A Grid and a Conversation - Morris Adjmi Architects

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A Grid and a Conversation

Morris Adjmi Architects



A Grid and a Conversation



A Grid and a Conversation

Morris Adjmi Architects

Introduction by Diane Ghirardo Text by Jimmy Stamp



Preface

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Morris Adjmi

Acknowledgments

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Walls That Speak

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Diane Ghirardo SECTION I

Contrast and Coexistence A Conversation with Bill Higgins 837 Washington The High Line Building Wythe Hotel The Williams 520 West 20th Street

32 36 44 48 56 60

SECTION II

A Modern Interpretation A Conversation with Charles Blaichman 465 Pacific 55 West 17th Street 250 Bowery 30 East 31st Street One Hill South Front & York

66 72 76 84 88 92 96

SECTION III

Renew and Revitalize A Conversation with Judith Saltzman The Schumacher 414 West 14th Street ROOST Spring Studios 134 Wooster

102 108 118 122 128 132

SECTION IV

Context as Content A Conversation with Fred Bland Theory Building 254 Front 11 Great Jones 7 West 21st Street 207 West 79th Street 363 Lafayette

138 142 148 152 156 162 168

SECTION V

Inspiration and Innovation A Conversation with Lyle Starr 16 West 21st Street 83 Walker The Sterling Mason Atlantic Plumbing 42 West 18th Street The Standard at South Market

174 180 184 190 198 216 222

Project Chronology Illustration Credits

230 238


Preface Morris Adjmi

“Who’s your favorite architect?” Whenever someone asks me this question, I typically offer a reply that is met by a confused look—and then, perhaps, by a conversation. Who’s my favorite architect? Anonymous. There are many architects I respect and many buildings I love, but my favorite architect is the unknown builder or the anonymous draftsman responsible for structures that, in the time of standout spectacles, might be derogatorily referred to as “background buildings.” I prefer to think of them as “ambient architecture”—ambient in the same way that musician Brian Eno used the term in the 1970s to describe the atmospheric, abstract soundscapes he was beginning to compose. “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular,” Eno wrote in 1978. “It must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” Ambient architecture is also as ignorable as it is interesting—and, I would add, important. It rewards our attention but does not demand it. It has been shaped by historical forces into a type that defines our perception of the city while disappearing into it. My favorite architect is anonymous, and so is my favorite architecture. I’m proud to lead an office dedicated to designing buildings that resonate with an ambient hum. A Grid and a Conversation marks the twentieth year of Morris Adjmi Architects, but these values were first instilled in me much longer ago, when I was working on my thesis at the Tulane School of Architecture—right around the time I started listening to Brian Eno. Growing up in New Orleans, I spent countless hours drawing the buildings, balconies, and ornate ironwork of the French Quarter. New Orleans made me want to be an architect. But when I started my formal studies at Tulane, I came to understand that the city’s diverse and distinct buildings, as much as I loved

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them, belonged to a specific moment in time. They were part of the city’s history, and I didn’t want to just imitate them. It felt essential, however, to learn from them. So I dedicated my thesis to investigating vernacular housing in New Orleans—Creole cottages, shotguns, townhouses—in order to find a deeper understanding of type that went beyond historicism or style and could be used to develop an architecture that belonged to my moment in time; not just an architecture that resonated with me personally, but with twentieth-century New Orleans. That line of inquiry eventually led me to the work of Aldo Rossi, whose Teatro del Mondo had captured my imagination. The floating theater, which was transported on Venice’s Grand Canal and used for performances during the 1979 Biennale, was a distillation of the city’s architecture into simple, almost Platonic solids. Though it seemed novel, it was rooted in a Venetian typology that was almost forgotten; despite being formally abstract, and built with modern materials, it wove itself into the rich tapestry of Venice. Of all the architects I had studied up to that point, it seemed that Aldo Rossi’s sensibilities were closest to my own. When I met him I was certain of it. In 1980 I enrolled in the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, specifically to take an advanced design workshop with Aldo. He was different from what I had expected—less scientific and more intuitive, less analytical and more emotional. He challenged students to take strong positions, criticizing work that was derivative or noncommittal. I had the good fortune to not only study with Aldo that year in New York but to work with him soon after on a competition project in Milan. The job was supposed to last a few weeks. A few weeks turned into a few years, and a few years turned into a professional partnership that lasted more than a decade. Working with Aldo was the most profound educational experience

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PREFACE

of my life. I learned to see in new ways, to design via fresh methods, and to trust my architectural instincts. But it was always a kind of passive education, because so much of what Aldo did was personal. He taught by doing, and I learned by working alongside him on buildings that felt completely original but had a sense of history; buildings that aspired to timelessness and sometimes, somehow, seemed to achieve it. When Aldo died in 1997, it didn’t feel right to continue the firm without him. After completing unfinished projects, including the Scholastic Building in SoHo, I closed Studio di Architettura and opened my own practice in New York City. My previous work provided a strong foundation for this new office, but that work was, at its core, specific to Aldo’s own experience and the time and place he was practicing. Moving forward, it seemed apt to reformulate what I had learned into something that was relevant to my own experience and to the time and the place I was practicing: the American city in the beginning of the twenty-first century. This book is the product of that effort. Many of the projects my office completed in our first 20 years are in New York City, where we’ve had particular success working in historic districts and postindustrial neighborhoods. Some architects feel restricted by the protective regulations in these areas, but I’ve always found them inspiring. New York City is constantly changing but somehow always feels the same—mostly, anyway—and even its historic districts do not feel frozen in time. There is so much history to draw from, and we learn as much of it as we can, working with members of the community and listening to various civic committees to improve our designs. It’s fair to say that our early success working in these neighborhoods can be traced to the Scholastic Building, which was widely seen as a new precedent for integrating contemporary design into a historic district. But rather than rebuild Scholastic, we build upon it. We developed our own understanding of context and our own methods of interpreting historic architecture, methods based less on analyzing the building types and architectural forms that define a street or neighborhood or city and more on the ideas that inspired the forms and the historical forces that made them possible. In our practice today we also look outside the discipline to visual artists like Donald Judd and Rachel Whiteread and musicians like Brian Eno, who are free—without the pragmatic realities of program, budget, and the need

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PREFACE

to make a building actually stand up—to push an idea to its absolute limit. Their work inspires us to find alternative ways of thinking about archetypal ideas and creative expressions of materials. Many of our buildings are rooted in an understanding of context and history, but our work is not historic. It is influenced by technology as well as tradition, and there is an underlying modernist sensibility to everything we do. This idea never seemed particularly contradictory to me. Historic and contemporary styles are not opposing forces but rather complementary ones; their coexistence is essential in creating a sense of architectural continuity in our cities. I believe this approach helps us design buildings that have an emotional resonance—that is, buildings that evoke images, ideas, and memories related to their historic contexts but are still relevant to the way we live and work today; buildings that have a distinct sense of place and purpose and ultimately just feel right. Over the last 20 years, our practice has grown substantially, and I feel fortunate that we have been able to attract such a talented, diverse team of architects, designers, administrators, and collaborators. We now have projects under construction in major cities all over the country; as we continue to grow, to build in new cities, and to take on new types of projects and challenges, it is important to me that we share a set of basic values and hold true to them. Understanding history is important to our practice, and that includes our own. Through in-house lectures, exhibitions, and discussions, I strive to instill in the team an understanding of the forces that shape this firm while cultivating an environment where everyone feels free to contribute new ideas that push our work forward and expand our shared values. It is the same way in which I hope our buildings contribute to the city. The broad themes I’ve touched on—contrast, context, modernity, renewal, artistic inspiration—have emerged naturally in our work, and they provide a loose structure for organizing the projects featured in this book. Each section begins with a conversation that explores one of these themes with a friend, client, or collaborator who knows the topic well and with whom I have enjoyed many non-recorded discussions. I hope these conversations give some context to our work and offer an unexpected perspective on our projects and the ideas that inspired them. It felt important to include these transcriptions because every building we design begins and

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PREFACE

ends with a conversation. These include both literal conversations with our clients and anyone else involved in the design and construction process and also more figurative conversations between our buildings and the city, sometimes spanning centuries. Our buildings rarely shout. They are often quiet and sometimes even whisper. They listen. They seldom repeat what has been said. They tell stories. They ask questions. They contribute new ideas and maybe even start an argument or two. The conversation never ends when a building is completed; another one just starts. As I try to tie these thoughts together, I realize that inspiration does not always fit into perfectly constructed narratives—that’s why I have always preferred a conversation. When Brian Eno made his first exploration of ambient sound on the album Discreet Music, he included deconstructed and reinterpreted excerpts from Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It is a familiar piece of chamber music that has been altered, adapted, and repurposed as everything from a wedding march to a funeral dirge. Our cities are full of buildings like Pachelbel’s Canon, buildings that have been reinterpreted and repurposed until their meaning has been lost to history or irrevocably changed in response to shifting cultural values. But certain original values always remain. Aldo Rossi understood this better than anyone, and he famously identified such singular structures as “urban artifacts.” In the context our office works today, I think it is the anonymous buildings, the ambient buildings, that are more important to how we understand a place. And it is their original, inherent value that we endeavor to understand and interpret in the same way that Eno did Pachelbel’s Canon: by introducing new ideas and experimental techniques. The inspiration may be barely recognizable, but its influence is undeniable and its presence can still be felt.

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Acknowledgments The projects in this book would not exist without our incredible clients, to whom I am forever indebted for their trust, their ambition, and their willingness to take risks. I’m also grateful to the many collaborators and consultants whose creativity and brilliance enrich every single building contained in these pages, and of course to the architects, designers, and administrators at Morris Adjmi Architects whose hard work and dedication make these buildings real. It’s a joy and an honor to work with such talented people every day. A Grid and a Conversation was truly a collaborative effort. A special thanks goes to Wesley Wolfe, whose insight and oversight has been critical to the success of the firm as well as to the production of this book; to Lisa Mahar, for her artistic direction and unflagging support; and to Jonatan Eriksson, for his elegant book design. I’d like to thank all the past and current members of the office who helped organize and prepare materials for this book, especially Jasper Pope, Kent Johnson, and Renée Riegler. Many thanks also go to the photographers who have documented our buildings, in particular our long-time collaborator Matthew Williams. I’m grateful to Jimmy Stamp for his help moderating the conversations and composing the text, to my old friend Diane Ghirardo for her tour-de-force of an introductory essay, and to Julia Joern for joining our team to help promote this considerable undertaking. A big thank you to everyone who generously took time from their busy schedules to join us for a conversation: Bill Higgins, Charles Blaichman, Judith Saltzman, Fred Bland, and Lyle Starr. Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to Images Publishing and Andrea Monfried for shepherding this book to print and, more than anything, for the opportunity to share our work.

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Walls That Speak Diane Ghirardo

I’m astonished, wall, that you haven’t collapsed into ruins, since you’re holding up the weary verse of so many poets. With slight variations, this epigram exists in three sites in Pompeii: in the basilica, in the great theater, and in the amphitheater.1 Such epigrams, or graffiti, and their repetition signaled both the relevance of poetry and the importance of walls as vehicles for rendering poetry public. Perhaps the anonymous epigrapher in Pompeii who found the poetry weighty enough to risk structural failure never imagined that the wall itself might speak, and that it would do so with its own poetry. To this an architect might respond, “Ut architectura poesis” (as is architecture, so is poetry).2 Easy enough to say, but getting that wall to become poetry is far from simple. In the trailer to The Big Easy (1987), the neo-noir film set in New Orleans, the narrator commented, “In the Big Easy, people do things their own way.” I’ve only ever known one New Orleans native: Morris Adjmi. He does do things his own way. That may explain his success in fashioning walls of poetry. Building in New York City may be one of the most daunting challenges an architect can face. Landmark issues, environmental concerns, height and mass constraints, and contextual and historic district requirements easily become insurmountable hurdles. Yet it is within this demanding setting that Morris Adjmi’s career has unfolded. It began during his student years, when he attended classes at the now-defunct Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and had the privilege of studying with Italian architect Aldo Rossi. From these early encounters sprang a working relationship and a profound friendship. Their partnership, Studio di Architettura, was formalized in New York in 1987. Despite the firm’s home base, all but one of the office’s major projects were located outside of New York City, from Burbank to Malaysia, Orlando to Fukuoka. The Scholastic Building in the city’s SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District was the studio’s single, extraordinarily successful urban project in New York.

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Adjmi researched the historic district and the two buildings between which the Scholastic nestles. On one side sits Alfred Zucker’s Rouss Building (1890) and on the other Ernest Flagg’s Little Singer Building (1903). Both structures constitute hefty historical baggage for a New York City site. Before commissioning a new building by Rossi and Adjmi, the Scholastic organization had undertaken an expensive and extensive restoration of the Rouss Building. Wresting approval for a building permit out of the various commissions ended up being no struggle at all for the partnership. Indeed, the proposal sailed through without a hitch: a great start, and a lesson Adjmi never forgot. The result demonstrated the value of solid research bound up with imaginative and respectful responses to the site. Rossi lived to see the project approved but not built; Morris saw to that. He set up his own office only after keeping Studio di Architettura open long enough to usher Rossi’s other unfinished architectural projects through to completion. Despite—or perhaps because of—nearly two decades of close collaboration with such a prominent figure, Adjmi’s own path to success was far from certain. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery—but not always in architecture. Aldo Rossi watched with deepening dismay as many of his former students strove lamely to build careers based on variations of his designs. To emerge from the shadow of a master teacher challenges anyone, but in architecture the struggle to find an independent identity is both ­poignant and uniquely public. The trick, one might say, is not to founder on superficial style but to grasp principles. Morris spent nearly 20 years as Rossi’s student, collaborator, partner, and close friend, working with him on some of his most significant buildings and projects. Unusual among those who studied or worked with Rossi, he learned from Rossi’s philosophy but never strayed from pursuing his own. As is the case for any architect building in a dense urban area, whatever the nature of specific principles, confrontation with other principles and standards is inevitable. To this add a larger problem regarding landmarks, historic or heritage preservation, and the standards for new designs. Why and how some buildings should be preserved, and why—or whether—new buildings need to cohere with their neighbors in some fashion, are inevitably open questions. While this essay is not the place to explore these issues, it is useful to consider the latter question in a discussion of Adjmi’s work.

