Uncompromising. It is the word most frequently used during a tour of Aman New York, the highly-anticipated Hundredth Refuge that finally opened its doors last month (with Mayor Eric Adams in attendance to baptize its arrival). Well, when you have the resources and the time and you are not bound by any schedule, as was the case with Vladislav Doronin, the Russian billionaire owner of the Aman brand, then of course it costs nothing to be uncompromising.
Examples of this philosophy abound in the 117,000 square foot space, which inhabits the upper floors of the historic Crown Building on 57th and 5th, creating an interesting juxtaposition between Aman’s glossy modernism and the old Beaux-Arts bones. Arts of his new home. It’s a lavish cocoon of exquisite textures, from the rice paper-lined louvered panels that adorn each suite, to the huge stones that have been carved into giant tubs, to the latticework ceilings and floors meant to evoke the rattan baskets of Asia, with straw marquetry finishes on the mantelpiece of each room, and every huge slab of bronze, brass, chocolate brown marble and blackened steel in between. An anecdote is told of how the on-site Japanese restaurant was all but finished when the owner suddenly changed his mind and decided to start all over again, bringing in a whole new shipload of natural materials.
Not that anything less would fly with the Aman crowd: With rates starting at $3,300 a night for the lowest-tier room, the hotel is strictly for the small segment of the population for whom compromise is a foreign concept. It’s also a crew that puts no price tag on plush privacy. Here, the plebs can’t even get through the front door for a martini in the lobby bar, or on the 7,000-square-foot terrace with a retractable roof that overlooks Fifth Avenue — only guests, members of the Aman Club (initiation fee: $200,000; yes, there is a waiting list), and residents (there are 22 palaces in the sky above the hotel; twenty of them are sold , including the $180 million penthouse) are aware of these much-vaunted spaces. A consolation prize? The basement speakeasy jazz club, enriched with sound technology rivaled only by Jazz at Lincoln Center and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, will host all when it opens Sept. 6.
As for how a hotel renowned for its five-figure zen could create a real sanctuary in the middle of Manhattan? Stroll long enough down these hushed, dimly lit, perpetually aromatic (thanks to a house scent infused with cardamom and saffron and haughtily titled “Alta”) hallways, lined with walnut trees and bamboo, and the city will disappear. In some corners, you feel like in Bali; in others, like the aforementioned lobby bar, which could have been a setting for the final season of Westworld– maybe Tokyo. The high-tech soundproofing is mainly to thank, of course. “What makes the Aman peaceful,” adds its architect Jean-Michel Gathy, principal of Denniston, “is the layering of fabrics, tall paneling and the incorporation of a fireplace [in all 83 suites] to create a quiet environment in guest rooms. You turn it on and you feel like you’re alone in the world.”
And then the spa. The middle-of-nowhere oases of Aman (see: Amangiri) are famous for their vast temples of well-being. In New York, there would still be no – guess the word – compromise. Much like at its sister properties, the spa here spans an impressive 25,000 square feet and occupies three floors. There’s a 65-foot-long indoor pool, a cryotherapy chamber, and a gym outfitted with machines that seem of such intimidating cutting-edge caliber that they must be what billionaires use to unlock the keys to the immortality (on this particular point). afternoon, two in-house trainers were installing a special water machine that pumps your H2O with electrolytes). A Harvard-trained doctor runs an integrative medicine program that offers intravenous drips, acupuncture and plasma therapy. There are also two spa houses — which can be booked for an afternoon — with private terraces, outdoor hot tubs, and a Turkish hammam or Russian banya.
Despite the embarrassment of wealth, Gathy points out that Aman’s DNA is still understated elegance. It all comes down to creating that refuge. “You take to the streets and you’re in the epicenter of the city, but when you want to come back and relax, you have your own sanctuary,” he says. And even if Aman New York does its part to foster insularity, intimacy and exclusivity, it won’t be long before this geotag becomes the most recognizable and coveted Instagram backdrop in the world (see again: Amangiri). But when you’re already safely settled in the creamy glow of your perfectly lit suite with the rest of Manhattan muted, who cares?
Leena Kim is associate editor at City & Countrywhere she writes about travel, weddings, arts and culture.