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These NYC Rental Buildings Are Actually Architecturally Savvy

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Buyers, not renters, get all the love amenities architectural craziness. It's funny, because even though 75 percent of New Yorkers are fully committed to the rental market because of the realities of our housing stock, starchitects naturally flock to the more remunerative, reputation-building condo buildings. But that doesn't mean your rental has to dwell behind a boring facade, with a boxy facade designed by Hot Karl. No, there are a handful of rental buildings out there with legitimately interesting architectural features and serious design chops, from those with illustrious historic provenance to cutting-edge contemporary construction. Here now, a few of the most interesting.

But first, a caveat: we've purposely excluded the many cool, covetable projects, like the Police Building and Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue, in which some of the owners do rent out their places—though those are a leasing option for architecture buffs, too. The developments listed were meant to be rentals all along. Know of any we missed? Hit up the tipline and let us know.

New York By Gehry
A Curbed favorite since it entered the conversation in 2006, Frank Gehry's tower at 8 Spruce Street in FiDi solidified its place in the skyline as the tallest residential building in the city (though 432 Park Avenue will be snatching that title). The glimmering, undulating steel facade captivated the city's archicritics, with former Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff calling it "the finest skyscraper to rise in New York since Eero Saarinen's CBS building went up 46 years ago." [previously; photo via Curbed Flickr Pool/vivnsect]

The Apthorp
This long-time Upper West Side rental underwent a partial condo conversion a few years back, but there's still the occasional unit on the market. Sure, the apartment available right now is $24,000/month, but can you really put a price on timeless elegance? (We long for the cheaper days, or to have been born early enough to get in, well, when the getting was cheaper.) One of the city's first full-block condos, the elegant Italianate Renaissance design is considered by many to be the ultimate in Gilded Age elegance, and its central courtyard, allowing light and air into even the smallest units, was an early feature of progressive housing. And, come on, Nora Ephron lived there. An ongoing preservation battle over a proposed rooftop addition is bringing to the surface even more testimonials about the Apthorp's value, past and present. [previously; photos via Flickr/Joshua Schwimmer and Sarmale/Olga]

317 East 8th Street
Religious buildings that get converted into residences are, quite simply, rather cool. Many of them are meant for buyers, but this East Village townhouse, which was a former synagogue, was on the rental market for $23,500 earlier this year. Those windows! Plus, there's a hot tub, which isn't an architectural feature but is a perk nonetheless. [previously]

Astral Apartments
This Greenpoint compound opened in 1886 as one of the first examples of housing in industrial areas that aimed to be both beautiful on the outside and socially responsible on the inside. Forget the old English "decorative molded bricks, asymmetrical massing, arched entryways, roof gables, carved sandstone and terra cotta ornamentation," because the real highlights were the very first of what we'd deem necessities today: light (at least one window per room), ventilation, toilets, and fireproofing. In the 19th-century version of what we now call "amenities," the Astral had a lecture room and library, an in-house kindergarten, roof access for clothes-drying purposes, and ground-level retail that tenants were meant to operate in a co-op system. There aren't any apartments on the rental market now, but they are generally a very reasonable $1,600-$1,800/month. [previously; photo via Greenpointers]

Mercedes House
It's pretty hard to miss this zig-zag, stairstep-like, enormous West Side juggernaut. Designed by Mexican starchitect Enrique Norten, this distinct design means a lot of units with generous outdoor space. And there are, in fact, a lot of units—692 on the lower floors and 162 luxury ones on the upper ones, to be exact. Right now, a studio is going for $2,100/month, and a 2BR for $5,750. Good thing there's a giant amenity fun zone in the building to keep all those residents occupied. [previously; photo via Curbed Photo Pool/JeffReuben]

64 Bayard Street
When it was first planned, we called this Williamsburg rental a space invader. Well, it's all landed finished and leasing now, starting at $2,900/month for a studio, but if the shoe fits... We would be remiss in rounding up buildings of architectural interest without including the much-used (and abused?) cantilever. Given New York City's strict zoning rules and air rights-purchasing rules, it's possible to construct something, well, kinda top-heavy. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but it's a clever, albeit somewhat futuristic-looking, way to make the most of a small lot. [previously]

BONUS: here are a two rental buildings in the pipeline that, when finished, will no doubt get included in lists of this sort down the line.

The Pyramid
Bjarke Ingels is making his NYC debut in a big way: with the magic pyramid tower known as W57. The look of the residential tower at 625 West 57th Street has been described as "what you might have if snow drifted steeply into the corner of a yard, and then you removed the yard." Construction has started on the building, and if all goes as planned, it should be ready for move-in by spring 2015. [previously]

The Former Mud Pit
The 9.2-acre mud pit on First Avenue between 35th and 41st Street will be an eyesore no more. Two luxury rental towers, developed by JDS Development and designed by SHoP Architects, are now rising on the site. The curving, copper-clad buildings will be the stars of the East Side, according to SHoP principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, who told the Times that the 49- and 40-story towers "dance with each other [...] like Shawn and Beyoncé." They will hold 800 apartments and be connected by a "show-stopping" skybridge that has an indoor pool and lounge. Construction began in July, and the buildings should be complete by 2016. [previously]

· All Renters Week 2013 coverage [Curbed]

64 Bayard Street

64 Bayard Street, Brooklyn, NY

Mercedes House

555 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019 Visit Website

Apthorp Building

390 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023