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Walls That Speak

In the eighteenth century, Julien-David Le Roy reflected on the source of taste in architecture; he remarked that in nature there are “two radically opposed general ideas…these are the idea of symmetry, of perfect regularity in relation to our own perceptions, and the idea of conspicuous irregularity.” He illustrated the grand spectacle of irregularity by refering to the apparently randomly scattered stars in the heavens, among other things, while positing that animals and humans are ideal examples of symmetry. Le Roy concluded that “since human beings confront these two opposing principles throughout their lives, sheer habit must necessarily lead to love.”3 In heritage preservation, the trick, of course, is to figure out which of the two standards—symmetry/coherence or irregularity—to choose for a specific setting. In general, Adjmi straddles the two, admitting a certain coherence even while reserving space for irregularity. This is no accident. Poetry by its very nature expresses an open-ended reality in which coherence and contradiction are ever in dialogue, a dialogue inevitably destined never to be closed. That wall in Pompeii, in addition to the graffito cited, embraced fragments of eloquence and ribaldry, pith and pathos, and from that very contradictory and lucid cauldron forged nothing less than poetry. So, too, do Adjmi’s designs, immersed in the complex, confusing tissue of New York City’s neighborhoods. A focus on building in the greater New York City metropolitan region allowed Adjmi to gain intimate knowledge of micro- and macro-districts, and to reflect on how to navigate the often competing demands of differentiation and assimilation. To the outsider, the distinctions among the metropolis’s many parts may be elusive, but not so to New Yorkers who relish the fine-grained diversity of their city’s neighborhoods. The question is not where Morris has built, but where he has not. From the Meatpacking District to Ladies’ Mile, NoHo to Flatiron, West Chelsea, Tribeca, and elsewhere in New York City, Adjmi’s office has remodeled or inserted significant new structures into the city’s dense urban fabric. The difference between competent and extraordinary, one might argue, lies in the poetry that holds up—but also is embodied by—a wall such as the one in Pompeii, and that now surfaces with wonderful luminosity in Adjmi’s architecture. Take, for example, the adaptive reuse of the Schumacher at 36 Bleecker Street in NoHo, where the firm transformed a former printing facility and loft structure into residences with high,

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Scholastic Building, Broadway facade, New York, New York


WALLS THAT SPEAK

Scholastic Building, Mercer Street facade

Map of Manhattan, 1890, detail

exposed-brick, barrel-vaulted ceilings and handsome segmental arched windows. Rather than impose a contemporary signature on the building, the firm restored the facade to its original tripartite glory, including replacing the long missing grand crowning pediment. The poetry here lies less in the walls than in the restored brick barrel-vaulted ceilings, traditional wide planks of dark hardwood for the floors, and wonderfully deep, wood-framed windows of the interiors, all of which are set against strikingly contemporary features in the bathrooms, furnishings, and infrastructure. In the Meatpacking District, Adjmi’s adaptive reuse at 414 West 14th Street joined two nineteenth-century buildings, a factory and a warehouse, already united by a common cornice.4 The smooth, exposed-brick street facade elides without interrupting the rhythm of semicircular and segmental arched window frames. Lyrical rhythms are also key to the placement of the modillions, where tightened spacing indicates the intersection of the single-bay former factory with the two-bay former warehouse. The potential tension between old and new, often a stumbling block for those willing to take on the challenge, is here attenuated by the deliberate juxtaposition of two similar buildings without erasing the uniqueness of either. It is crisp and new yet bears the restrained but tough elegance of its nineteenth-century origins. These buildings are but two of Morris Adjmi Architects’ renovation projects; the firm has a well deserved reputation for adapting historic buildings to new uses even outside of Manhattan. Across the Brooklyn Bridge, Adjmi modified a former cooperage (a place of fabrication of barrels and casks) into an award-winning hotel, the Wythe, a delightful symphony of rugged industrial and sleek contemporary styles. The firm retained all but one wall of the brick shell, boldly replacing it with a glazed wall that opens to a priceless view of the Manhattan skyline. Adjmi also burnished the robust old wooden beams, columns, and ceilings to a deep luster, juxtaposing them with modern elements common to hotels in the bar, dining room, and screening room, not to mention the bathrooms in the hotel rooms and suites. The Wythe Hotel illustrates another principle, one too often lost in the frequently tangled discourses of landmark preservation: that it is, quite simply, not possible to regenerate the past. Lurking

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WALLS THAT SPEAK

beneath many other compelling reasons for protecting certain buildings is a desire to have them substitute for a lost past, symbolically if in no other way. Even when we recognize the impossibility of such an enterprise, we wistfully cling to any remaining trace in an effort to keep the memory alive. The acts of restoring and preserving whatever remains, however altered in use or interior disposition, respond specifically to that need. Like so many of Adjmi’s adaptive reuse projects, the Wythe retains enough of its rugged origins to satisfy the desire to remember even while easing the building into its contemporary incarnation. For example, wooden beams and rafters salvaged from the reconstruction process were reborn as bed frames in the new hotel. By opening up a 20-inch space between the old wooden ceilings and the new floors above, Adjmi could insulate the upper levels from the noise of wood floors and also insert infrastructural elements for easy access from either above or below; cork floors in the corridors further muffle noise to the adjacent rooms. But there is even more. The thick old wood ceilings, riven with fissures, did not meet contemporary fire rating standards, so Adjmi turned the problem into an advantage precisely by inserting and raising that new floor so that, in addition to muffling sounds and inserting space for infrastructure, he also preserved the beautifully aged wood ceilings throughout. Abundant thoughtful and creative details at the Wythe, such as the Reynard restaurant’s panels of wire-gridded windows, seamlessly bind old and new elements and blur the boundaries to the point that one puzzles over what has been restored and what created anew. The same is true of the business advertisements painted on the brick wall adjacent to the Wythe and visible from rooms facing west: some are new, some were existent, such as the proud announcement “Welcome to Brooklyn, the 4th largest city in America!” Some measures of the Wythe’s success both as a hotel and as a work of architecture are the buildings growing up around it—either restorations or new structures—as well as a new hotel Adjmi is designing on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, all of which take their cues from the Wythe. Not all recent buildings in New York adopt an approach similar to Adjmi’s. In a renovation of the Hearst Building at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue (2006), Norman Foster plunked a jagged-edged, glazed, and

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West 14th Street roofscape, New York, New York, 1930


WALLS THAT SPEAK

triangulated steel frame atop the shell of Joseph Urban’s original structure from 1929. The Landmarks Preservation Commission described the architecture as a “stylistic synthesis of Art Deco ornament, Secessionist influence and Baroque theatricality”—though they might have written Ziegfeld Follies, for Urban was the principal designer for the Follies and other theater reconstructions commissioned by Hearst.5 Urban’s brash, triumphal-arched, sandy-hued six-story structure—always intended to be topped by a tower—is now an empty shell serving as the improbable base for the 46-story Foster addition, essentially a contemporary version of SOM’s Hancock Center (1968), or a more recent, uneasy rehash of London’s 30 St. Mary Axe (2003), known as the “Gherkin.” The new Hearst is completely indifferent to the structure upon which it sits, not to mention its surroundings. Though Urban’s building little lent itself to deference, one wonders what solution an architect such as Adjmi might have proposed. A new building that replaces, say, a parking lot or a gas station, in an otherwise intriguing historic district poses different problems. For most architects, projects for new structures in historic districts open up unique challenges, and in Manhattan these vary from district to district. Several of the office’s new projects are located in what is known as Ladies’ Mile, New York City’s commercial and retail center in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.6 So named because of the abundance of department stores and upscale shopping that once lined its streets, Ladies’ Mile spread northward between Union Square and Madison Square, with Fifth Avenue and Broadway its core axes. Row houses jostled for space with hotels and department stores. Legendary retailers of the last third of the nineteenth century, many still in business, opened their doors along Ladies’ Mile, including W. & J. Sloane, Lord & Taylor, B. Altman, FAO Schwarz, Villeroy & Boch, and Tiffany. Prominent architects such as Ernest Flagg and McKim, Mead & White erected buildings, and Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, with its lively terra-cotta detailing and unusually tapering and triangular form, became an icon of fashionable architecture as well as one of the prosperous district’s most prominent symbols. Economic pressures slowly drove the retail stores uptown, while the buildings of Ladies’ Mile gradually shifted to smaller-scale manufacturing. By the end of World War II, the area had become largely a

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Walls That Speak

derelict, low-rent district studded with loft buildings, row houses, and still compelling nineteenth-century retail and commercial establishments. By the beginning of the twenty-first century this quirky, varied landscape was ripe for gentrification, with all of its inherent tensions. Three of Adjmi’s major residential designs are of particular interest in this district, two of which almost face one another on West 21st Street. Surrounding the two projects are buildings with similar palettes of materials and colors, including buff-hued brick, limestone, marble detailing, terra cotta, and iron. Ranging from six to twelve stories, the neighboring n ­ eo-Renaissance structures sport ornamental features such as scrolled modillions, dentilated cornices, segmental arched windows, rosettes, wreaths, paneled friezes, and painted iron grilles. At 7 West 21st Street, Adjmi’s solution eschewed ornaments and focused on rhythm, materials, colors, and textures for the two-part, 18-story complex extending from 21st to 22nd Streets. In this, his choices followed Julien-David Le Roy’s advice for designing visually pleasing structures by directing attention specifically to surface texture—for example, to the difference between a smooth facade and one enlivened by columns.7 Appreciation for the beauty of such surfaces disappeared from architectural discourse during the heyday of stark and stripped Modern Movement designs, but it has come to life again recently, offering a tool for a savvy architect to deploy precisely for the pleasure it affords the eye. Like most of the nearby historic buildings, Adjmi’s 21st Street elevation is a tripartite design both vertically and horizontally. Essentially based upon the classical column, the vertical composition consists of base, shaft, and capital, worked out with variations in the grid. The horizontal is a three-bay system, with wide spacing between the piers in the lateral bays and tighter and narrower spacing in the central bay to emphasize the vertical thrust. Two other features augment the visual texture of this facade: the deeper gray of the piers and columns on the first three and last floors and the deeply recessed windows, which shade interiors and cast shadows throughout the day. In defiance of the neighborhood’s decidedly dense urban tissue, Adjmi included several landscape areas between the two structures: a private rock garden with plants cascading down at the second-floor level, another just above with seating areas, and dining and barbecue facilities nestled amid diverse types of greenery on the roof. On the lower levels, these features also

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Walls That Speak

help mask the roughly five-foot level change between the higher 21st Street block and that of 22nd Street. Farther down the block, Adjmi’s building at 16 West 21st Street is a narrow, 14-story, three-bay infill tower sandwiched between two large, neo-Renaissance-style neighbors. To counter the adjacent darker buildings, Morris Adjmi Architects proposed a lyrical combination of frosted glass with stainless steel and silver-painted aluminum details. The richness of the architectural forms complements the colors and materials deployed to emphasize them, which are for the most part various types of glass—Adjmi envisioned the 21st Street facade as formed almost entirely of glass. In the absence of the kind of historicizing ornamentation common to most of the street’s buildings, the luminous, understated facade of 16 West 21st acquires a presence far greater than its size. Just a few blocks away, the equally narrow 15-story Emory building on West 19th Street soars above the adjacent pre–Civil War brownstone row houses, long since converted to studios and retail functions. In the Emory, Adjmi shuffled many of the same elements to quite different effect by modifying forms, materials, and colors. Between gray glazed brick piers and vertical I-beams that frame the composition, he used zinc-colored I-beam spandrels—as both string course and cornice—instead of the frosted-glass spandrels of 16 West 21st. Adjmi’s strategy for seamlessly merging without burying old and new elements may be most apparent in a comparison of two new structures in distinctly different parts of New York: the Meatpacking District and NoHo. The official designation of the Meatpacking District is Gansevoort Market Historic District, but its popular moniker conjures up images too brutal to ignore: “a labyrinth of sleeping rough-faced buildings with sweet and rotten breath.”8 To hazard here was to risk sudden vistas of dead cows heaved onto conveyor belts to await final butchering. An awkward bridge between the quite different street systems of Greenwich Village and the famous Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, the district is marked by streets still rough with thick gray granite Belgian-block cobblestones, among the few distinct traces of the district’s tumultuous history. The “gutteral” but lively past of slaughterhouses, packing plants, cigar factories, and gay night clubs yielded to a surge of gentrification in the late 1990s that was crowned in 2015 by the opening of Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum of Art building. Adjmi’s commission for

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Walls That Speak

fashion firm Theory’s new offices came at the height of this period of trendy takeovers. Fortunately, the architect dismissed out of hand a strategy in line with that of Piano’s Whitney, which essentially follows the model Piano set out in the 1977 Centre Pompidou in Paris (with Richard Rogers). Architectural critic and theorist Manfredo Tafuri’s lapidary dismissal of Piano at the turn of the twenty-first century, after lengthy study of Piano’s proposal for Palladio’s Basilica in Vicenza, still resonates: “[Piano] non è bravo.”9 Piano’s Whitney presents the museum-as-warehouse in a visual cliché typical of the stifling sameness of 1980s-era postmodernist office towers, complete with banal blue-mirrored glazing. Instead of bright chromatics highlighting the building’s hard-to-clean infrastructure as at the Pompidou, at the Whitney Piano substituted bristling cantilevers for stairs on the upper levels, all the while asserting the dubious claim that the design draws on the area’s “vivacity.”10 Adjmi graced the same vivacious urban area with a disarmingly luminous sensibility, radically distant from Piano’s museum. The firm’s challenge for Theory was to take on the neighborhood’s factory building type but to adapt it to the needs of an upscale fashion brand. Equally important, bringing visual order to a pleasingly varied setting without either imposing on or disappearing from that larger context is a complex task—and one that Adjmi resolves with an ideal blend of grace and grit. As in the 414 West 14th Street remodel, the trick was to register a fresh contemporaneity without slighting that still vibrant undercurrent of rugged industrial texture. Here, deep gray projecting I-beams intersect with steel-framed brick pilasters to form a reticulated surface that aligns with the extensively glazed facade but also creates a delicate pattern of shallow shadows on that same surface. In this, the design breathes the historic texture of its surroundings. The intriguingly contemporary heft added by Adjmi is perhaps especially apparent in the alternation of round, red-brick columns and sharply pointed I-beams at the corner. Cylindrical corner columns such as these are a contemporary legacy of two traditions: the first is the local version found in numerous nineteenth-century structures in the West Village and elsewhere, usually an iron or steel column at the base and a brick rendition above; the second, more distant tradition draws upon Aldo Rossi’s repeated deployment of such cylinders (though much thicker) in structures from Japan to Berlin, most notably in the Scholastic Building in SoHo. Rossi in turn found inspiration in the

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Walls That Speak

Palazzo Sforza, Venice, by Antonio Averlino

Palazzo Sforza, detail

lone column designed by Antonio Averlino (known as Filarete) for the never-completed Venetian palace of Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan.11 Quite different issues confronted the firm at 11 Great Jones Street in NoHo.12 For a few decades , the area that is now NoHo provided botanical gardens and mansions for the wealthy; by the middle third of the nineteenth century, though, all natural obstacles to the implacable northward march of the Commissioners’ Plan had been eradicated, with hilltops leveled and low-lying areas filled in for fashionable housing and entertainment facilities. By the end of the nineteenth century, NoHo was part of New York’s warehouse district, which consists largely of lofts and warehouses for dry goods to serve the city’s commercial needs. Stanford White’s splendid triumphal arch at Washington Square (1892) marked the zenith of NoHo’s grandeur, for the early twentieth century witnessed the onset of a long, slow decline so that by the 1970s and 1980s artists were occupying the low-rent lofts and warehouses. Following their lead, entertainment figures also moved in, setting in motion yet another transformation of NoHo, this time into a newly gentrified residential and upscale commercial and retail district. Like other parts of New York, NoHo’s architectural character is distinct, if quixotic. Lot sizes reflect the standards set out in the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, but the architectural styles span every fashionable trend, from Romanesque-inspired Victorian to Greek Revival, Italian or French neo-Renaissance to Federal, Georgian, and virtually any other imaginable style. When Adjmi received the commission for the corner lot at Great Jones and Lafayette Streets, the neighboring buildings included a mid-nineteenth-century four-story Greek Revival townhouse, a four-story Italianate townhouse, and a 12-story e­ arly-twentieth-century neo-Renaissance storefront and factory. Across the street stood another typical historicizing storefront and factory, complete with cast-iron columns, foliate brackets, and galvanized iron cornices. Previously on the site of 11 Great Jones Street was a vintage but undistinguished 1933 gas station.

