Hani Rashid and his wife, Lise Anne Couture, are known for constructing elaborate visual worlds. The founders of the SoHo-based firm Asymptote Architecture have designed the Guggenheim Virtual Museum and the New York Stock Exchange Virtual Trading Floor, and taught digital design.
Now they're getting the chance to design something decidedly more concrete. When developers Richard Born, Charles Blaichman, and Ira Drukier announced they had chosen Mr. Rashid and Ms. Couture to design an eight-story, 24-unit condominium building at 166 Perry St. in the West Village, expected to be completed by the middle of next year, the decision was met with excitement in design circles.
"We came upon Hani and Lise and really liked their aesthetics — it's like ‘The Jetsons' meets postmodernism," Mr. Born said in a phone interview from Berlin. "We have exclusivity on them because they have never done a residential project in, or any kind of project, in New York. Anyone living there can be pretty much guaranteed there isn't another chance to live in an Asymptote building."
For the Egyptian-born Mr. Rashid, whose brother, Karim, is a famed product designer, virtual and concrete construction and design go hand in hand.
"It's like a composer who does all of these little experimental pieces before trying to do a symphony," he said. "Computing and technology can teach us how to make better places for people to live, and better places means opening ourselves up the possibilities of a new world."
The 166 Perry St. project is just one element in the effort by Mr. Born and his partners to reshape the far West Village. Besides Asymptote's project, the units of which will average $2,000 a square foot, the partners are also developing the twin minimalist Richard Meier towers overlooking the Hudson River down the street.
"When you are building in that part of town now, you have to bring the towers of Richard Meier into play in the same way you have to bring the waterfront into play," Mr. Rashid said. "It is all part of the grain and part of the quality of place that is particular to that area."
166 Perry features a waterfalllike cascading glass façade with angled and inverted Scholl glass windows in what Mr. Rashid calls a "honeycomb" pattern in order to provide privacy and catch the light as it moves off the water.
"Light is a such a super-high commodity here, and we wanted to use the building to capture the sky, but do it in such a way that you don't feel like you are living in an aquarium," he said.
He designed the building's sliding glass balconies and angled windows to open up to the street while still giving residents a sense of security, as if "behind a veil," he said.
"The key to the building is that you feel like you are part of the city, and from the outside the building will feel beautiful and sculptural, but inside you won't have all of these people staring up at you," he said.
Mr. Born sees this dialogue between the inside and the outside as central to the charm of the building.
"You could stand naked in front of a window and no one would see you," Mr. Born said. "Not that we recommend you do that."