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September 2008 Issue

Chelsea Unconventional
A bold experiment in outdoor living transforms a New York terrace.

By Louise Levathes, Student ASLA

Chelsea Unconventional

Forty-four-year-old computer scientist R. M. Chavez, who works on Wall Street, had a vision for the 1,100-square-foot terrace of his West Chelsea apartment in New York.

“Do you know the last scene in the film Kill Bill?” he asks in a telephone interview. “Suddenly, the door to the restaurant opens into a Japanese garden—and we are in another world. That is what I wanted.”

Chavez had a few other things in mind as well. The concrete pavers of the deck had to go; he insisted the entire terrace be done in ipe, a Brazilian walnut. He wanted a Japanese soaking tub, a place to do yoga, and an outdoor TV screen. Because Chavez loves the sound of flowing water, he asked his architect, Koray Duman, for “a noisy water fountain.” And, he said, the drainage problem of the terrace had to be solved, because every time there was a heavy rain, water poured into the apartment.

Duman, a young Turkish-born architect who has been in practice in New York since 2006, met Chavez through mutual friends. Chavez says he was moved by Duman’s passion for his work, and Duman embraced Chavez’s Zenlike vision and what he felt would be the challenge of pushing the unyielding nature of ipe to its limit. Chavez had one more demand: He wanted Duman to act not only as architect but also as the general contractor to ensure that his design became a reality.

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