise blend of elegance, modernity, industrial feel, comfort and luxury.

JK: When I first spoke to Jose about the project, he said, “Jared, you have to listen to the building. The structure is going to tell you what it wants to be. You have to let the project evolve organically from the building.” He said it would be a conversation between the old Industrial Age and the modernity of what Soho has become. “Let luxury and authenticity have a conversation, and you’ll find the right balance.” That was when I knew that Jose was perfect for the project. I knew from our past work together that he had the talent to make this perfect but wouldn’t let his ego overshadow the personality of the building.

JR: We took our cues from the grandeur of the structure itself.

It’s interesting that you didn’t try to simulate the older style, that instead you took the intentions of the original style, such as to maximize light, and you reinvented it in a contemporary way. It works impeccably.

JR: Well, we wanted the finished product to emanate from the origins of the industrial design but with modern comfort. We needed beautiful windows that would work with the Landmarks Commission, but we also wanted them to be mahogany with special UV protection. We wanted the finest stonework laid in a sophisticated 21st century style. We wanted custom crafted kitchens with timeless, turn-of-the-century strength and durability integrated with today’s finest appliances including La Cornue ranges.

These penthouses have all the accoutrements for living well today, including chef’s kitchens, radiant heated floors in the master bathrooms and state-of-the-art systems, yet they maintain the magnificent loft character that we strove to preserve.

Most importantly, we designed for the people who are going to live here. Our firm takes on very few, very special projects—we do extremely high-end residential work for exceptionally discerning clients. We know how they live; we know how they entertain; we understand the spatial layouts that are conducive to their lifestyle. We focused on very large closets, including master closets that rival most New York City one-bedroom apartments in size. We designed dual master bathrooms with steam showers and radiant heat floors—we incorporated all of the elements we would normally include in our private residential commissions.

JK: Throughout all the iterations, there were many details that we debated, but that’s what makes the project great. Every single floor plan here represents a complex negotiation between Jose, myself and the building to determine how we could make it perfect.

JR: These are not six penthouse apartments. These are six individual homes. They were designed and laid out and detailed like six custom built homes, each with its own nuances. A detail that works beautifully in one apartment does not necessarily fit another apartment.

One of the things you did was divide the private quarters of the house from the public areas and integrate the service spaces so that they would not be intrusive.

JR: The owners of these homes may have chefs in the kitchen and additional staff. These plans take cues from the old Newport mansions in the way that staff is accommodated. Those who have guests and those who have children will also appreciate the separation of public and private space in the apartments. We made them feel like homes.

"You have to listen to the building. The structure is going to tell you what it wants to be. You have to let the project evolve organically from the building."- JOSE RAMIREZ

Did your layout concepts change during the process?

JR: There were times when we saw something being built, and we would say “wouldn’t it be better if…” And every time that happened, we made the change. Having Jared on site several times each week allowed for a quick decision-making process. The result is that the drawings have all evolved into finer apartments as the project progressed. Again and again we found more ways to perfect them.

Is it true that you found that there was ash insulation in the building?

JK: When we stripped off the floor, we found about eight inches of ash between the floors, which is a method of sound insulation typical of buildings constructed in the late 1800s. We decided to leave it and work around it.

JR: To move it out would have made the building structurally lighter and maxconstruction less complex. But you can’t find insulation between floors that will give you the same level of sound attenuation that you get from the ash. So we left the ash in and worked around it.

Why don’t people use it now? It’s such an environmentally correct material.

JR: It’s very expensive to do and labor-intensive. It wouldn’t be economically feasible in a new building.

How did you decide on the windows?

JR: Originally, a package of windows was designed for the entire building as part of its restoration. Jared felt that the new windows that had just been installed, while great, did not suit the finish level of the apartments. He decided to spend more money to acquire windows that would match the quality found throughout these apartments. We found a great manufacturer in Wisconsin, a family business that’s made very highend custom windows for a long time. They were able to hand-make windows for us with mahogany framing, which is as nice as it gets, and to give the glass a UV treatment that would be optimally protective of artwork inside the apartments. Jared was right. The windows are large and a major part of the architecture, so they needed to be masterpieces.

JK: I’m not sure I’ll ever again work on anything as special as this. We will continue to own the base of the building, so we are going to be neighbors with these penthouses for a very long time. I want everyone who buys here to be thrilled and to feel that they got more than what they paid for. I truly believe that these apartments will be the gold standard of Manhattan for the next hundred plus years. No other new construction residences can afford to use the level of finishes that we used.