21


Walls That Speak

The urban texture in NoHo, richer and more varied and elegant than that of the Meatpacking District, demanded a different approach—a challenge to which Morris Adjmi Architects responded in multiple ways, such as on the Lafayette facade, where the rhythm of the windows shifts from six to four lights. Like the five-story Theory Building, 11 Great Jones Street occupies a corner lot, and both are new structures inserted into existing fabric, although the latter rises six stories. Many of the elements deployed at the Theory Building surface here, though they are modified in position and expression. Horizontal I-beams intersect with smaller brick and I-beam columns, here reversed so that the brick frames the I-beams. Theory retains some of the tough assertiveness typical of buildings in the Meatpacking District, while, for the NoHo design, paler gray steel, lighter red bricks, tighter rhythm of the vertical elements, and absence of mullions on the top floor suggest a more complex, if still marvelously clear, organization. Even if both designs follow the classical model of base-shaft-capital typical of early skyscrapers, the result at 11 Great Jones is a more finely articulated and nuanced composition, distinct from but harmonious with its neighbors. These walls, in other words, stand with exacting rigor to convey their own unique poetry. The casual visitor will most likely overlook one of the constants in Adjmi’s architecture: interesting ceilings. For many architects, ceilings are simply flat surfaces to be painted white and perhaps coved; they are often ignored. Adjmi instead understands that architecture engages not just walls and floors but fully fleshed out ceilings. He sees the opportunities, such as at the Wythe, where the old wooden beams remain, burnished to a brilliant luster and displaying their fissures and discolorations, or elsewhere, where he has lined ceilings with cork or other richly textured surfaces, such as the shallow brick-barrel vaults he preserved in the Schumacher. Recessed ­ceiling-level lighting and exposed and painted beams characterize ceilings in other projects. To this must be added Adjmi’s attention to roofs, which he outfits with patios, viewing platforms, or full-on landscaping, as at New York University’s Wilf Hall. At the Wythe Hotel, outdoor patios frame the gridded glazing of the Ides bar, where a grand vista of Manhattan mirrors the syncopated rhythms of the varied bottles in the

22

Wythe Hotel bar, bottles and skyline, New York, New York


Walls That Speak

bar’s immediate backdrop. Apart from the subtle textures of old and new, this vast panorama of the New York City skyline is one of the hotel’s grandest features, celebrated and spectacular in the bar but also in some of the hotel rooms, where from within the shower a one-way mirror opens to that view of a haphazard skyline. At both the minute scale of the detail and the grand horizon of the entire building, Adjmi’s choices open up a dimension of lyrical differentiation and restless elegance that is at once foreseen and yet apparently spontaneous. The art of deploying similar palettes of colors and materials modified for different settings and purposes is fundamental to Morris Adjmi Architects’ designs: understated, but created with rich, visually appealing textures. What distinguishes 11 Great Jones from the firm’s apartment building at 254 Front Street, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge in the South Street Seaport Historic District, are the patterned, pale, zinc-colored metal panels, red brick, pale gray aluminum frames, stainless steel detailing, and dark, composite wood and resin panels for windows set within a series of layered grids on both street facades. At a quick glance, the palettes are similar; a closer look reveals the richness, complexity, and uniqueness of each. Such compositions speak to the city’s history, where the designs neither shrink into silence nor overwhelm with bombast; they also address, with disarming simplicity, the specific street and the residue of the Seaport’s boisterous past. Perhaps some of the most understated expressions of Adjmi’s ap­proach are the Sterling Mason residences in Tribeca, where he remodeled an early-twentieth-century brick and terra-cotta warehouse, transforming it into condominiums. The developers also owned the adjacent property on Greenwich Street, likewise destined to be condominiums. In this complex and highly differentiated district, the new building presented Adjmi with a chance to deploy Le Roy’s second option, symmetry—with a twist. From a distance the two buildings are identical, one a tidied-up rusty red-brick warehouse with five major bays set upon a stone base and topped by a deep, dentilated cornice, the other, a duplicate of the original but in a dusky gray. Only at closer range, however, does the very different palette of materials become apparent—less expensive aluminum panels treated as if they were brick or terra cotta, a deliberate homage to the nineteenth-century practice of fashioning metal surfaces to resemble brick, stone, or terra cotta. And why not? They give subtle pleasure to the eye at a time when we are no longer enslaved by early

23


Walls That Speak

modernism’s dogmas about truth in materials, much less by Le Corbusier’s tediously autocratic five points of architecture.13 I also think of the 250 Bowery building, with its glazed and reticulated grid of I-beams in a low-scale, still rugged neighborhood of heterogeneous commercial and residential buildings. Here, as elsewhere, Adjmi’s design brings structured order to its delightfully derelict surroundings, introducing a note of seriousness—but only a note, for 250 Bowery’s grid hits the register perfectly, even mirroring its neighbor in the glazed expanse between beams. Finding that precise point is essential, for a Gothic building overloaded with divisions is “a sort of enigma to the eye,” wrote Montesquieu, “and the soul cringes, as if presented with a confused poem.”14 Early in the nineteenth century, even the smallest storefronts already often sported I-beam lintels, while their use as vertical elements became common only from the mid-twentieth century onward. 250 Bowery’s delicate complexities unfold sequentially: strolling down the Bowery, an observer at first sees only the I-beam, then the steel grid emerges, and, finally, the secondary grid of painted aluminum mullions springs into view. At the Theory Building, the horizontal I-beams first catch the eye on the approach from Gansevoort Street and then the vertical I-beams; the rich complexity of the steel-framed brick pilasters only slowly comes into full view. This way of thinking about design—from the perspective not of a stationary viewer but of one who moves through and encounters spaces and buildings as if walking down the street—bucks the mainstream and harks back to the design of monuments in ancient Greece as well as to nineteenth-century architects such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It is an approach too long suffocated in the cult of the Modern Movement. What do I mean by this? In Greek antiquity, designers of temples learned to privilege the eye of the beholder in the making of buildings. So, for example, they developed the principle of entasis— gently molding a column that bulges out toward the center—to counter the tendency of the eye to see a column as being slightly concave in the middle when viewed from a distance. Visual perception also guided the planimetry of the stylobate, which was made to curve inward to counter the

24

Theory Building, corner detail, New York, New York


Walls That Speak

Altes Museum, Berlin, by Karl Friedrich Schinkel

deformations triggered by the eye. More than this, ancient Greek architects understood that a structure is not viewed from only one point, as if it were a painting, but rather by a mobile viewer interacting with things in sequence and in different ways depending upon orientation, speed of movement, and so forth. At every point, Greek designers set their temples and sanctuaries within the coordinates of sacred landscapes.15 A tribute to this way of understanding buildings emerges in Schinkel’s design for the Altes Museum on Spree Island in Berlin. Here he organized the planting of chestnut trees so that the approach from Unter den Linden offered different perspectives of the then-new museum, programmed views that opened, closed, and concealed a sequence calibrated to enhance the visitor’s surprise and pleasure.16 But there is more to it than that. Schinkel acutely grasped a point that appears to be simple but is almost entirely absent from design thinking today: that buildings are at once both seen and seen from in a virtually infinite range of possibilities. Like the Greeks before him, Schinkel posed the question of how he wanted to inform and shape those infinite views, and how to position them in relation to their neighbors. We find an answer to this inquiry in his complex design for the customs buildings later added behind the museum. A calculated integration of historical depth and visual richness is evident in each of the three structures and also in the museum. We find the same approach in Adjmi’s designs: each takes cues from its surroundings without losing sight of visual and perceptual coordinates. How different this is from so many of today’s designs, produced on computers, floating in space, and manipulated as if all parts were interchangeable, as if the resulting building could be anywhere or nowhere. Vincent Scully aptly targeted this approach in speaking of the way historians have considered “only the remains of constructions and not the meaningful landscapes in which they lie and with which they were originally intended by the Greeks to form an architectural whole of unprecedented vigor and completeness.”17 Unfortunately, historians are not alone at fault. Consider the Vanke Pavilion by Daniel Libeskind for the 2015 Milan Expo: apart from the Vanke’s eerie similarity to a fastidiously sculpted elephant pat, the structure could quite literally be anywhere—and we might be better off if it were nowhere. Think also of designs that take their cues from flight patterns or invisible trajectories,

25


Walls That Speak

as if the resulting structures were to be launched into unbounded space. Even closer to Adjmi’s 250 Bowery building, just across and down the street, the New Museum of Contemporary Art by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (2007) falls into the same category. Aluminum-panel and wire-mesh-clad blocks sit perilously atop one another, with two perky cylinders perched on top, as if assembled by a not-very-deft three-year-old. Other than a rather dreary, battleship-gray facade like that of one of its neighbors, the structure ignores its surroundings. In fact, the building was initially to be erected in SoHo; the move to the Bowery did little to alter the design—already a clue to that indifference to surroundings that is so typical of much contemporary architecture (“confused poetry,” to use Montesquieu’s words). Nonetheless, this otherwise acceptable building is far from the worst of the indifferent designs erected in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Such projects are products of a way of thinking about design that closely resembles the disposable and unimaginative offerings of consumer capitalism—an attitude far from what Adjmi learned from Aldo Rossi. If architecture entails enclosing spaces, then it must also enclose imagination and vision, Rossi taught; among many other things, it must ever account for time—from the measured gait of the urban stroller to the larger march of Time with a capital T. Thus he planned his monument to Sandro Pertini in Milan (1989) expressly to undergo change over the course of a year. In late summer mulberry trees’ branches, which form a thick, leafy canopy or tunnel over the piazza below, are at their fullest almost immediately before they begin to change color and then tumble to the ground, leaving only naked branches throughout Milan’s cold, foggy winter. Just as Schinkel’s plantings of chestnut trees along Spree Island to the west and east of the Altes Museum alternately masked and displayed, so too does the very change of seasons conceal and reveal Rossi’s piazza and monument, at times highlighting the rich polychrome of densely hued marble, bright green light standards, and rose granite paving, and at times casting it in deep shadow. When we find in Adjmi’s designs that same consideration for multiple perspectives, selected and enhanced—as in the quixotic positioning at the Wythe bar of liquor bottles at the same scale as the New York skyline behind them—we are also seeing a lesson well understood from Rossi, whose drawings vividly position coffee pots and skyscrapers at the same

26


Walls That Speak

scale. The drawings remind us that the personal and the public are ever nested within one another as the continuous, if at times uneven, poetry of quotidian life. At such a close range, the Ides bar’s juxtaposition of bottles and skyline at once ruptures with and energizes disparate entities. Breaking up long wall surfaces adds visual richness, but, as in the case of the NYU Law School’s Wilf Hall, it also signals the structure’s historical presence— another lesson from Rossi, who never forgot to look at history. In this case, the new building for the law school replaced four townhouses. Narrow, aluminum-framed, and recessed glazed apertures extending from ground to cornice neatly accomplish both objectives. Morris Adjmi Architects built its success on designs for Manhattan and its adjacent boroughs, to which must now be added a growing list of projects underway throughout the United States. To earlier hotel designs in Philadelphia and another underway in the city’s Fishtown district, Adjmi has added new residential projects in Washington, D.C., with the recently completed Atlantic Plumbing’s adaptive reuse apartment building, adjacent to a completed condominium complex by the firm, the Atlantic Plumbing B building. Construction is also underway at the West Loop in Chicago at 1035 West Van Buren, in Philadelphia at the East Market development, and in Tampa, Miami, and New Orleans. Despite constraints ranging from site conditions to building regulations to landmark provisions, Adjmi’s designs offer up their pleasures slowly. Husky and sturdy where needed, sleek and eloquent elsewhere, the buildings’ subtle variations temper structures from which Adjmi wrests the maximum visual and tactile pleasure. A few deceptively simple architectural elements comprise Adjmi’s designs, each inflected with rhythms and textures unique to their settings. Neither weary verses nor walls at risk of collapse, Adjmi’s projects are instead silent poems of architecture, to the eye and to the touch delightfully responsive.

Diane Ghirardo is Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at the University of Southern California and a fellow of the American Academy in Rome and the Guggenheim. Among her books are Out of Site: A Social Criticism of Architecture (1991); Architecture After Modernism (1996); Dopo il sogno: Architettura e città nell’America di oggi (2008); Italy: Modern Architectures in History (2013); and Aldo Rossi e il Municipio di Borgoricco (2014). Her most recent book is Aldo Rossi and the Spirit of Architecture (2019).

27


Walls That Speak

Notes

1 “Admiror, O paries, te non cecidisse ruinis qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas,” epigram found in ­Pompeii, author unknown. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, ed. C. Zangemeister and R. Schoene, vol. 4 (Berlin: ­Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1898), nn. 1904, 2461, 2487. 2 The original quote comes from the Latin writer Horace in his Ars Poetica, where he wrote “ut pictura poesis”; Simonides, as quoted by Plutarch, also wrote “Poema pictura locguens, pictura poema silens” (poetry is a speaking picture, painting is silent poetry). 3 Julien-David Le Roy, The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece, Historically and Architecturally Considered, ed. Robin Middleton, trans. David Britt, vol. 2 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Center, 2005), 377. 4 Jay Shockley, “Gansevoort Market Historic District Designation Report” (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2003). For access to Historic District Designation Reports, see http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/ publications/designation_manhattan.shtml. 5 Landmarks Preservation Commission, “Hearst Magazine Building, LP-1625” (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1988), 1. 6 “Ladies’ Mile Historic District Designation Report” ed. Marjorie Pearson (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1989). 7 Le Roy, Monuments of Greece, 371–72. 8 Mary Gaitskill, Veronica (New York: Knopf, 2005). 9 “Piano is not good.” Kurt W. Forster, “No Escape from History, No Reprieve from Utopia, No Nothing: An Addio to the Anxious Historian Manfredo Tafuri,” ANY: Architecture New York 25/26 (2000): 65. 10 Renzo Piano, quoted in the Whitney Museum’s description of the new building, “The Building,” Whitney Museum of American Art, accessed 14 April 2017, http:// whitney.org/About/NewBuilding. 11 Rossi famously referred to this column, this fragment of a palace to have been erected on the Grand Canal in Venice, in his Scientific Autobiography, trans. Lawrence Venuti (­Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), 6. 12 Donald G. Presa, “NoHo Historic District Designation Report” (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1999); Donald G. Presa, “NoHo East Historic District Designation Report” (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2003); Marianne S. Percival and Kathryn Horak, “NoHo Historic District Extension Designation Report” (New York: Landmarks Preservation ­Commission, 2008).

