By Tim McKeough, NY Times
May 3, 2018

When Mitchell C. Hochberg, the president of the real estate company Lightstone, needed an architect to design a new tower just a few blocks away from his home in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, he didn’t have to look far. The decorated architect Deborah Berke, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, lives in the building next door.

Of course, while living close to one’s architect is convenient, it wasn’t the primary reason he selected her firm, Deborah Berke Partners, to design Lightstone’s new 29-unit condominium at 40 East End Avenue. Rather, he was impressed with Ms. Berke’s tastefully simple work and ability to bridge old and new.

“She has an unbelievable aesthetic in terms of blending traditional with modern sophistication,” said Mr. Hochberg. “I don’t think many designers are able to do that.”

He also assumed that Ms. Berke would share his desire to realize a building that played nice with the area’s prewar and midcentury neighbors. “The idea was to build something that is a modern interpretation of the local and historic architecture that we have,” he said. Not, he added, “a flying saucer.”

Ms. Berke was on board (with Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects serving as the architect of record). Her vision was to design a building that catered to “contemporary lifestyles and contemporary families — life in New York in the 21st century,” she said, “but that also feels a part of the neighborhood.”

Knowing that her neighbors would be scrutinizing the design, Ms. Berke and her colleagues were particularly eager to impress.

“There was a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the project,” said Stephen Brockman, a senior principal at Deborah Berke Partners. “Like, ‘We better make this good!’ ”