One thing I’ve learned about the Puck Building is that it has incredible karma. Everything I’ve tried to do in this building has turned out to be better than I had imagined—more beautiful and more successful. Over the years this building was a very popular location for celebrations of all descriptions, and I believe that generated the positive energy that we’ve enjoyed over the course of this project and that will continue to reverberate into the future in these residences.

Were there any architectural elements of the building that you had considered changing and then decided to keep?

JR: Preserving the Puck character has always been of paramount importance. With the barrel vault brick ceilings, we struck a balance between luxury and authentic character. We’ve covered some ceilings, but left many open—it was always our intention to maintain as much of the original ceilings, beams and columns as possible.

JK: The goal was to create perfect apartments. Some people said, “Cover the ceilings, cover the walls.” I said, “Look, if somebody wants white ceilings and white walls, they’ll buy somewhere else. If they’re moving to Soho, they want to feel like they’re in Soho—in something authentic and truly special.” Jose’s job was to make them feel that way without making them feel like they had sacrificed comfort or luxury to do so. It was about artfully navigating between modern luxury and a beautiful industrial masterpiece.

JR: The beauty of the apartments is that they’re so different, and each is an organic response to the building itself. In the duplex apartment, for example, we have fewer covered ceilings, more exposed brick and more exposed walls, just because the apartment lent itself to that. Whatever the apartment suggested, we went with.

JK: One person who also was very instrumental in maintaining the character of the building is the architect who did much of the exterior work on the building, Sherida Paulsen. She is the former chairwoman of Landmarks. We believed that in dealing with a landmark building of this stature, and in making changes to enhance the building, we needed to rely on someone who would understand the essence of what landmark buildings are and instinctively know how to sensitively treat this property. She brought a great perspective to the project and a real passion for preserving the building’s character.

JR: The millwork was further complicated by the fact that we chose to go with H. Theophile hardware, which is extraordinarily beautiful. I felt very strongly that we had to have it because it embodies the supremely luxurious essence of these apartments. These are truly bespoke pieces, custom made for every door including exquisite olive-knuckle hinges out of brass. Clients like to feel the weight of a door and hardware — it speaks to the quality of the apartment. Most doors are 1 ¾ inches thick. These are 2 ¼ inch thick, five-panel doors, eight feet tall... and when you add that substantial H. Theophile hardware, the result is something momentous.

JK: Jose would say to me, “Serious apartments need serious doors.”

JR: I think anybody who is looking here will understand the caliber of the residence from the first thing they touch, the door. They will think, “This is quality.” The wood floors are custommilled, 5-inch planks in white, riftcut oak. We had an extensive review process to make sure that we had the correct color for the stain. We went through several samples.

“In the end, the final product may have taken us longer to finish, but we will have done the job with absolutely no regrets. It is spectacular.”- JARED KUSHNER

Why white oak?

JR: White oak is the best quality of oak and takes the stain and the coloration that we were trying to achieve as well. It’s also harder than the other materials for wood flooring, which speaks to the quality. It was an intensive process doing color studies for the floors to make sure that the coloration matched the feel of the apartment—the brick walls, the cast-iron columns.

You must be very pleased.

JK: I think the most important thing is that we have maintained a clear focus on how people live. We were truly inspired by the client in search of the “perfect apartment,” and so we maintained a strict “no compromise” policy that is evident in the final product. It’s a building that’s truly special. I can only imagine how proud Jose is of the job he’s done as an architect... I know I am as a developer

JR: I have to thank the Kushner family and Jared for allowing me to work on this fantastic project. I may never work on something like this again. I’m extremely proud of it.

Having worked on this building for a long time, what’s your feeling about the original architecture of the building and the quality of construction?

JR: It is a wonderful building. It’s ornate. It’s a New York icon and a true architectural treasure. The original architect, Albert Wagner, did a fantastic job with the arches and the columns. The structure of the building defines its character. Even though it was designed as an industrial building, great attention was paid to the details, both interior and exterior. I am proud that we are leaving those details intact for future generations to appreciate.

JK: There are very few opportunities that exist to actually improve a international icon. I think that’s one of the main reasons we all gave so much of ourselves to making this perfect.