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13 To read “Five Points of Architecture” today is an exercise in pure entertainment: the tell-tale signs of an autocratic personality are all present. Supports are to be positioned “with no thought for the interior arrangement”; the “flat roof demands”; the “reinforced concrete demands”; and a vow that “a latent humidity will remain continually on the roof skin”— exactly what led to the mold and continuous leaking that vexed the owners of the Villa Savoye to the point that they finally abandoned it. Before the house became an improbable icon and underwent three complete renovations (read “reconstructions”), it was used as a hay barn, no doubt to the delight of mice and farmers. 14 “Un bâtiment d’ordre gothique est une espece d’énigme pour l’oeil qui le voit; et l’âme est embarrassée, comme quand on lui présente un poème obscur.” Charles-Louis Montesquieu, “Essai sur le goût,” in Encyclopédie; ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers ... par une société de gens de lettres, eds. Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, vol. 7 (Paris: Briasson, 1757), 766–70. 15 The best source for this understanding of Greek architecture is still the classic title by Vincent Scully, The Earth, The Temple, and the Gods: Greek Sacred Architecture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1962). 16 Hermann G. Pundt, “K. F. Schinkel’s Environmental Planning of Central Berlin,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 26, no. 2 (May 1967): 114–30; John Zukowsky, ed. Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1781–1841: The Drama of Architecture (Chicago: Art Institute and Wasmuth, 1994); Barry Bergdoll, Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia (New York: Rizzoli, 1994). 17 Vincent Scully, “The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods: Greek Sacred Architecture. Addenda,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 23, no. 2 (May 1964): 89.




SECTION I

Contrast and Coexistence

A Conversation with Bill Higgins 837 Washington The High Line Building Wythe Hotel The Williams 520 West 20th Street

32 36 44 48 56 60


A Conversation with Bill Higgins

Bill Higgins is one of the founding principals of Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, a consultancy specializing in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic properties. Bill and Morris Adjmi first met while working on the Scholastic Building, in New York’s SoHo, a project that marked the beginning of both their careers. Since then, the two firms have worked together on many projects in the city’s historic districts. Bill (BH) joins Morris Adjmi Architects partners Morris Adjmi (MA) and Wesley Wolfe (WW) , as well as writer Jimmy Stamp (JS) , to discuss their shared history, the importance of research and collaboration when building in historic districts, and the title of this book. JS:

BH: JS: BH: MA: JS: BH: JS: BH:

Bill, one of the first things Morris shared with me when we started this book was your statement that all his ­buildings begin with “a grid and a conversation.” Right. That was a very strong idea, so strong that it became the title of the book. I wondered where that phrase came from... It sounded familiar, right? Can you elaborate a little on this idea of “a grid and a ­conversation”? What exactly did you mean by it? I’ll tell you what I meant... I’m not exactly sure what I meant when I said it. Well, it sounds insightful [laughs]. In New York, the grid always means, or at least primarily means, the street grid from the 1811 ­Com­missioners’ Plan. But the grid also means a lot more, it seems to me, especially in relation to ­Morris’s architecture. The grid is the grid of New York City, yes, but it’s also kind of the way things are done here. The facades of buildings, particularly big urban buildings, always read as grids, whether

32

JS: BH:

JS:

they’re grids of punched openings in masonry or grids of glass framed in a contemporary curtain wall. Even the more outlandish buildings can be seen as deviations from, or deformations of, the grid. Exactly. That’s the fundamental idea. That, to me, gets at the “conversation” part. How do you respond to the grid? Taking it further, the grid is the way things are organized. It’s the power grid, it’s the project schedule, it’s the way things are built. I remember talking about Aldo Rossi a long time ago with Morris and one of the things said about Aldo is that he felt his designs should be built according to the way things were built at the time: the materials that are there, the methods that are there, the way things are done. All of that is “the grid.” It seems to me that your buildings are constantly in conversation with the grid; you can always read the grid in your buildings—sometimes literally, in terms of the way the facades are organized, and sometimes conceptually, as a response to “the way things are done.” So, Morris, is “the grid”—however we define it—some­ thing you consciously think about when you start a


MA:

JS: BH:

JS:

WW: MA:

BH: JS: BH: MA:

BH: MA: WW: MA: BH:

project, or is it just an unconscious part of the process? It’s a little bit of both. It’s a place to start. It’s like having graph paper, or a sort of module. We really start each project with a reference point or an organizing strategy. It’s how that grid, how that reference, gets modified or treated that makes each building what it is. That’s why the buildings have a recognizable relationship to each other. But at the same time they’re all different, they’re all individual. And that’s the conversation. Right! So what we’re talking about is not exactly a con­ versation and a grid but a conversation with the grid, where the grid is all this given stuff—it’s the graph paper—and then, as you work with it and interact with it, it tweaks, it changes, it’s both expressed and modi­ fied. One of the things about the 837 Washington project is that it occurs where two grids intersect—the earlier grid of Greenwich Village and then the later grid of the Commissioners’ Plan—and then the High Line shoots through it at an angle. The grid is getting tweaked, and impacted, so that things happen that sort of set it in motion. I think that 837 is probably the best example in the firm’s portfolio of what happens when a grid meets another set of ideas or energy flows. It is still recogniz­ able as a grid building, but it’s twisted into motion by the other forces that impact the site. It’s interesting, too, because this building was also shaped, in part, by the Landmarks Preservation Com­ mission. It evolved, in response to the LPC’s comments, from a higher, torquing tower, which was first pro­ posed, to something more like a twisted cube, which is a stronger idea. It’s the ultimate three-dimensional mani­ festation of the grid wrapping this entire structure. I hadn’t thought of the idea that this square grid made three-dimensional is a cube; that’s really interesting. I feel very good about those changes. We also modified the footprint of the building from when it was a tower, so that as built, it has that extra bit of heft to it, which strengthens the overall architecture. I don’t want to keep harking back to Aldo, but... You and Morris first met working with him on ­Scholastic, right? Yes. That was really your first project, too, of that type, right? You were mostly doing historic tax credits before that, weren’t you? You’re absolutely right. We were both beginners. And Scholastic was approved by Landmarks on the first draft, which was pretty amazing. We did have a secret weapon, though: Aldo. One of the things that fascinates me is the way the firm’s

work is grounded in Rossi’s ideas, but it’s also some­ thing very different. When 837’s original tower became this chunkier form, which from some perspectives almost looks like a pyramid, you’re certainly getting back to those primal forms that Aldo was always working with—the cylinder, the cone, the pyramid, the cube— and that DNA is very much in this design.

Primary forms MA:

There are examples of buildings that should have been taller. The Hearst building, to me, feels like it should have been 50 percent taller. The proportions of it—it’s a beautiful building, but it would have been enhanced by some additional floors. Whereas when I look at 837 Washington, I don’t think, “I wish it was taller, but oh well,” because it feels right in terms of the height; it doesn’t feel like you look at this and say, “You know what, they messed it up by reducing the height by three floors.”

837 Washington Street, New York BH:

It’s only been around for a few years, but we already look at it with different eyes. Now the shape it ultimately was built in starts to accumulate its own resonance in a very interesting way. Another thing: this is just a little riff that in New York the street grid is what shapes everything. The buildings kind of conform to the grid, and here, it’s the twisted peak part, the twisted struc­ tural part that’s on the outside, and the grid is contained within that, and it’s a kind of reversal—normally the grid shapes the building, but here the twisting structure is the container for the grid. You wonder how many of these ideas are in your mind consciously when the work is being done, and how many of them are in there but take a while to emerge.

33


CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

MA:

JS:

WW:

Well, for a long time I had a sketch on my desk of this framework with a building sort of suspended inside of it; it was almost like one of those industrial gas tanks supported by a thin armature, but the structure was more detached. With 837, the structure and the actual floor plates are more united, in a way, but that vaguely industrial sketch was the inspirational image. I think you’re drawn to images like that because on some level—maybe it’s unconscious—they resonate with a project in some way. The twists here also help to distinguish the addition from the historic base building, because the addition has its own independent movement. Both structures stand on their own.

Map of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, New York MA:

BH:

WW:

JS:

BH:

I like to think of these two buildings as coexisting on the site, as opposed to being a base building with an addition. So you have the existing historic ­building, the two-story building, and the new building comes through that, literally penetrates through the ground, the foundation. Twisting the building and ­pulling it away from the facade allows the existing ­building to have its own identity and to breathe. That’s one of the ideas we were always thinking about, that this is a case where the existing building is the site of the new building. The new building is not an addition—a rooftop addition, a tower on top, or ­whatever the usual terminology is. Instead, it’s some­ thing constructed being treated as a natural site for something new. And there’s something in there that’s similar to the High Line. It’s interesting that some of the schemes [by previous architects] were rejected by the LPC even though they were, maybe, more traditional additions or exten­ sions of the base. Let’s talk about that process. When you present a project like this—or any project, really—to the LPC, do you go in together? Tell me how that works. I know what you do, Bill, and I know what you do, Morris, but I don’t know exactly how you two work together. I’ve been plowing the ground for Morris for a long time.

34

Right [laughs]. Really, our collaboration starts a lot ­earlier than the LPC presentation. Bill gets involved pretty early on and then helps us develop a narrative for the project. The challenge [with 837] was to come up with a really creative, clear approach that was strong enough to explain and, if necessary, justify the design we were proposing. JS: I like that you used the word “narrative” when you were describing that and how you were presenting it. Bill, you have a background in English literature; do you think that informs the way that you present these ­projects? BH: Absolutely. Completely. It took me a while to realize this, but I look at buildings as cultural works, the same way you look at a poem or a work of visual art or sculpture. It turns out, by instinct rather than by design, it’s that way of looking at things—that sort of “humanities,” “liberal arts,” “English literature” way of looking at architecture in a historic context— that really informs our taste in architecture and our way of dealing with it. What we always try to do is to ­construct a narrative that doesn’t just describe the design. When the whole thing is working right, the narrative informs the design and informs the case that’s made for the design in the public review process. It’s not just a story grafted onto something. JS: Is that integrated design narrative something that ­distinguishes Morris Adjmi Architects’ work from other firms that you work with? BH: Yes, certainly. Working with these guys is very collaborative, and it’s something that I am grateful for, because it doesn’t always happen. JS: You often talk about a proposed building as partic­ ipating in a historic continuum rather than relating to a single, static moment in time. Have the ­commissioners always been receptive to that idea, or do they typically have a concrete idea of what a new building can and should be—as in, “this district is a so-and-so district, so the building needs to look like so-and-so?” Do they see a historic district as a moment or as a narrative? BH: Oh, I think they see it as a continuum, as a narrative, and they have always been open to creative thinking. Their goal is to approve new buildings that are simul­ taneously genuinely contemporary and genuinely rooted in their continuum of the past, and that’s a hard target to hit. But Morris and company have done it consistently. MA: That’s been part and parcel of what we’ve done from the beginning, to say that these may be historic dis­ tricts but they shouldn’t be preserved like a museum piece, frozen in time. They weren’t frozen in time MA:


A Conversation with Bill Higgins

MA:

WW:

Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn

JS:

BH:

MA:

BH:

JS:

when they were created, and they’ve never been frozen. Each district has its own story and its own architecture, but you see in districts like Ladies’ Mile, for example, a long and complex period of development that gives it its identity. You’ve got everything from small row houses and stables to very large department stores. But if you go to SoHo, it’s much more consistent just in terms of the cast-iron loft buildings. Obviously there’s some variation there, but the way we approach the projects is to under­ stand what’s relevant to or what’s informative in the designation report. Do you ever encounter resistance from the LPC or other members of the preservation community who just don’t want anything to change? First of all—this is another subject—there’s a flaw in the naming of “historic preservation.” I, for one, have never been able to find a better name, but “preserva­ tion” implies that you are keeping something; it implies a certain stasis in the face of change. It’s also kind of a long word, it’s a noun made out of a verb and it’s got this kind of Latinate complexity, but what it reflects is a really strong conservative strain within preservation. But the LPC has always, from the beginning, seen its goal as not just to keep things from changing but to help appropriate change. Couldn’t we also say that they’re preserving the integ­ rity of those districts? If you say that you’re preserving or maintaining the integrity, then you’re making sure that whatever comes is appropriate, and that’s really what it means. That’s a great distinction. I’ve never heard you make that point before. You can practice preservation by creat­ing new buildings, because what you’re preserv­ ing is the spirit and integrity of the place. But integrity can mean different things to different commissioners, and to different architects. Ideally, such disagreements will breed healthy debate to ensure that the best solutions get built. When you don’t have to go

BH:

WW:

BH:

through the LPC process, do you impose this rigor on yourself, in a way, in the office? Look at the Wythe Hotel, which was not in a ­historic district. We didn’t treat that building any differently than we would have treated a building in a historic dis­ trict. Would it have been different if it were? Maybe the addition on the top might not have been approved? I don’t know, but I like to think it would have been. It’s part of the story we were telling about that building and that part of Williamsburg. A lot of the projects are developer projects, and when they have to go through the LPC the developers have to do a facade or a design that’s probably more expensive than they would do on their own accord, were they not in the historic district. What’s true for architects goes for developers as well: the good ones embrace the process, and they realize that they’re creating a better piece of work as a result. And there’s the value of being in a historic district—­ cultural value as well as property value. That goes hand in hand with having to create something that’s of ­quality. One of the great triumphs of preservation, not only in New York but everywhere, is that it is now being ­recognized as part of the way things get done. It’s not a special interest. It’s not a bunch of old folks march­ ing with signs. It really is part of the process. That goes back to the idea of the grid—it’s part of the process in the same way that other forms of regulation are part of the process, and I think that good architects create good buildings because of, not in spite of, the particu­ larities of the situation the buildings are created in. You know, preservation is, in a way, just one more peculiarity of site. It’s become kind of archaic to deal with developers or architects who think that the LPC process is just something you’re supposed to bang against and wear down, or get around. That’s an ­old‑fashioned way of dealing with it. And, you know, working with Morris and Wes is a different way. The LPC process is not something you two just bang up against; it’s something that is truly part of your creative process. It’s part of the conversa­ tion. It’s why your buildings are so eloquent.

