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  • 12.11.15

How To Create A $50 Million Real Estate Experience

Behold the tricked-out sales gallery for Zaha Hadid’s luxury condos in New York.

New York City is in the midst of an unprecedented luxury condo boom, many of which have been designed by some of the world’s top architects. How do you persuade a One Percenter to choose a Hadid over a Herzog & de Meuron? The first-world solution to the most first-world of problems lies in a tricked-out sales gallery.

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For 520 W 28th, Zaha Hadid’s first project in New York, developer Related Companies worked with the design agency HUSH to shape the experience.

“Purchasing real estate is both practical and emotional,” Gregory Gushee, executive vice president of the Related Companies, says. “After leaving our sales gallery, we hope that visitors have been inspired by the presentation and feel an emotional connection to the property.”

Located in Chelsea, the building’s 39 units are selling from $4.95 million to over $50 million. In true Hadid form, the futuristic facade has a dynamic silhouette composed of fluid lines. Inside, amenities include a saltwater swimming pool, a wellness center inspired by a Turkish hammam, gym, and—get this—a private IMAX theater.

“A great sales experience delivers critical marketing information, but also delivers the ‘in between’—the intangible value of the building, the power of brand, the caliber and legacy of the architect, the designer, the developer, etc. who have come together to create a home,” HUSH says. “Often, these stories aren’t told quantitatively. Rather, they are told by designing a user experience that is crafted, careful and nuanced.”

Mother Design developed the brand identity and strategy for 520 West 28th; HUSH and Related sought to translate that into a choose-your-own adventure treatment. Visitors to the sales suite—which run the gamut from prospective buyers to architecture students—are able to tour the building based on what details intrigue them the most.

“Zaha Hadid is an artist, an architect, a designer, and a brand,” HUSH says. “We needed to get the luxury buyer to tap into this depth before even considering the details of the residence itself.”

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The production is a bit like theater. “One of the key things technology can do is to create a sense of place that doesn’t yet exist in the real world—we know that to be the case in the worlds of gaming, of 3-D renderings, of data, and social networks, etc.,” Hush says. “Architecture is proving no different. We developed a user experience flow from wide to narrow conceptually, introducing guests first to Zaha Hadid as an artist in the broadest form.”

Visitors enter through a museum-like space filled with 3-D printed models of Hadid’s buildings around the world. From there, they proceed through a narrow, curved hallway into a theater with a model of 520 W 28th. Meanwhile, a film featuring Hadid discussing the work plays in the background. After the film plays, visitors are handed an iPad programmed with a custom app that gives virtual tours of the building and neighborhood via projections on the 10-foot-tall screen. As visitors explore the views from the units and the building’s amenities, the corresponding rooms in the model illuminate to help situate people. A multi-channel sound system pumps dramatic music into the theater. Afterward, they’re ushered through automated sliding doors into a full-scale build out of the units’ kitchen and bathroom.

In the center of the space, a custom table by Rafael de Cardeñas—essentially a massive touch screen—is embedded with more renderings, floor plans, and information about the building. “It feels big, gestural, and almost like paging through a Helmet Newton photography book, and less like tapping around a digital interface,” HUSH says. “Generally, luxury skews away from high-tech. Those spending many millions of dollars on a home don’t necessarily want to engage in technological trickery or gags. They might want intimacy, tactility, and comfort and eschew the ‘coldness’ of some technology experiences.”

In designing the space HUSH didn’t deploy every tech trick in the book, rather, it was about balance. “Everything seems incredibly subtle, as if the entire sales gallery is responding to your emotions along a journey,” HUSH says. “It’s delivering content at the right moment, the story you want to hear, the visual that will make the most impact, all contained in an environment that responds in kind through lighting and sonic adjustments.”

Want to see how the other half lives? Head to the sales gallery at 511 W 25th and experience it yourself.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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