David Ling's Live/Work Loft

A waterfall, bridge, and moat afford an architect solace in his raw, urban dwelling

“Nurtured in the United States, formed in Europe, and with an umbilical cord still attached to China,” David Ling started out his career as an architect working for the second-generation Modernist Richard Meier. After six years as an associate, Ling opened his own practice in 1992. Indebted to a number of different stylistic influences, his own Manhattan home is very much an autobiography of the architect’s cosmopolitan journey. “I wanted to create my own world,” Ling says of inspiration for the design. Littered with mementos from his time with Meier, pieces of luggage used during his parents’ emigration to the states, and furniture that betrays the architect’s unique philosophy, the building is a catalogue of Ling's personal and inspirational heritage.

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

The live/work loft is subdivided into three distinct areas with transitional spaces in between, those being: a bridge, a moat, and a cantilevered second story. “I separated the basic functions of working, living, and sleeping with a two-story space, light, and water.” Ling works in the foyer, lives in middle portion, and sleeps up above, cantilevered over a waterfall. “In case you’re wondering,” he adds with a smile, “no one has died and no one has been injured,” anticipating a question, no doubt, in many people’s minds. “My cat survived a fall, so did my remote control, and my lamp. There have been no fatalities.”

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

In spite of the perceived impracticality, the threshold is important spatial concept for Ling, who is drawn to the tension created by the juxtaposition of opposites. He sees the threshold as both the apex of tension and the moment of resolution, when these polarities reconcile through contact. Throughout the architect’s dwelling, one sees the old counterposed with the new, the rustic with the smooth, lines with curves, and the organic with the rational. This is equally apparent in Ling’s furniture collection, which he has accumulated over time. “Having been trained at IIT in Chicago, I had been exposed to Mies’ furniture early on. It was in this tradition that I started with Mies’ Brno Chairs and the Three-Seater Sofa before incorporating Tobia Scarpa’s Bastiano Arm Chair and Settee." As Ling explains, the sheen of the tubular steel is offset by the warm texture of live-edge wood, which in turn is juxtaposed with a man-made material, concrete. "My dining table is by the Japanese woodworker, George Nakashima, and the Adult Stone coffee table is an early Maya Lin polished cement piece.” 

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

Elsewhere, four of Philippe Starck's Ghost Chairs are arranged around a negative table, comprising a rectangular cut-out in the waterlogged floor. 

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

The original building was an old dental factory built in the 1880s. Having spent time in Europe studying castles in Italy and Germany, Ling was inspired by the gestaltof those buildings and wanted to preserve the rawness of the stone masonry in his New York apartment. “I replaced the windows and skylights with concealed frame sheets of glass so that just the raw opening is emphasized.”

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

The layering of history is another important dimension of the design. The ceiling, for instance, is predominantly made up of sheetrock cut on a sharp forty-five degree angle, although exposed 19th century steel beams attest to the architectural methods of the industrial revolution. More modern elements can be seen in the kitchen island—inspired by the monolith in Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey—and the oblong galvanized metal structure, which is an homage to the work of Richard Serra and Alberto Giacometti.

David Ling's Manhattan Live-Work Loft

Photograph by Matthew Williams.

Fascinated by materials that develop a patina, Ling allowed the ultramarine blue wall—a hue that recalls Yves Klein’s patented International Klein Blue, or IKB—to naturally peel away overtime, an inevitable result of moisture from the waterfall. “The first of cut is always the deepest,” he says of the aging process, “but then it starts to acquire a life of its own, which requires an acceptance of change and accident.”

The underlying motivation for Ling’s highly intellectual approach to the design is twofold. First, he has the opportunity to pursue ideas that he would be hesitant to pitch to clients, but more importantly, Ling believes that one’s relation to a built environment is symbiotic. “A person should be able to live and discover new things the entire time they inhabit a space.” While he considers the possibility that the space may evolve to meet his changing needs, he can’t entertain the idea of leaving. “I think this is pretty much home,” he concludes with quiet conviction. 

Project Credits:

Design: David Ling Architect
Photography: Matthew Williams

 

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Brno Chair - Flat Bar
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Brno Chair - Tubular
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Splay-Leg Table
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Straight Chair
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Maya Lin Coffee Table
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Maya Lin Adult Stone