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837 Washington

Located at a point of convergence between the rigid street grid of the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan and the older, more picturesque streets that define Greenwich Village, 837 Washington Street embodies the cultural, economic, and political forces that shape New York City. The project repurposes a two-story structure built in 1938, during the last major phase of historic development in the Gansevoort Market area, which was spurred by the completion of the West Side Elevated Line. Low-slung brick buildings like 837 were designed and built specifically to accommodate the needs of the new poultry- and meat-related businesses that gave the neighborhood its more famous moniker: the Meatpacking District. Today, the district is better known for boutiques than butcher shops, but it is still strongly influenced by the former elevated railway that has, since its conversion into the High Line elevated park, spurred upscale commercial and residential development. The challenge in designing 837 Washington was to preserve the architectural integrity of the original building, and the historic district as a whole, while integrating new commercial space to reflect the contemporary forces shaping the district. To design a building that both stands out and fits in, the project was treated as two distinct but coexisting buildings: one that stands out—a new twisting steel and glass tower—and one that fits in—the restored Modernestyle brick warehouse. Although the 1938 building appears quite ordinary, it is an exemplar of the structures that define the Gansevoort Market Historic District. To maintain this distinct sense of place, the restoration retains its gritty charm as well as its architectural idiosyncrasies, including the unique two-tone brick facade and the ad hoc arrangement of garage doors and loading bays, which now functions as a dynamic series of storefront windows. A new glass and steel canopy evokes the original cantilever (sans hanging carcasses), and second-story windows have been replaced with historically appropriate factory-style sashes. All of these features influence

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2014 New York, New York 52,000 square feet 6 stories Commercial

1 View south toward 837 Washington. Despite its distinct form, the structural steel exoskeleton feels sympathetic to the warehouse buildings of the Gansevoort Market Historic District.



CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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2 The original structure, built in 1938, was occupied by meat and poultry businesses for almost 70 years. Its brick facade, metal canopy, and low height contribute to the character of the historic district. 3 An early concept rendering of the twisting addition, showing an orthogonal steel frame. 4 The orthogonal 1811 Commissioners’ Plan grid and the more angled West Village streets meet in the Gansevoort Market Historic District.

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5 837 Washington’s torquing steel form was partially inspired by the deformation of old rail structures. This former Hudson River pier was once used to transfer freight from trains to barges. 6 An aerial view of the construction process illustrates the twisting of the building’s floor plates. 7 A structural detail of the exterior column assembly.


837 Washington

the design of the tower above: the mullions that divide the tower’s curtain wall are identical in proportion to the windows below, and the brick-clad core uses colored mortar and soldier courses to reference the colored brick banding on the original building. Though informed by its base, the tower stands above it in stark contrast. With its pronounced setback from the lower building, the design respects this difference, and the four-story addition reinforces the original structure’s contribution to the character of the historic district yet allows the tower to make its own contribution. Its form is drawn from the broader context of the city. The rotation of the floor plates—which was refined in dozens of physical models and recalls Richard Serra’s torquing steel sculptures—embodies the collision of Manhattan’s two street grids and the rotation of the city’s gridiron plan in Greenwich Village. The angled structural exoskeleton, based on engineering principles that recall those of old railroad structures, evokes the High Line while eliminating the need to divide the interior spaces with load-bearing walls or columns. 837 Washington confidently balances the industrial language of the Gansevoort Market Historic District with the contemporary but architecturally sympathetic language of the tower. The distinct design and prominent site have helped make 837 Washington a flagship location for electronics maker Samsung, which has embraced the building as a site for art, fashion, and technology exhibitions.

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CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

8 View east from the High Line. The elevated park’s juxtaposition of native planting and industrial railroad trestle informed a similar relationship between window wall and structural steel frame at 837 Washington. 9 View across 13th Street. The ostensibly haphazard arrangement of ground-floor storefront windows and doors is the result of adapting the existing garage doors and loading bays.

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837 Washington

10 Taking a cue from the High Line, beds of native plants fill the angled spaces created by the rotating floor plates. This integrated landscaping enlivens the interior spaces and reduces stormwater runoff.

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CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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837 Washington

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11 View southeast from the High Line across Washington Street. The transparency of the upper floors attests to the open plan enabled by the building’s structural exoskeleton. 12 Washington Street elevation. The thin horizontal striping of the vertical core, visible behind the tower, was inspired by the original building’s striped facade. 13 13th Street elevation.

14 Plan, floor 2. The existing brick building and the lowest portion of the new glass curtain wall intersect at the second floor. A small setback along 13th Street preserves the massing of the original structure. The columns extend through the building to support the torquing form above. 15 Roof plan. An open deck occupies nearly the entire roof. The plan illustrates the extent of the floor rotation through four levels.

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The High Line Building

Many of the original buildings that once lined the High Line have been demolished to make way for luxurious new mid-rise buildings. The High Line Building, however, embraces the history of the elevated railroad with a design that is literally and figuratively tied to the structure for which it is named. Located just outside the western boundary of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, the new glass and steel tower rests on a former meatpacking plant pierced through by the industrial railroad turned postindustrial park. While preservation of the 1938 Art Deco building was not required, it is the only structure actually tied into the railroad trestle, and destroying it would have meant losing a part of New York City history. Reusing it, on the other hand, is both a respectful and historically apt gesture. Many of the early buildings in the Meatpacking District were adapted rather than demolished as the neighborhood evolved. The addition continues this practice even as it helps establish a new architectural scale. Like the High Line itself, the High Line Building illustrates the value—cultural and economic—in preserving and reinvigorating industrial structures with thoughtful, contemporary interventions. The 103-foot-long, 30-foot-high tunnel passing through the old meatpacking plant initially raised concerns about structural loads, but the design team worked closely with engineers to ensure the rail platform and former plant could support the addition. To accommodate this unique condition, the tower’s vertical core is split into two components. This division has the added effect of giving the building a striking transparent quality and a sense of lightness that is heightened by the single-story glass enclosure separating the tower and base. The steel-framed addition and the original brick structure are otherwise unified by a contemporary charcoal coloring that not only ties together the two principal volumes but also the neighborhood’s industrial past and its upscale future.

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2011 New York, New York 100,000 square feet 15 stories Commercial

1 The rigid geometry of the operable, factory-sash windows is broken by a subtle indentation on the north facade. The inward bend indicates the angle at which the High Line bores through the original structure.



CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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2 This c. 1930 photograph shows the original meatpacking plant before the construction of the West Side Elevated Line at 14th Street. 3 Massing model showing the size and opacity of the tower block relative to the adapted brick base. The glass enclosure separating the new and old volumes makes the addition appear to float above the existing warehouse.

4 Seen here in a 2009 photo taken during construction of the first phase of the High Line, the 1930s meatpacking plant has the distinction of being the only extant building that shares its structure with the repurposed rail trestle. 5 A 2011 photograph looking west toward the recently completed High Line Building.


The High Line Building

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6 North elevation. An entry stair leading up to the elevated park stands in front of the High Line Building storefronts on 14th Street. 7 Typical plan, floors 7–15. The dual building cores were designed to accommodate the passage of the High Line, whose path through the building is reflected by the subtle angles on the north and south facades.

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8 Plan, floor 2, showing the path the High line takes through the former meatpacking plant and the columns that support the upper floors.

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Wythe Hotel

The Wythe Hotel occupies a former cooperage in a once-thriving industrial district in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Built in 1901, it was located just a few blocks from the bustling commercial ports of the East River. A century later, it had long stopped producing barrels and was being used as a storage building at the margins of a very different, increasingly affluent Williamsburg. The passing of time made the five-story brick structure a local landmark. The challenge was to make this derelict landmark a destination hotel. From the earliest design sketch, the project comprised three critical elements: a restoration of the original building, a contemporary roof addition, and a bold new sign. Williamsburg is not a designated historic district, but the brick cooperage is exactly the type of architectural artifact that draws people to Brooklyn, so it was vital to retain that sense of authenticity while restoring the building—not an easy undertaking. The building’s wood ceilings were in disrepair, and its brick walls were damaged, poorly painted, or defaced with graffiti. For months, layer after layer of paint and grime was scraped and sandblasted away from the original wood and brick in a deliberate process that captured just the right amount of historic residue. The resulting palimpsest reveals traces of different eras in the building’s history. Far less subtle was the removal of a 20-foot bay from the west side of the brick building. In its place a glass window wall, modeled after the original factory windows, encloses the building to satisfy light and air requirements while granting to the hotel rooms sweeping views of Manhattan. The gridded glass facade extends up, past the roofline of the original building, to enclose the rooftop addition, an airy four-story glass block that offers a stark contrast to the solid brick mass below. The rooftop bar has become a popular nightlife spot, thanks in part to a panoramic vista of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline. Inside the former barrel factory, new concrete slabs raise the old floors by 22 inches. This simple gesture makes it possible for guests to see

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2012 Brooklyn, New York 43,000 square feet 9 stories 70 guest rooms Hospitality

1 View north along Wythe Avenue. According to local myth, the concave corner that now broadcasts the hotel’s presence was originally used to lower barrels down the building.



CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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2 Archival photographs showing the exterior of the 1901 cooperage before restoration. The cleaned and restored brick facade retains its postindustrial allure. 3 The first concept sketch shows the three components of the Wythe: the existing structure, the addition, and the sign. This sketch is remarkably similar to what was eventually built, with the notable exception of the sign, which was moved from the roof to the corner.

4 Archival photograph showing cooperage interior before restoration. The old factory windows provided ample natural light but were too high to offer generous views. This was remedied by raising the floors with new concrete slabs.


Wythe Hotel

out of the high factory windows and also provides a sufficient fire rating to permit the exposure of the existing timber ceilings. Additionally, the slabs conceal the building systems, allowing the Wythe’s spacious rooms to highlight the architecture of the original building. So too does the custom furniture, much of which was built by local fabricators using wood salvaged during the renovation. But the clearest indicator of the building’s past is found in the hotel’s lobby, where a conveyor belt that once moved barrels remains in place as an artifact and art object, winding along the ceiling and connecting the hotel to its history. Tying everything together is the third component: a large neon “hotel” sign installed in the concave corner at the intersection of Wythe Avenue and North 11th Street. The striking neon notice announces the hotel and simultaneously draws the eye up the brick facade to the glass addition. Since opening, the Wythe has earned a reputation as one of Brooklyn’s hippest hotels and has become a destination for visitors and locals alike. More important, it is often cited as a model of how to revitalize old industrial structures in a manner that respects history while also expressing an understanding that buildings belong not to a single moment in time but to a continuum of experience and memory.

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CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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Wythe Hotel

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5 The removal of the westernmost bay brings more light and air into the Wythe Hotel and creates private outdoor space for the second-floor rooms.

6 A look inside one of the Wythe’s guest rooms shows the intersection of the original building and the new window wall, which was designed to complement the historically accurate factory-style glazing in the brick wall.

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CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

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7 View west toward the Wythe Hotel, shown in its Williamsburg context against the backdrop of the East River and Midtown Manhattan.


Wythe Hotel

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8 Plan, floor 7. The glass addition accommodates larger duplex units. 9 Typical plan, floors 3–5. The new glass wall lines the west face of the hotel in place of the original brick bay.

10 Plan, ground floor. The Wythe’s lobby, restaurant, and event spaces are at street level.

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The Williams

Located on the site of a former baked goods manufacturer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Williams apartment building is surrounded by the Brooklyn– Queens Expressway, the Marcy Avenue J/M/Z elevated subway line, and the Williamsburg Bridge. While proximity to trains is almost always desirable in New York City real estate, here the intersection of transit infrastructure isolated the eclectic block of warehouses and brownstones and may have contributed to a slower rate of residential development than elsewhere in the otherwise rapidly growing Williamsburg area. The site, therefore, required a contemporary building that would draw new residents to the area while at the same time balancing the grand scale of the roadways and railways with the smaller brick townhouses and warehouses integral to the character of the neighborhood. The Williams consists of two distinct elements, both clad in dark gray brick: a two-story plinth and an 11-story tower. The plinth resembles a repurposed warehouse but is, in fact, a new structure designed to evoke the industrial architecture that attracts many residents to Williamsburg. The warehouse-like massing and fenestration relate to the immediate context and scale of the street, while the ground-floor retail and community spaces encourage new pedestrian activity and provide amenities for the building’s tenants. The tower, wrapped in a brick grid that articulates three-story bays, rises up from the center of the plinth’s landscaped roof. The bays are defined by deep metal frames and subdivided by alternating metal spandrels and operable, factory-style windows. The mid-rise building is designed to attract residents who want to embrace everything of Williamsburg, from the landscape of old warehouses and factories to contemporary boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. But it also contributes something new to the area: an architectural scale that rivals the nearby infrastructure while respecting Brooklyn’s history and built fabric.

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2016 Brooklyn, New York 90,000 square feet 13 stories 82 units Residential

1 The tower of the Williams is wrapped in a brick grid that gives it a bold graphic quality reminiscent of the nearby Williamsburg Bridge. As one of the first ­mid‑rise towers in this part of Williamsburg, the residential structure offers unobstructed views in every direction.



CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

2 & 3 The building’s lobby, which is finished primarily in dark wood and tile, a palette that resonates with its exterior, includes a feature wall of dark green copper panels salvaged from the bakery that originally occupied the site. The dark wood motif continues throughout the Williams’ public spaces, including the main residential lounge.

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The Williams

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4 Plan, floor 3. The 11-story tower is pulled back from all four edges of the plinth, which reduces its perceived height from street level as well as the din from automotive and train traffic. A 26,000-square-foot landscaped roof terrace atop the base offers garden plots, generous green spaces, a dog run, and an outdoor cinema, among other amenities. The roof of the tower features additional dining and lounge areas and an outdoor kitchen. 5 Typical plan, floors 7–13. All 82 apartments are generously sized; larger units offer master bedrooms and en suite bathrooms.

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520 West 20th Street

This commercial office building, located just off the High Line in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, incorporates an existing brick structure that is one of the few vestiges of the renowned art district’s industrial past. Rather than compete with the high-profile architectural spectacles that have risen as part of Chelsea’s transformation, the owners of 520 West 20th Street were intent on rehabilitating the old warehouse as a reminder of the neighborhood’s history. Hovering above it, however, a dramatic addition reflects more contemporary values. The design team barely altered the original warehouse, which was more recently used as a parking garage. The exterior was preserved exactly as found, with patches of discolored brick and faded advertisements left intact. Inside, the generous ceiling heights of the original building remain, as do original concrete, brick, and timber elements that imbue the office space with warmth and historic resonance. These same materials reappear in the new lobby, alongside board-formed concrete walls. A custom reception desk and large feature wall inspired by the work of Carl Andre, built using repurposed railroad ties that recall the nearby High Line, instill in the lobby an artistic sensibility fitting the gallery-dense neighborhood. The historic integrity of the warehouse is preserved with the help of two new vertical cores that support the glass and steel addition. Derived from car elevators that once anchored the building’s east and west sides, these cores carry vertical circulation and mechanical systems through both structures, emerging like masts to support the glass and steel box spanning between them. The three-story structure doesn’t just look like a bridge; it acts like a bridge. Although the new addition and the old warehouse appear to be completely unrelated, they are in fact shaped by their relationship with each other. The original building inspired the design of the addition, which, in turn, made it possible to more fully appreciate the features of the historic warehouse.

