How Bill Sofield Is Pushing the Boundaries of Design at 111 West 57th

The award-winning designer enlivens SHoP Architects’ newest tower with a bevy of one-of-a-kind elements

Soaring over 1,400 feet above Central Park and sheathed in a striking mix of bronze and terra-cotta, 111 West 57th Street’s tapered silhouette disappears into the clouds like an ultra-luxe stairway to heaven. The tower’s staggering width-to-height ratio (between 1:23 and 1:24) makes it the slimmest—and certainly the most elegant—skyscraper being built right now in the U.S. Designed by SHoP Architects, the project is the latest addition to so-called Billionaires’ Row, where a host of superlative buildings have attempted to lure deep-pocketed buyers in recent years, thanks to sweeping views and plush amenities.

To create the opulent interiors, Michael Stern, chief of JDS Development Group (which developed the tower with Property Markets Group and Spruce Capital Partners), turned to Bill Sofield, the award-winning designer whose namesake firm is known for creating high-glam spaces for Tom Ford, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Harry Winston. “Oddly enough, I was given free rein here, which is not unusual for me, but in this industry it is unusual,” the Studio Sofield head tells Galerie.

I’m very numb to what is billed as luxury nowadays. So every single thing is custom and made specifically for this place. I wanted it to be solid and respectful of the past but still very much of this time.

Bill Sofield, Studio Sofield

Being respectful of the past included drawing on elements from the historic Steinway Hall, which adjoins the slender tower at the base and has been renovated to include 14 of the development’s 60 total units. The 16-story neoclassical landmark was originally designed by Warren and Wetmore in 1925 for piano maker Steinway & Sons, a detail artist John Opella referenced in the lobby’s custom gold-and-silver-leaf murals. “I wanted to pay homage to elephants and ebony trees that gave their lives for the pianos,” Sofield explains. “The first wall sequence shows the elephants breaking out of the Central Park Zoo and reclaiming the metropolis.” The South Oval lobby, meanwhile, features a dome covered in gray velvet with ebony branches that twist to become a lighting fixture. “It’s one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever created,” he adds.

By Geoffrey Montes
September 4, 2020
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