THE MONROE IS A SMALL LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF THIS CITY. LIKE ASBURY PARK ITSELF, IT LIVES HARMONIOUS WITHIN TWO WORLDS. IT GIVES A NOD TO OUR CLASSIC PAST AND THE MODERN LOOK OF OUR FUTURE. LIKE OUR OCEANSIDE CITY, THE INTERIOR LAYS WOOD NEXT TO STONE. ITS BOTH RELAXED AND ELEGANT, CITY AND SAND. TWO OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN CONTEMPORARY BUILDING DESIGN HAVE COME TOGETHER TO MAKE THIS A PLACE TO LIVE OUT YOUR DAYS WHILE PLAYING OUT YOUR NIGHTS
What about this area inspires you?
A It’s seventy minutes away from New York City. If they would have a big poster on the Long Island Expressway after you get out of Queens, it would say “you would now be in Asbury Park” as opposed to having another two hours or two hours and a half in traffic to get to the Hamptons. The beach is tremendous. It’s the ocean. It’s an amazing boardwalk. There’s a train that gets you there pretty fast. There are historical buildings done by the same architects that did Grand Central with a lot of architectural value, the place has an amazing history, and an incredible music history, culture. Major musical stars played there, started out there, they keep going there. And there’s great restaurants already, there is a whole area with charming Victorian homes.
C Well, I grew up in New Jersey. I grew up about 25 minutes from here. The Shore to me was always a beautiful place to come see the ocean, so I used to come here all the time when I was a kid. And of course I knew of Bruce Springsteen. Actually, it was the first concert my sister and I ever went to when we were kids in the Meadowlands.
I think Asbury Park has an incredible package. I’ve really recently kind of reconnected with the place being that I work all around the world. I’m very excited to work on my first project in New Jersey. But what fascinates me about Asbury Park is that it always had the music, which has been the backbone of the place, but now it has incredible food. It’s got a great culinary scene. It’s got a great art scene as well. And for me now obviously that I’m a surfer I think they have great surfing. So that kind of puts together a full package. And it’s really the only place I think in the coastal areas of New York or New Jersey where you can get a real urban experience. It’s an urban beach experience, similar in a way to Miami, where it’s not just a great beach but it has a lot of the same things; the music, the food, the culture. And I think all those things together make for one of the most unique places that exist.
Why did you want to take on this amazing new development project?
A I have been doing what we call towers for twenty-nine years. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done and the people I collaborated with and I worked for. But somehow this world of a boutique hotel, it’s one of a kind, it has a very limited and very focused clientele. I knew this was the right move for the next part of my career. Jay Sugarman offered me the opportunity to envision a little city, a community, to have everything in it from high-end to low-end, from fun to serious, to be able to think through so many different problems than just what a boutique hotel is. When Jay took me to Asbury and showed me his idea, it was natural to say we should do the hotel first, then an important residential building. The Monroe is the first condominium building, this lovely little thirty-four unit building. I brought Chad Oppenheim from Miami, born and raised very close to Asbury Park to design it.
Walk me through the creative process for Monroe.
A I think it’s the essence of having a small apartment on the beach. Not too big, not too, small. You have a little outdoor room, you can hang out. The finishes are almost like an extension of the boardwalk if you want. They’re two blocks away from the beach. It’s easy living at the ocean.
C For Monroe there was a lot of history, a lot of great architecture in the area. It’s one of the most unique settings in the United States, with this incredible architecture that has existed here for nearly 100 years. And we were inspired by that to make the building fit in, to use materials that would be part of the place. So we re-envisioned the boardwalk and the wood and used that in the façade. And we wanted to create a real area for indoor/outdoor living. So the building has wonderful outdoor rooms, that are very much a part of the living experience. The design tries to be sincere. We let the building kind of speak about what it is. We want it to feel residential and we are trying to do something that’s timeless, something that will be as good as it is now in a hundred years. I think there’s a lot of trendiness today in architecture and we’re trying to do things that are eternally beautiful and easy. Beautiful proportions and a beautiful scale, creating a wonderful environment for people to enjoy the maximum of what Asbury Park has to offer.
Who would want to live in Monroe?
A I would like to live in Monroe! I think families from Brooklyn would love to live in Monroe. I think it will be such an easy alternative to have a place at the beach for the summer, not to drive four hours, not having to have a house and then getting in the car for twenty minutes to go to the beach because you cannot afford a big house on the beach.
What are the standout amenities of Monroe?
A These huge rooftops with an outdoor kitchen and barbecue. One bedroom, two bedrooms, three bedrooms, rooftop terrace, outer rooms, ground floor apartments where you can get in directly from your car. We have such a variety of units for every kind of customer.
C When we start a project we do a lot of research. We study. We photograph. We come to the place where we’re building. So here it was a bit of a homecoming seeing buildings that I seen growing up, with a fresh set of eyes was very interesting for me. In our work we try to make the project fit in with its’ neighborhood. We don’t want to create this alien building that’s super modern. We want to create this timeless architecture that will fit in and be contextual. So in a way we’re sampling materials like Hip-Hop kind of samples different songs from the past. But in a way the project kind of tries to take these samples from the neighborhood like the boardwalk and the kind of stone of the old architecture and tried to recomposite them in a new way that is fresh and innovative, but still speaking about the past.
Can you elaborate on the Monroe?
A I find that what’s so magic about it is that it’s not on steroids. It’s actually back to real life. It has a certain amount of levity. It’s not taking ourselves so seriously. It’s the essence of living on the beach. We all like to be on a beach in flip flops but at the same time you want a certain level of elegance and luxury in your place, but not totally overdone. We live in such overdone times design-wise. The materials are super-honest, the size, it’s not too big, so it’s not overwhelming, you have room for everything, every apartment has a little outdoor room so you can hang out, it’s, I don’t know, it’s a simple, simple project but incredibly well-executed.
C One of the things that was important for us was the stone. There’s some interesting stone architecture here. So the façade of our building is actually a very light stone combined with the wood from the boardwalk. To me the Jersey Shore, the boardwalk, we wanted to bring in that wood quality, which not only is in the façade, but is actually internalized in the building as well in the common areas and some other elements. It becomes an accent of the building both inside and out. I think one of the things that we’re trying to do—we always try to capture the spirit of place in our work. Because we’re so sensitive to the context, to the climate, to the lifestyle, to the culture, to the whole ecosystem we wanted this project to speak about what Asbury Park is. We also wanted to capture the spirit of the Shore and beach living and what that would mean throughout the year, not just in the summer when most people come down to the Shore, but for people who could live here. We are wanting to create this community here in Asbury that’s a year-round community. For example, we have a place to store surfboards and bicycles and really all the kind of paraphernalia and props of beach life. So for us it was very important to have that indoor/outdoor living that people could have a great place to hang out. I wouldn’t call it a terrace. It’s more like part of an outdoor room. And even to the point where some of the rooftops have these incredible roof decks and outdoor fireplaces to keep it very beachy but also very much about Asbury Park and the soul of the city.