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2019 New York, New York 85,000 square feet 7 stories Commercial

1 Rendered view west. The stark contrast between the building’s two primary components is reinforced by the cantilever of the addition, which appears to float above the warehouse.



CONTRAST AND COEXISTENCE

2 Rendering showing how the mechanical equipment is incorporated into the design of the landscaped roof deck. Perforated metal screens surround the two vertical cores. At street level, the existing groundfloor spaces—originally designed for storage and loading—provide generous expanses suited for gallery or retail uses, with large glass doors marking the location of former garage doors. 3 Rendering showing the glass and steel addition, which offers contemporary, minimal office spaces that contrast with those inside the preserved warehouse. The enclosed area between the two elements features a wood-paneled ceiling that extends beyond the windows to clad the underside of the addition.

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520 West 20th Street

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4 Typical plan, floors 6 and 7. In the glass and steel addition, the building’s two vertical cores help structure 520 West 20th Street’s open, flexible office spaces along with housing vertical circulation and mechanical systems.

5 Plan, floor 5. The single-story glass-enclosed volume between the original building and the bridgelike addition accommodates various uses and features a wraparound, landscaped terrace. 6 Plan, floor 2. A typical office arrangement in the original brick building.

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SECTION II

A Modern Interpretation

A Conversation with Charles Blaichman 465 Pacific 55 West 17th Street 250 Bowery 30 East 31st Street One Hill South Front & York

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A Conversation with Charles Blaichman

Charles Blaichman has been developing, building, and managing real estate in the New York City area for more than 35 years. He is the founder of CB Developers, which is known for a commitment to good design, for building on unique and challenging sites, and for being at the forefront of development in burgeoning neighborhoods. Charles was also one of Morris Adjmi Architects’ first major clients. In this conversation, Charles (CB) and Morris Adjmi (MA), with writer Jimmy Stamp (JS), discuss their collaborations, Charles’s history in real estate, and the nature of the ­clientarchitect relationship. MA: You hired us for our first real building, our first piece of

architecture: 40 Gansevoort, the Theory Building. Aldo died in 1997. I officially started my office when that happened, but I was finishing the projects we started together—that took about three or four years. We count that as the beginning, but Gansevoort was the first original project. CB: Let’s see if I can remember how it happened. We got the site in the Meatpacking District, and we heard that they were going to landmark the neighborhood. We called around, talked to a few people, and I ended up with three names. Yours was one of them. We met and just hit it off. MA: Our first meeting was at Pastis, which was right across from the site. CB: Right, I remember. There was just something about your energy. You weren’t stodgy. The Landmarks Preservation Commission process can be heavy for a lot of architects, but you didn’t seem burdened by it. You just had a lot of ideas right away—“Why don’t we do this, why don’t we do that?” And I knew. We hired you.

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You know, I’ve said this a few other times—maybe too many times at this point—but I think the process makes for better buildings. And we’ve gone through this on every project together. We just did it with 363 Lafayette. JS: But at that point in your career, in the early 2000s, you hadn’t really gone through that process too many times. Were you honestly convinced, even then, that it would make a better building? MA: I had a false sense of security after going through the process with Scholastic. It’s not that I hadn’t dealt with Landmarks before; I just didn’t know how it would affect the project in terms of cost and time. CB: Really, Morris was the first one to get approval from the LPC in the Meatpacking District. It happened on the second try, which was incredible. MA: But Scholastic had gone through on the first try, and that was my benchmark. So I thought I blew it when 40 Gansevoort wasn’t approved the first time! But going through that process was formative, MA:


­obviously, and it enabled us to really look at the building and the district. We did a lot of research. CB: One part of development is design, and the other part is cost and time. I had dealt with the LPC before, but I didn’t know how it would affect the project in terms of cost and time. Sometimes going through the LPC requires a lot of extra design and then a lot of extra cost, but you came up with these brick panels and large windows, and when the numbers came in they were quite reasonable. MA: And it was built very quickly.

his first building. I never got that message during the process. I felt the energy. We shared a sensibility. That attracted me right away. I knew he was someone I wanted to work with. JS: Is that something you look for when you’re hiring an architect—a shared sensibility? An attitude or energy? CB: Yes. It has to feel like someone you can live with for a while. There was to be some kind of... you know, you’re having a relationship with somebody working on this project and you’re going to be sitting in a room with them a lot and you want to feel good about it. Because there’s a lot of stuff that comes up and there’s a lot of potential tension, especially if you don’t get along or if you’re not seeing eye to eye. MA: How did you get to be a developer? CB: My family was in development in New Jersey— houses and garden apartments, that kind of thing, so I started doing that. I wasn’t that interested in it but I did it, it was fine. I started building some single-family custom homes and townhouses in western Jersey. So I was in that business, and I didn’t love it, but I liked it.

Theory Building, New York JS: You reused the existing foundation, right?

That was another thing that helped with cost of the construction. CB: The only thing that caused a problem was the neighbors. We wanted to go one more floor higher but have a setback in the rear, which would have given the people behind us more light and air. But they said no, they were just concerned about the building’s height. So we lowered the building but took it out to the lot line. MA: We made bigger floor plates, and they had less light and air, but they got what they wanted... JS: Does going through the LPC process add extra cost because you have to prepare the documents or because you have to design a building specifically to make it complement the historic architecture? CB: At the time, we were trying to rush through to get something going, and we didn’t know how long it would take. People have gotten bogged down in the LPC for a year or more. We just didn’t know what was going to happen. Actually, it went really smoothly. MA: We had anticipated the landmark designation of the neighborhood and we worked on the design with that in mind. We knew it was coming through, and, two weeks after the district was designated, we presented the project. JS: Charles, when you decided to hire Morris, did it feel like a risk? It was, after all, his first substantial commission. CB: Not really. I had seen his work with Aldo. But to tell you the truth, I think I just learned right now that it was MA:

173–176 Perry Street by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, New York

Then the market crashed in 1988. One week we were building and selling houses in Putnam County, and the next week there was nothing. For years there was nothing. So from late 1989 to 1990, I was basically out of work. I had nothing to do; I was going crazy. Then a friend of mine was working in some artist’s house and overheard that there was the potential to renovate these two townhouses on MacDougal Street for another artist, Francesco Clemente. At the time, I had never done anything like that, but he asked if I wanted to do it and I said, Yeah, why not? I didn’t know who Francesco was, but I had to do something. So I said yes and I started doing it. I did that townhouse, then I got another townhouse, and then I was doing construction in the city— I’m giving you the long story. I hadn’t previously done any developing in New York except for my own townhouse, which I bought in 1988 before the crash—perfect timing! At least I had something to mortgage. Then I did this loft

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A MODERN INTERPRETATION

building on Greene Street, working with an architect. We sort of renovated six of these apartments, and suddenly I was doing architecture. Working in Jersey on these other kinds of buildings, we were just building from simple plans with maybe some crown molding, but this was a level of architecture that was much more complex. I had to learn on the job how this stuff works and what it entails. So I did those projects and I got hooked on architecture. The architects were interesting; the buildings were interesting. It became a whole thing. MA: One of the things that I think is incredible is that you went from working in western New Jersey or wherever to being at the forefront of all the neighborhoods that were developing in Manhattan. The Perry Street buildings you built on the West Side helped change the demographics of the Village. Same thing with the Soho House building. And the Theory Building. It seems like you were always a little ahead of the curve. JS: Was Theory your first project in the Meatpacking District?

Pastis and Soho House, 2006, New York

Actually, we bought the Soho House building first. When we were doing the Perry Street project, I’d go home via Greenwich, by the Meatpacking District, and see this building and think, “Wow, this is incredible.” Nothing was happening there at the time. It was still meatpackers. Then out of the blue I got a call from a broker about it. But there was a problem: we couldn’t get inside to see it. The tenant wouldn’t let us in. I said, “Listen, it’s a great price, but how can I buy something that I can’t see?” So I passed. About a year later, someone was doing a development near there and the guy offered me the building again, but this time I could go inside and see it. And now the price was a few million dollars more. MA: That was an expensive tour. CB: It really was. But I loved the building. And I’ve always loved that square coming up from Gansevoort where the streets open up. It’s the closest thing in New York to a kind of European space. I foolishly thought we could get them to change the zoning to residential because I didn’t think there was a commercial market for it. So CB:

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I called everyone I knew and said, “Let’s buy this building.” Some people got it; some people didn’t. Those of us who did took the plunge. Then we realized we probably weren’t going to be able to change the zoning. But Pastis restaurant was just about to open, and we knew it was about to be a whole different ballgame. The neighborhood was about to change. MA: How did you get Soho House as a tenant? CB: They came to us. First we had Jean-Georges Vongerichten open Spice Market on the ground floor. He was a partner in the Perry Street project and was probably one of the main reasons—I don’t know if he knows this—that Perry Street happened. I brought people down there to look at the place, and everybody said, “It’s sort of great, but where are we? What are we doing here? We can’t sell condos here.” Again, some people were interested, but a lot of other people didn’t get it. The original idea was to do two condo buildings and a hotel to the east. There was a garage there at the time, and so I brought Jean-Georges down there and said, “Maybe you’ll do a little hotel and connect it to these buildings?” We got up on the roof of that sixstory garage on Perry Street and he got it immediately. He loved it. MA: So he was the catalyst for Perry Street and then Soho House. CB: Right. When he said, “Let’s do this,” everybody else said, “Let’s do this.” He got everybody inspired. JS: So some people just had a visceral reaction and could see what it could be. CB: Jean-Georges was one of those people, and he was a known quantity, so he could convince those who couldn’t see it right away. MA: Is that what you have to do on all your projects— think a little ahead and then figure out how to get people excited about it? CB: It was like that up to a point. Now people all over the country are more willing to try emerging neigh­ borhoods. People are more familiar with these neighborhoods and less afraid to live in marginal places. There’s a lot going on in Queens, in the Bronx. All these established neighborhoods are being developed in their own right. It seems like they’re all primed for a new generation. But doing something on the Bowery when I did it, people didn’t get it. The only reason I got it is because I was around these neighborhoods. It’s not like I came from somewhere else; I lived ­downtown. I was always downtown. MA: But you’re consistently getting it. You did the West Side Highway when nothing was over there except adult shops and who knows what else. Same thing in Meatpacking. That was a sketchy neighborhood.


A CONVERSATION WITH CHARLES BLAICHMAN

CB: With the Meatpacking District, at the time, what inspired

how it feels to be in there, how it feels to look at it, how you interact with the building—as opposed to just building a building to put people in. There’s a lot more to it when you work with an architect. It’s exciting. They challenge and inspire you to think outside your box as a developer. Developers like to say, “Yeah, but what is it going to cost?” They’re worried about use and square footage and all these practical things. But an architect will say, “Dream a little bit, too, while you’re doing that.” That dream, that’s the fun part. It’s important that both forces are there. They have to interact. There has to be that pulling and pushing back and forth. That’s one of the things that Morris is so great at. He’s not afraid of the challenge of a developer’s reality. A lot of architects might say it has to be a certain way or their vision is destroyed. How about adapting that to my vision and making it something that works for both of us? For me that’s an important part of working with an architect. There needs to be a flexibility and an understanding of the realities that you both face.

me was the fact that Chelsea was to the north and the West Village to the south and there was no place else to go. You were sandwiched between these two great neighborhoods. I didn’t think about how long it would take to develop—actually, it happened much quicker than I thought. And once it started rolling, it went like crazy. JS: You also got in early on the High Line.

High Line Building, New York

That was one of those things where the people who had the vision for the High Line were great and had a lot of energy. The owners, however, were freaking out. They thought their property was going to be taken away from them. Owners thought their buildings were going to be destroyed. JS: How exactly? CB: They thought the government was going to take ­some­thing away from them, take away their rights as property owners. MA: There was an easement. CB: Right, but they were convinced that you can’t trust the government and it was not going to be a good thing. I finally convinced the guy who owned the warehouse that would become the High Line Building that it would be the best thing that ever happened to the building, which it turned out to be. JS: Was there always a belief that the High Line would become such a spectacle? CB: I didn’t think it would end up how it has. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. But it was great even before the development; when you walked it, it gave you a whole new perspective on the city. JS: So you went from these nondescript houses in New Jersey to working with some pretty impressive architects in New York. And you cultivated these relationships. What value does an architect add to a project? CB: They have the vision. I can have a concept, but they make it a reality. They see what makes a place special and what can be done. They take everything into consideration. It’s not just creating a form. It’s about CB:

Terra-cotta detailing at 363 Lafayette, New York JS: Would you want to add anything, Morris?

If we can help someone realize a dream, that’s the best job one could have. CB: You know, the developer has an idea and an understanding of certain things. The architect has the vision. Those things come together to make a building successful. JS: When you personally start a project, what do you have in your head? Do you have an idea of what it will look like, or just the numbers and square footage? CB: It depends on the project. It’s never just numbers for me. It’s thinking of the neighborhood and what it’s going to feel like to do something to a particular block. It’s about liking where you’re building and wanting to contribute something. That said, obviously the numbers have to work. But I’m not interested in this idea of “more, more, more”—spending more money to add more amenities so there is more of everything, just to cost more. The vision can’t just be “more.” I sort

MA:

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A MODERN INTERPRETATION

of like the idea of challenging neighborhoods or challenging sites, because fewer people are interested in them. It will keep a few people away—although now it seems like there are more people willing to take a plunge. In the old days, certain difficult sites or certain difficult owners were enough of a deterrent. Some of those meatpackers were really tough. It would take a year and a half of talking to make a deal. You had to nurture these relationships. You had to make sure they knew that you weren’t ripping them off and that you cared about the neighborhood—and I really did. I still do. JS: Speaking of challenging sites, right now you’re working together on 363 Lafayette, with that thin sliver of an extension. How’s that going? CB: It’s going to be a great building. It’s one of those instances where the LPC pushed us and it became a better building. JS: The final design really is a big improvement.

