Yesterday afternoon in Chelsea, we joined a small group to scale the side of a building in a construction hoist for a topping out party. For those not savvy with real estate lingo: a “hoist” is the elevator that operates outside of the building for construction workers to access all levels of a site from the outside before internal elevators are assembled; and a “topping out” party is a celebration for when all concrete has been poured and sealed on every level of a project. The scenario was one for something truly special—The XI, developed by HFZ Capital Group and designed by Bjarke Ingels.
“We just topped out, which means the guys who have poured all the concrete can now go home,” said Ingels yesterday before the party began. “That causes for a celebration. And for an architect, it’s a great moment because you have been thinking all these thoughts, making all these models (smaller scales, bigger scales), but there’s no scale that really matters than full scale. And that’s what we have now.”
Approaching the site from the outside, pedestrians can glance upward at the twisting two towers that take up an entire city block—the East Tower that stands tall at 300 feet, and the West Tower at 400 feet. Inside, the 800,000-square-foot mixed-use residential and commercial development will host 87 residences the East Tower featuring interiors designed by Gilles & Boissier, and 149 condominiums in the West Tower designed by Gabellini Sheppard Associates. The property also stuns for visitors, as it welcomes the first-ever U.S.-based Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas. Additionally, there is a four-story commercial building, a multilevel retail space, below-grade parking, a public plaza, and a permanent art piece by Es Devlin.
When we made our way inside, we removed our hard hats and wandered around. Concrete floors held large glass panels for astonishing views of New York City, New Jersey, and beyond. As guests mingled and marveled at the sights, it was clear that the project, while still unfinished and not yet “move in ready,” was a very important and welcomed building for the Chelsea neighborhood. For a few minutes, nearly peering over the West Side Highway, we heard from HFZ’s Founder and Managing Principal, Ziel Feldman, and Six Senses’ Chief Executive Officer, Neil Jacobs, about the hard work and dedication it took to accomplish such a wonderment.
“The XI topping out is an incredible achievement of dynamic technology and visionary engineering. We are giving the world a truly unique development that features an impressive array of residential, recreational, culture, and wellness experiences that have never been available in one location,” said Feldman.
As special attendees snapped photos of the spectacular view and sipped specialty cocktails like the Steinbeck and the C+T Shakerato, we caught up with Ingels once more before drifting back into the project for the party of the season.
“As architects, you have to always speak on behalf of your building, because people will be skeptical; you have to champion your building until your building has grown up so that it can actually speak for itself,” he said. “And now is actually that moment—where you can go and see for yourself the qualities that you would have to imagine before. So, it’s a small piece of Meatpacking District history that’s being written here today.”