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Ismael L e y va

DREAM HOME Leyva hopes to resurrect plans, waylaid by the recession, to build this home on land he owns in Columbia County, N.Y.


he prominent Mexican-born architect — behind the Upper East Side condo the Charles and the Riverhouse condos in Battery Park City — cut his teeth working under one of New York’s most prolific architects, Costas Kondylis. In 1996, he struck out on his own, launching an eponymous firm by renting a desk from a friend’s firm for $500 a month. The now 70-person company is headquartered at 48 West 37th Street and also has offices in Costa Rica. And it has more than 50 completed projects in the Big Apple. Here’s a look at Leyva’s office and some of his favorite things. B y G uelda V oien

WOODEN Elephant

Bonsai tree

Leyva often receives gifts from his many

Leyva has a Japanese bonsai tree

foreign-born employees. He has items

that he refers to as his “baby.” The

from India, Croatia, Qatar and Mexico.

tree was a gift, but he could never

A staffer born in India brought him this

figure out from whom because there

wood-carved elephant. But Leyva said

was no return address. “I like miniature things,”

he does not work much in India because

Leyva said.

“the fees are the lowest in the world.”

THE BookSHELF Self-help books are Leyva’s go-to reading

Random House building

One client of Leyva’s owns 5,000 acres in Costa Rica, where this

author and motivational speaker Wayne

Leyva worked in association

sprawling, verdant estate was planned. Unfortunately, the client had a

Dyer, who overcame a childhood in a



stroke before breaking ground and the project was killed. Still, Leyva’s

Detroit orphanage, and has written more

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

proud of the design, which would have allowed a nearby waterfall to

than 30 books, including “The Power

to redevelop the Random

be seen from anywhere in the house.

of Intention,” and “Excuses Be Gone!”


Costa Rica HOME

material. The architect particularly likes

House Building at 1745 Broadway in 2003. Leyva handled the residential


component, and SOM the commercial space.

Leyva is an avid golfer, often playing with clients and associates. He

Mixed-use complex in China Leyva once had offices in China, Costa Rica and Qatar, but

mainly plays in New Jersey and Connecticut.

following the financial crisis, only the New York and Costa Rica offices remain. While he designed massive projects like this mixeduse complex in Hangzhou, China, he said he no longer works there. “It’s just the way they do businesses … I never got paid for that [project].”

CARVED MEXICAN Heads Carved heads known as “toltecas” from Zapote, Mexico, which were discovered by a friend who was building a home there. The archaeological relics might be valuable, but Leyva said he “would never sell them.”

THE Theater LIFE Leyva is a regular theatergoer. One of his recent favorites: “The Lion King.”

24 February 2014

PHOTOGRAPH OF ismael leyva FOR THE REAL DEAL BY jeremy williams

At the desk of: Ismael Leyva  
At the desk of: Ismael Leyva