363 Lafayette, New York

The dark gray terra-cotta facade is really... It’s going to be beautiful. JS: It’s clear that you really do care about the places you build. You know them and you want to invest in them. CB: To some people, anything you develop is gentrification. You’re never going to please the hardliners in certain neighborhoods. But we try to do something that will fit and make people feel good in the end. JS: What’s the conversation like when you start a project? How do you communicate your idea to the architect and how do you collaborate? MA: Sometimes it’s more about a reaction to what we’re presenting than Charles specifically saying, “This is what I want.” He knows what he definitely doesn’t want. Maybe contrary to what he says, he does push. He wants those difficult sites, and he wants the buildings to be special. So that’s part of the process, trying to make something special. Also, I don’t view the constraints of budgets as a negative thing. It’s just part of the process, like the context. 40 Gansevoort, which was a very MA:

CB:

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cost-effective solution, isn’t limited by that. It’s a great­ looking building. I can’t tell you how many people call me up to ask for a building like that. Actually, I’ve found two that are almost identical—they’re literally bad copies. Couldn’t they at least do it better? They added some decorative stuff to it, but... CB: That’s what happens with good buildings. JS: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess. CB: Morris doesn’t do that, though. Although I’m definitely seeing more things done in his style. MA: Imitation just inspires me to do something different. I always want to do something different, of course, but it feels like you can’t move fast enough because people are always chasing you. JS: Are adaptive reuse projects like the High Line Building more difficult than ground-up construction? CB: Not necessarily. The High Line Building had its difficulties because of the structure and a few other compli­cations related to a nearby chicken-processing plant. JS: Back when there was still meatpacking in the Meatpacking? CB: Right. But in the end, it had its own challenges. Then again, we didn’t have to build a foundation there. I love adaptive reuse when we can do it. JS: As things are getting built faster and as the city is developing faster, does your job get harder? Do you have to make decisions faster and spend less time thinking about a potential site? CB: There’s a lot more competition for sites than there was. And it seems like there are a lot more people doing it—and a lot of people who have never done it, or don’t have a lot of experience but have a lot of money. It’s made prices go up to a point where it doesn’t always make sense to develop a site. It’s not worth doing a project just to do it. Morris, do you see any difference in your business? You’re busy.

The Girard, Philadelphia MA:

We’re busy. But for us, the biggest change in the last few years has been that we’re doing more work outside the city. Our work in the city hasn’t gone down—we still have a lot of projects here—but we’ve had a lot


A CONVERSATION WITH CHARLES BLAICHMAN

of growth. We’re working in Philly and D.C. and Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Chicago, and other ­cities. There seems to be a trend in all those cities that’s very similar to what’s happening in New York. People are going to neighborhoods that weren’t previously considered viable or interesting. A lot of these cities and neighborhoods are becoming active because they’re near transportation, even in L.A. Who would’ve thought that people would stop driving in L.A. to take light rail from Santa Monica to downtown L.A.? Other things like Uber or bike programs fill in the gap to help with the “last mile” from the station to the home. You don’t need to have a car that’s parked there all day. CB: The newer generations of people who are coming up in these neighborhoods really want to be part of a community. They don’t want to be isolated somewhere. Even in the suburbs, they’re starting to build more community-minded spaces. They want to be able to walk to stores and have some kind of urban experience. JS: Good architecture can make such a difference in creating a sense of place or an identity for a community. CB: Being totally dislocated from anything that’s going on from the city, in a high-rise—I’ve been in some buildings where it feels like you’re in an airplane. JS: It changes your relationship with the city in a pretty profound way. MA: The biggest disconnect now—for me, anyway— is that it’s either really bland and boring or it’s so overt and trying so hard to make a statement that there’s no fabric anymore. The fabric that creates cities is getting replaced by the biggest, most branded buildings. CB: That’s what I was saying before: “more, more, more” is boring. But that’s what happens a lot. These buildings just want to outdo each other. That’s not an idea. That’s not how you get good architecture. JS: Morris, how important is it to you to have a client who understands that? MA: It’s vital. It makes a better building, there’s no question. Charles is definitely one of those clients who lets us do our work and pushes us to do better.

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465 Pacific

While 465 Pacific Street is located just outside Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill Historic District, the contemporary condominium building still draws inspiration from the historic architecture of the neighborhood, known for its tree-lined streets and nineteenth-century brick townhouses. It was complicated to relate the building to its context, in part because there are actually two contexts: the lot zigzags through an entire block and has frontage on three streets, including Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. These parallel roadways are as different as the oceans for which they’re named: Atlantic is a four-lane truck route and one of Brooklyn’s primary commercial thoroughfares; Pacific is a quiet, one-way residential street. Rather than respond to these distinct conditions individually, 465 Pacific strikes a balance between the two. A lower brick volume evokes the historic district’s architecture. Along Atlantic Avenue, the wide facade and unbroken procession of windows fit in among the array of larger buildings that punctuate the sawtooth streetscape. At street level, metal-clad storefronts fill a gap in the commercial corridor. On Pacific Street, a narrower facade gives the building a more residential scale. The stepped-back upper floors are clad in charcoal-colored metal paneling that introduces a contemporary design language yet nods to both the ironworkers who once lived in this neighborhood and the detailed iron railings fronting many local townhouses. The setbacks are the result of an almost sculptural process of carving away from and adding volumes to the building, reducing its scale while providing direct access to private outdoor space for as many residents as possible. Those without private terraces have access to rooftop “cabanas.” Regularly spaced punched windows reinforce both the historical and contemporary aspects of the building. The proportions are identical to those of a traditional townhouse, although the metal-framed, single-pane windows themselves are slightly larger. The punched apertures make the units— some with three exposures—feel more spacious and also help mediate the commercial and residential scales of Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.

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2017 Brooklyn, New York 85,000 square feet 7 stories 30 units Residential

1 View south toward the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Nevins Street. The long, continuous facade along Atlantic Avenue comple­ ments the larger scale of the commercial corridor.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

2 & 3 The apartments at 465 Pacific feature large open plans, Shaker-inspired custom cabinetry with walnut pulls, marble counters, and oilrubbed oak and herringbone tile floors. These materials give the interiors a lightness and warmth consistent with living in a historic district.

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465 Pacific

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4 Section. 465 Pacific’s living units are divided between two linked buildings separated by a courtyard. The tiered design results from a change in grade from Atlantic Avenue to the lower Pacific Street, and also from the change in ground-floor programs—retail space on Atlantic Avenue and a parking garage on Pacific Street.

5 Plan, floor 2. The larger tower on Atlantic Avenue includes a double-height lounge and kids’ play area in addition to two duplex units with private terraces. Across the courtyard, two lower terraces are connected to three-bedroom simplex units in the Pacific Street building.

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55 West 17th Street

This 19-story residential building exists between worlds. Not only does it bridge two unique Manhattan neighborhoods—Chelsea, the eclectic and diverse center of contemporary art in New York City, and Ladies’ Mile, the staid neoclassical commercial district—it also bridges two distinct design sensibilities: the understated refinement of modern architecture and the rough-hewn quality of traditional construction. The result is an unmistakably contemporary building that has the warmth and familiarity of classic New York City architecture. This balance was achieved primarily by bringing texture to the building with a distinct palette of materials—most notably, white Petersen brick. This extra-long, rough clay brick is hand-made according to a centuries-old tradition that uses wooden molds along with a firing process that gives each brick a slightly different texture and shade. Although nothing in the area is exactly like it, the brick evokes the historic masonry buildings found throughout Chelsea and Ladies’ Mile, as well as the nearby Flatiron District. The connection to the past is reinforced by 55 West 17th Street’s composition, a familiar three-bay, tripartite scheme informed by zoning codes and tradition. Similar to the grand department stores of Ladies’ Mile, the building’s entry and lower floors are treated distinctively, with bronze-colored metal cladding decorated with an abstract pattern of overlapping circles. Other than the metal detailing and a subtle cornice topping the two narrow outer bays, the facade is relatively devoid of ornament. Its modernist quality is reinforced by single-pane tilt-and-turn windows whose regularly spaced bronze-colored metal frames sit flush with the white brick to create a pronounced, almost graphic, grid. The rear facade, which wraps around two sides of a landscape courtyard, is clad in a superscaled, weavelike brick pattern that further accentuates the windows. The building’s 53 condominium apartments, ranging between one and four bedrooms, have open plans that maximize the available light and

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2017 New York, New York 115,000 square feet 19 stories 53 units Residential

1 55 West 17th Street’s lobby features projecting wall panels, integrated seating, and a custompatterned floor composed of two different types of marble.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

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2 Handmade brick gives the 17th Street facade a human scale and sense of craftsmanship that contrasts with the much more precise grid of oversized single-pane windows.


55 West 17th Street

3 Close-up of the metal ornament at 55 West 17th Street.

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space. Rich interior finishes—wide-plank white oak engineered flooring, marble counters, and custom oak cabinetry with oil-rubbed bronze hardware—reinforce the concept of the building in offering the best of both the old world and the new. From its public facade to its most private spaces, 55 West 17th Street has a clear affinity with the historic buildings that define New York City’s urban fabric. This feeling is rooted in the use of ornament and handcrafted materials in a manner that is integral to the building’s design. As the city continues to grow and change, buildings like 55 West 17th Street, which balance historically inspired details with contemporary expression, provide a sense of architectural continuity that will help ensure, in a visceral way, that New York City always feels like New York City.

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A MODERN INTERPRETATION

4 The dark, saw-cut finishes on the kitchen cabinets create a striking contrast with the wide-plank oak floors. 5 & 6 Notable elements of 55 West 17th Street’s double-height residential lounge include plaster walls, access to the central courtyard, and custom concrete pavers that match the proportions of the exterior brick cladding. A spiral stair finished in walnut leads up to a small screening room.

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55 West 17th Street

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A MODERN INTERPRETATION

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55 West 17th Street

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7 View east along West 17th Street. 8 Plan, floor 13. Two four-bedroom duplex units feature private terraces created by a setback. 9 Typical plan, floors 2–12. 10 Detail drawing. A pattern of overlapping circles surrounds the building’s metal-clad base.

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250 Bowery

In Luc Sante’s Low Life, a seminal depiction of turn-of-the-century New York City, the Bowery is described as the “shadow” of Broadway. Dating back to the Civil War, the Lower East Side neighborhood has been home to the city’s down-and-out population as well as to brothels, beer halls, boarding houses, and less reputable theaters. Its long history has yielded an eclectic mix of architecture, though few buildings of true significance. In the early twenty-first century, however, the Bowery began to transform. Museums, galleries, and destination restaurants opened alongside tenement buildings and restaurant supply stores, adding a grander scale to the gritty thoroughfare. If the Bowery is currently characterized by any one thing, it’s change. 250 Bowery was conceived in this spirit. Designed in collaboration with Aldo Andreoli, 250 Bowery is a contemporary glass and metal building that stands in stark contrast to the mix of nineteenth-century buildings lining the Bowery. Although the loft structure was designed with the future of the neighborhood in mind, it strives to be sensitive toward its present context: a muted facade subdivided by a hierarchical system of layered grids helps mitigate the building’s perceived scale while giving it a surprising depth. Metal channels frame the building and divide its mass into gridded sections that are two floors high and two bays wide; set within that giant order, flat cruciform panels define a smaller grid containing factory-sash windows. The eight-story building houses 24 condominium units, including duplex penthouses, and has a landscaped terrace on the roof and a retail and exhibition space at ground level. 250 Bowery was one of the first upscale residential buildings constructed on the historic street. Along with the nearby New Museum and other projects, it is reinvigorating the old neighborhood with a new architectural scale and cultural amenities that are drawing a spotlight onto the former “shadow” of Broadway.

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2013 New York, New York 48,000 square feet 8 stories 24 units Residential

1 View west across the Bowery to 250 Bowery’s front facade.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

2 250 Bowery’s apartments are finished with wide-plank white oak floors, custom cabinetry, and high-end fixtures. Duplex units feature double-height spaces and private roof terraces. 3 A composition of layered grids defines the building’s one-foot‑deep facade. A primary grid of metal chan­ nels is sub­divided by cruci­form panels framing a smaller grid of factory-style floor‑to-ceiling windows with operable center panes.

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250 Bowery

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4 & 5 Plan, floors 7 and 8. 250 Bowery’s four duplex units feature open floor plans and enormous windows that make up nearly the entire outer wall. 6 Typical plan, floors 2–6.

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30 East 31st Street

NoMad is one of the few neighborhoods in Manhattan that doesn’t have a distinct identity or clear boundaries, in part due to its central location and eclectic architecture. Anchored by Madison Square Park, the area has been home to the elite families of the Gilded Age, the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley, and the 1913 Armory Show that introduced modern art to America. NoMad transitioned from an opulent residential neighborhood to a popular commercial district, then to a bawdy entertainment district, and then finally back to an upscale neighborhood. As a result, its blocks are sprinkled with churches, mansions, hotels, and high-rises in a range of revival styles. Inspired by this rich history, 30 East 31st Street weaves together threads from Gothic Revival churches, Art Deco office buildings, and transitional skyscrapers like Cass Gilbert’s New York Life Building. The entrance to the 40-story residential tower is marked by an ornamental metal canopy and fluted terra-cotta piers that rise eight floors. As the building steps back, the thin, ribbonlike piers continue up the facade, creating bays of brass-colored, metal-framed windows, before interlacing to form an elegant lattice crown with pointed arches that recall Gothic windows and Art Deco details. This Gothic-inspired motif recurs throughout the building in door and window frames, light fixtures, and other details. Inside, the open-plan units feature natural stone surfaces, wide-plank oak floors, walnut cabinetry, and floor-to-ceiling, single-pane windows. The full-floor penthouse apartments are distinguished by triangular windows created by the interlacing piers—an effect reminiscent of the windows in the crown of the Chrysler Building; one duplex residence opens onto a large private terrace with views of upper Manhattan. From street to skyline, 30 East 31st Street combines historic influences, refined detailing, and rich materials to offer a contemporary update on the classic New York skyscraper.

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2019 New York, New York 92,000 square feet 40 stories 42 units Residential

1 Rendering illustrating the formation of 30 East 31st Street’s lattice crown.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

2 Rendering looking north. 30 East 31st Street’s Gothic-inspired crown will be a distinctive addition to the New York City skyline. 3 Rendering looking south toward Madison Square Park. The upper-level penthouse units feature triangular floor-to-ceiling windows formed by the lattice wrapping the top of the building.

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30 East 31st Street

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4 & 5 Plan, floors 9 and 10. The three-bedroom “select”duplex apartment features operable full-height windows that open onto a large private terrace. Other amenities include an en suite master bathroom, a freestanding soaking tub with western and northern views, and a large kitchen, designed for entertaining, that spans nearly the entire lower level. 6 Typical plan, floors 11–37. The two-bedroom units span the entire floor, with full-length windows lining both the front and back of the apartment.

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One Hill South

One Hill South is a new apartment building occupying half a block in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard. Its checkerboard pattern of two-story projections resulted from an inventive interpretation of a local zoning allowance, one that is more commonly used to build bay windows. The staggered volumes distinguish the 13-story glass structure from similarly scaled office and residential buildings rising throughout the rapidly developing neighborhood. The building’s deceptively simple appearance belies its highly technical execution. The facade functions as a window wall along the slabs at the top and bottom of each projection and as a curtain wall in front of the slabs in between; sections of the assembly are built from carefully selected spandrel glass used to conceal One Hill South’s concrete structure and mechanical systems. The regular rhythm of the vertical fins, which are finished with a custom coating, give the facade depth and a sense of movement. The projections create pairs of alternating floor plates, which provides multiple options for tenants interested in one of the 383 studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments arranged around the building’s central courtyard. Each unit features an open plan and luxurious finishes, including oak floors, walnut cabinetry, and marble surfaces. Resident amenities include a fitness center and private lounges with views onto the courtyard, as well as a large landscaped roof terrace with a swimming pool and outdoor dining areas. One Hill South will soon be joined by an adjacent sister structure that is wholly unique but complements the rhythm, form, and feeling of the original building. The new building at 950 South Capitol Street will complete the block, enclosing One Hill South’s courtyard and continuing the transformation of Washington’s Navy Yard.

