Million Dollar Townhouse

In the 1960s, architect Paul Rudolph transformed this 19th-century carriage house located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York city, USA, into a stark modernist space, a facade of exposed steel beams and dark glass with a white, multilevel interior.

The unusual space, with a sweeping light-filled 32-foot-high living room, reached through a long, low slate passageway, has survived largely intact through the hands of several well-known owners.

The residence, originally commissioned by a real-estate lawyer, was later sold to fashion designer Halston, who used the living room to host bacchanals for his famous friends. Its most recent owner, the late German-born industrialist and photographer Gunter Sachs, replaced the wall-to-wall carpeting with white-oak floors and added balustrades on the precarious mezzanine and catwalk. The Rudolph scheme otherwise remains intact.

The most recent owner, the late Gunter Sachs, a wealthy German photographer, international playboy and former husband of Brigitte Bardot, filled much of 10,000-square-foot space with modern art from the ’60s and ’70s. including dozens of celebrity photographs by Andy Warhol, some of which were taken at the house.

In 1990, a few months before Halston died, he sold the house to Mr. Sachsand Gianni Agnelli, the Italian industrialist, who was also known as an international jet-setter and playboy in those years. Eventually Mr. Gunter bought out Mr. Agnelli’s interest.

Mr. Sachs was a descendent of the creators of the Opel automobile. He died in May at the age of 78 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Switzerland, and his death was noted by some as the end of an era of international jet-setters.

The Halston house is the only complete residential townhouse that Mr. Rudolph built in New York. He designed and lived in a triplex addition that hovers over a traditional townhouse on Beekman Place, and a townhouse-like mixed-use building on East 58th Street.

Mr. Gunter installed oak floors and glass half-walls on the interior balcony and walkway, but otherwise did little to change to look and feel of the space, brokers said.

Rudolph had already served as Dean of the Yale School of Architecture and achieved international acclaim when he built the house in 1966. His clients wanted an “urban retreat,” and thus, Rudolph constructed a facade of steel and glass which purposefully demurs to its more traditional neighbors.

After a period of immense popularity, Mr. Rudolph’s work with its stark concrete, forms fell out of favor, before experiencing a new wave of interest. He died in 1997.

 

The house is one of a few dozen exemplars of modern architecture in Manhattan by architects like Edward Durell Stone, George Howe and Philip Johnson that—unlike the sea of Victorian brownstones and neoclassical limestone houses—rarely hit the market.

This iconic property is now back on the market. The asking price is $38.5 million, above the sale prices on more traditional houses nearby.

“We look at it as a piece of art,” said Noble Black, a broker at Corcoran Group, who is listing the house along with Bonnie Pfeiffer Evans and Carmen Marques Perez. “There are no comps for a house like this.”

            

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