Designer secretly builds amazing architectural cipher into $8.5m apartment

The New York Times reports on a Da Vinci Code-esque scavenger hunt built in hidden riddles, poems and numberless secret doors and drawers by architectural designer Eric Clough in a 4,200-square-foot Fifth Avenue apartment once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post. It was only accidentally discovered by Clouch's clients, and the puzzle took them weeks to solve.
In any case, the finale involved, in part, removing decorative door knockers from two hallway panels, which fit together to make a crank, which in turn opened hidden panels in a credenza in the dining room, which displayed multiple keys and keyholes, which, when the correct ones were used, yielded drawers containing acrylic letters and a table-size cloth imprinted with the beginnings of a crossword puzzle, the answers to which led to one of the rectangular panels lining the tiny den, which concealed a chamfered magnetic cube, which could be used to open the 24 remaining panels, revealing, in large type, the poem written by Mr. Klinsky.
The giant architectural riddle even came with its own cryptic book and a song performed by a musician whom Clough had fallen in love with. Meanwhile, my apartment came with a mysterious spot on the wall that sometimes trickles a translucent goo. A home-owner's mystery to be sure, but I think I prefer Mr. Clough's variety. Read the whole thing, it's absolutely wonderful. Mystery on Fifth Avenue [New York Times via Gizmodo]
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12 Responses to Designer secretly builds amazing architectural cipher into $8.5m apartment

  1. dculberson says:

    Fnarf: High profile architects don’t usually work like that…

  2. Fnarf says:

    I guess that’s why I think most high-profile architects should have been smothered at birth.

  3. Antinous says:

    I guess that’s why I think most high-profile architects should have been smothered at birth.

    Many who live and work in leaky, noisy, poorly ventilated buildings built by high profile architects would agree with you. I have, however, yet to read a tale wherein a client was forced at gunpoint to hire that sort of architect.

  4. dculberson says:

    Technogeek, that’s exactly what I meant, but in a more terse wording I guess. Witness, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright discouraging his clients from even hanging artwork in the homes he built. He would sometimes design the dishes, furniture, light fixtures, windows, artwork, landscaping, planters, flooring, absolutely every design aspect of the house. The Kaufmanns (for whom he designed Fallingwater) were one of the few people he ‘allowed’ to provide art, as he trusted their art tastes.

    Yes, that’s not a process for everyone, but like Technogeek said, if you don’t want that, you typically don’t work with an architect like that. But then, once it’s at that level, you’re typically so rich you don’t want to waste time picking out all that stuff. (And it is a lot more work than it seems like. Eventually you want to throw up your hands and say “just paint it all beige!!!”)

  5. jennfrank says:

    The apartment even comes with its own book, part of which is a fictional narrative that recalls “The Da Vinci Code” […] and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” the children’s classic by E. L. Konigsburg about a brother and a sister who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and discover — and solve — a mystery surrounding a Renaissance sculpture.


  6. technogeek says:


    Thanks for the inspiration. My house *will* have some secrets before I’m done with it, but this is more ambitious (and prettier woodworking) than I’m likely to attempt.

  7. Fnarf says:

    I’d actually kind of prefer it if my house designer did what I asked him to and then went away rather than take over my space and my cabinets with his “poetry” and “music”. I guess that makes me boring.

  8. NoahApples says:

    Coolest house ever. Makes me want to become a loony architect.

  9. chef says:

    #7: That’s funny – it makes me want to be rich.

  10. georgelazenby says:

    At least we now have a realworld metric for how rich you’d have to be to live in Myst.

    Way too rich.

  11. El Mariachi says:


    Yes, it does.

  12. technogeek says:

    #4-#6: If you hire someone like this, you’re purchasing an original artwork in the form of a remodelled home. It’s their job to understand you and give you something that suits your tastes.

    I this case, it sounds like the architect succeeded brilliantly in suiting this particular customer’s tastes. Note that the whole puzzle spun off from the customer’s request that the poem be hidden somewhere.

    If the same designer was working for you, he’d come up with something completely different to suit _your_ tastes. Or he’d tell you he wasn’t the right person for that job and refer you to someone else.

    And if you really want someone to do only “what you asked him to do”, you wouldn’t go to this kind of designer at all. (Nor spend this kind of budget.) You’d hire someone from the Home Depot end of the scale.

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