02 April 2012

Four Bedrooms, Ocean View?

Would you build a residential building on Central Park West with the best rooms of each apartment facing an air shaft and the worst part of the building, the elevators, the service area and the stairwells, facing the beautiful park? OF COURSE NOT! Would you build a residential building on the Île Saint-Louis with the best rooms of each apartment facing an inner courtyard, and keep the sweeping view of the Seine and the famous rooftops of Paris for the elevators, the service areas and the stairwells to enjoy? THE IDEA IS ABSURD! Would you build a residential building in Rio de Janeiro with the best rooms of each apartment facing a side street and another building, and the worst part of the building, the elevators and the service areas, facing breathtaking Ipanema beach? NO WAY . . . sorry? . . . oh, really? . . . well, it seems it's just been done, and this architectural folly is the talk of the town.

Ipanema's most recently-launched residential building, the Scenario, sits on a wedge of land like a pizza slice, with one side facing the beach and the other side facing another residential building across the street. It has five apartments, one per floor, each one boasting 212 square meters (2,282 square feet). What has everyone scratching their chins as they look at the building is that what's normally called the "noble" side of the apartment — the side with the living areas and bedrooms — is the side facing the street. The "privileged view," the view you would think the owners bought the apartment for, is given over to the kitchen, the service area, the maid's room and elevators. This design has turned Brazil's very clear and basic class distinctions upside-down, and has everyone in the neighborhood joking and laughing about what have to be the most valued and valuable maid's rooms in the world.

Enjoying street traffic from the balcony
Elevators, kitchens and  maid's rooms overlook the beach

The architect, Henrique Farhi, who has designed over 650 buildings in Rio, explains away his odd design as a solution to a zoning issue. He wanted every bedroom to have a veranda. On Gomes Carneiro Street, the "bad" side, he had the right to hang the verandas out over the sidewalk. On Avenida Rainha Elizabeth —  the "good" side, where the bedrooms logically should have been — zoning regulations do not permit verandas to hang out over the sidewalk. The enclosed parts of the apartments would have had to have been recessed to keep the verandas within the building line. The bedrooms would have been teeny-tiny.

Well, that explanation on its face doesn't cut the mustard. Dig a little deeper and you realize that what the real estate developers have really done is make a very carefully considered judgment call about how to squeeze the most amount of money out of the project. A square meter in this neighborhood of Ipanema goes for 50,000 reais ($27,500). Would people be more likely to pay a premium price for a smaller apartment with a gorgeous view, or for a larger apartment with little or no view? We'll never know for sure, but the developers knew their business. To the astonishment of many, all five apartments were sold in a week.

The view that might have been

1 comment:

  1. Well, one would think that they know what they're doing, but it sounds like a total waste of a divine view of the beach!