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2017 Washington, D.C. 575,000 square feet 13 stories 383 units Residential

1 The superscaled volumes of One Hill South dovetail at the corner of I Street SE and Half Street.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

2 A metal canopy marks the residential entry on K Street. At street level, the building is wrapped in a brick that complements the custom metal finish.

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One Hill South

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3 Typical plan. The staggered volumes increase the number of apartment plans. 4 Isometric with One Hill South in the front and the anticipated 950 South Capitol Street in the back. The new residential building will connect to One Hill South and add 191 additional units as well as a private interior street and landscaped courtyard.

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Front & York

The Manhattan Bridge is the spine of the Dumbo Historic District, its monumental stone anchor as essential to local character as brick buildings and Belgian-block streets. In recent years, the nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-century factories and warehouses “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass” have been reborn as residential lofts and commercial spaces. Front & York is a new residential development inspired by the evolution of this postindustrial setting; like the bridge’s stone anchor, it is a bold contribution to the urban fabric that is emblematic of the neighborhood. Front & York occupies a full block; its total area exceeds one million square feet, but thoughtful massing reduces the perceived size. All four facades are pulled back 18 feet from the property line to create a generous new pedestrian zone lined with street-level retail spaces framed with metal arches recalling those on the rear facade of the Scholastic Building. Modeled after old reinforced-concrete warehouses, the design draws clear parallels to Dumbo’s historic architecture. The mixed-use base, which wraps around a multitiered, parklike courtyard, complements the scale of adjacent warehouse buildings, while the towers rising from the northwestern and southeastern corners align with recent developments nearby—and with the towers of the Manhattan Bridge. Front & York is clad in brick with a rigorous grid of operable factory-style windows framed by a continuous concrete superstructure. Inside, both the rental apartments and condominium units incorporate high ceilings, refined finishes, monumental marble slabs, and custom fixtures. The former factories of Dumbo were built first from slow-burning timber and brick, then reinforced concrete, and eventually steel, reflecting industrial architecture in the United States. Continuing this architectural trajectory, Front & York is an exemplar of contemporary industrial-style architecture.

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2020 Brooklyn, New York 1,200,000 square feet 21 stories 728 units Mixed-use

1 Rendering of Jay Street facade. The metal arches framing the street-level storefronts are a nod to both Aldo Rossi and the trusslike structure of the nearby bridge; they also help the building accommodate the 20-foot grade change across the site.



A MODERN INTERPRETATION

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2 Rendered view showing Front & York’s two towers. The towers, which are positioned to maximize views across the river toward Manhattan, are dedicated to one-, two-, and three-bedroom condominiums. Above the eighth floor, the building steps back to introduce private terraces.


Front & York

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3 Typical plan, floors 3–8. The double-loaded corridors offer residents a choice of views: into the landscaped courtyard or out to the city. 4 Isometric drawing. The window grid that defines the building’s facades changes subtly as it rises, with the windows expanding in size on each tier.

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Section III

Renew and Revitalize

A Conversation with Judith Saltzman The Schumacher 414 West 14th Street ROOST Spring Studios 134 Wooster

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A Conversation with Judith Saltzman

Judith Saltzman is a founding principal of  Li/Saltzman Architects, a New York City firm known for a thoughtful, research-intensive approach and an expertise in historic preservation. Morris Adjmi (MA) and writer Jimmy Stamp (JS) sat down with Judith (JLS) to talk about their collaborations, the underappreciated artistry of architectural restoration, and current debates within the preservation community. JS: MA: JLS:

MA:

JLS: MA:

JLS: MA:

JLS:

You two are working together right now, aren’t you? We’ve worked on a couple of projects together. At the moment we’re working on a through-block project: 21 West 17th Street/16 West 18th Street. There were two small existing buildings that were originally considered part of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. They were back-to-back on 25-foot-wide lots— one on 18th and one on 17th. Ten or eleven years ago, I had gone to the Landmarks Preservation Commission with a proposal to tear down the one on 18th Street and build something new. They didn’t approve the demolition and we retracted the application. The disc­us­sion at the time focused on the quantity of... ... historic fabric... ... that was left, and the fact that the building we wanted to demolish was one of the last remaining remnants of a stable in the historic district. You really couldn’t read it as a stable. But there was a lot of opposition, so we retracted the application. Ten years later we went back, and Judith was brought in to help make the case. We looked at the history and chronology of the area and reevaluated these buildings and their integrity and their contribution to the district and—I can say that

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JS: MA:

JLS:

JS:

I’ve done this very rarely in 30-plus years—I went in front of the LPC to say we felt they could be demolished. Both buildings? The 17th Street building as well? Right. They had two very different histories, two very different stories, so a separate case had to be made for each building, which we were able to successfully argue at the LPC. They approved the demolition and the design of the new building. The owner also owned an adjacent building, a large, 74-foot-wide through-block loft building. I said, “If we’re going to talk about the impact on the historic district, we need to be stewards of this adjacent building.” On 17th Street, it had all of its mechanical panels up against the existing storefront, which had been completely blocked, while on 18th, it had this original wood and metal and glass storefront. The owner agreed, and we added the preservation of this adjacent building into the mix, although it was not required. So these projects became linked together. Even though Morris’s new building wasn’t required to have a preservation component, we both felt—and the owners felt—that we should make as much of a positive impact on the street and on the district as possible. Okay, let’s zoom out a little for context. What are some


JLS:

of the challenges that are specific or unique to ­preservation architects? Part of it is just what we’re discussing: taking a critical look at what’s there and understanding an existing building in terms of its own integrity and changes over time, and the validity of those changes and the loss of integrity, as well as the contribution of the building to the historic district. And then there’s the introduction of new buildings within that context. To me, you have to look at it cohesively—not as a brick-by-brick analysis, but really as part of the city—to acknowledge what’s good about change, as well as what’s good about the past, to figure out the best way to bring forward a sense of vitality. People often say about preservationists, “They just want to freeze everything.” But the LPC wouldn’t exist if that were true, if they weren’t making an informed judgment about what’s appropriate. The whole process is more engaging than people realize. There aren’t these strict delineations about what’s right and what’s wrong. You have to look at the larger context because all of these buildings have changed time and time again, some for the better and some for the worse.

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Or look at Greenwich Village, where you see a number of buildings that had studio windows installed at some point. If you’re going to restore that building, do you strip out those windows and restore the roofline to the way it was? You have to be careful. You have to understand that a building isn’t fixed in time. It’s all part of a continuum. It’s constantly changing. The preservation community revisits this all the time. There were times when the changes from the 1910s or 1920s were really not very interesting to preservationists. But then they get revisited, you really look at the changes that were made in the early twentieth century, and you see how that reflects our history. So that type of rethinking and reevaluating, that’s what’s so incred­ible about preservation. It’s alive. I almost think that rooftop additions are the studio windows of our time. People are trying to maximize the value of their property, and they’re trying to find new ways to add space. When you look at buildings historically, they’ve been doing that forever! We’re working on a building, 41 Park Row, the site of the original five-story New York Times Building. George Post designed an addition that could be built while keeping the original building intact because the printing presses were there; they actually

21 West 17th Street, New York MA: JS:

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Right. Exactly. That’s a really interesting part of it: looking at changes over time and determining what contributes to the building’s integrity. There’s no specific time in history when the building was necessarily “right.” In most cases, that’s true. There are moments when it’s clear that it needs to be restored to a specific condition. But most of the buildings have changed so much. One of the things that’s amazing in Ladies’ Mile, for example, is that the historic buildings that started out as residences now tend to be commercial and the ones that started as commercial, or manufacturing lofts, tend to be residential. It switches, but the buildings, which are 100 or 150 years old, remain the same. The whole idea of their adaptability is, to me, what’s so fascinating about them.

414 West 14th Street, New York

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built a taller building around the old five-story one while keeping the presses in place and then removed parts of the original structure. So it’s like there’s a ghost of a five-story building in there. They had to come up with this incredibly creative way of doing this. This is part of the historical record. There’s an article in an old Scientific American about how they did it. So this has been going on for ages. That’s incredible. At the Schumacher, didn’t you find an old rooftop photo studio that was added later? I think it was part of the original building, but it had

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JS: MA: JS:

been extended to accommodate the studio. It was a sort of modern steel and glass addition. And that rooftop studio inspired your own rooftop ­addition. Exactly. We used a very similar glazing for our addition, so it’s all unified. The building was built in the nineteenth century, but do you know when the studio was added?

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Brick barrel vault at the Schumacher MA: JS: MA:

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Originally it was three separate buildings. At one point it was all joined together and that studio was added. Your project at 14th Street is kind of similar, except you were the one to join it together. There were three buildings there, too. One of the simpler things we did to join it together was to take a mold of the cornice and then reproduce it and extend it all the way across. It didn’t exist? Part of it existed. We also added the awning, which is common to the district and also helps unify the structures. This really speaks to what we’re talking about, evaluating and modifying a building but keeping it in tune with the district. Here’s a unified building, and that unity was produced with the cornice and canopy and other parts of the new design. There was much more to it. One of the buildings was painted brick—there were 37 layers of paint! But another was plastered over, and the other was tarred over. The brick is gorgeous now. We had to take it back. But the workers were jackhammering off the plaster and damaging the brick beneath. These were laborers, not masons; they didn’t have experience with this type of building. So we ended up dismantling the damaged pieces and flipping the bricks around so you can’t tell. What was also curious about that project was that the brick and mortar were slightly different, so we had to do a brick and mortar analysis and use two different mixes for the repointing. One of the things we do in our specifications is ask that the people who do the selective demolition work are

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actually masons, that they know how to protect the materials and salvage the materials. What’s the correct way to do something like that? You have to test. You have to find the least damaging, most effective way to remove paint or plaster. There are different techniques and different chemical solvents and different machines and different nozzles and spray distances. You have to really test all these things to ensure you don’t damage the original building. There are a lot of technologies that can be very deliberate and very controlled, but you have to use them right. For both of us, we enjoy the detective work and determining how to put things back together. Some people, when they have to work on a historic project, just go through the motions to get to the end. But we really enjoy the process. We’re not just enjoying the process, we’re learning from the process, which ultimately affects the design—and there is design in preservation. That’s what makes it so interesting. It’s not just doing the forensic analysis of a building. You have to look at it in relation to the history of the building and the history of the neighborhood. And you have to make a lot of aesthetic decisions. In the Schumacher and the Wythe, there was a lot of discussion about how to restore the brick. There was a lot of testing there, too. Morris said that when they first started restoring the Schumacher’s brick vaults they were too perfect. They didn’t feel right. Have you had an experience like that, where it was more important to capture a certain feeling than to restore something perfectly? Oh sure. It’s a constant balance. You have to evaluate the original intent. These vaults you’re talking about were functional, right? They’re working from a structural standpoint and they were never intended to be ornamental, but they’re incredibly beautiful. They’re built in a certain way that isn’t perfect. Sometimes the preservation world can be a little too careful. For instance, look at signage in New York. Buildings were covered with signage. Signs were painted on the roofs, they were hanging off the columns, they were in the windows. Our buildings weren’t pristine, and sometimes restoration can be a little too refined. You really have to look at the intent with which it was built and how it was used. There are things that were intended to be really fine, but that doesn’t translate across all building types and materials and methods. In the buildings of the modern movement, there was such a crispness and clarity. To re-create that in a restoration it’s sometimes necessary to use a new material. If you were trying to keep the original historic fabric, it would be aged in a way that wasn’t really in the spirit of the machinelike construction of modern architecture. It’s really looking and


A Conversation with Judith Saltzman

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questioning and thinking about the intent and the tech­ nologies and what was being produced and how to incorporate that into what you’re doing today, rather than just completing a checklist. I’m gaining a new appreciation for what’s involved with preserving and restoring buildings, and just how human the process is. How human it should be. Most of the time it is. It’s part of a bigger picture of the entire context, right? And you have to make a case. We’ve removed some historic fabric when somebody else may have chosen to keep it. You have to use all the pieces, historic pieces and contemporary pieces. That’s what you do. To ask another technical question, when you’re reproducing a cornice or historic element, how does that work today? Are you using traditional techniques or more contemporary technologies? Do you scan it? Do you make a mold?

a complicated question. Sometimes, in the world of preservation, there’s too much focus—in my opinion— on the authenticity of the original fabric over the work of architecture itself and what it means, what it expresses. That’s not to say one way is wrong or right: one should always consider the potential of doing something with original fabric. There are cases when things have been destroyed and we have to re-create them. It’s authentic in a different way, even if it’s expressed in another material.

Wythe Hotel sign by Tom Fruin MA:

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Removal of one bay at the Wythe Hotel

At 414 West 14th Street, the existing cornice was bent metal. We molded it and made a fiberglass reproduction that we painted. You can’t tell. Sometimes you have to match materials, though. It depends on the degree of accuracy you need to achieve—if you’re applying for a tax credit, for example. JLS: There are artisans out there who can create sheet metal cornices or whatever you need. Yes, they’re still out there! A lot of artists go into restoration. It’s great for us. JS: Are there different schools of thought among preservation architects? JLS: There’s a great philosophical discussion on authenticity in the preservation world. It’s an interesting conversation. It might be about a cornice, or it might be about a building destroyed during a war that has enormous symbolic meaning. Is it inauthentic to re-create something, even though it’s not the original fabric, when there’s a desire and a need to re-create it because it’s so important to the people who actually live there? It’s

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And like we’ve talked about before, there’s history to back that up, too. Cast iron, a very new material at one time, was used to emulate masonry. So it was a very new material imitating a very old material. And now there are historic materials like terra cotta that we’re using again. Previously, companies produced it only for sewage pipes or architectural restoration. But now they’re producing it for new designs and new buildings as well as for restoration. So you see these old material technologies being rethought as well. One of the things that’s fascinating with Boston Valley, a terra-cotta company we’ve worked with on a few projects now, is that they’re using advanced technology as well as a lot of traditional artisanal techniques. But the advanced technology is used for the restoration work and the artisanal techniques are used for new work. They’ll do a photometric scan of a historic facade, then use that scan to produce a positive using a five-axis CNC machine, and then they’ll make a cast of it. That is fascinating. It makes sense, but at first it seems counterintuitive. We use laser scanning whenever we can. It’s a great way to get data at the start of a project, especially if you’re working on a church or theater where the original elements can be hard to access. With the artisanal techniques, do you get a sense that there’s a growing interest in that, a return to ornament? Well, I think so. You’re seeing more terra cotta now. But it’s not just ornament. It’s so versatile. It’s a kilndried clay that can be natural or glazed. But then there

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are so many different processes that you can do, from applying texture to it to different ways of manufacturing it. It can be extruded, slip-cast, ram-pressed—we used that on 21st Street, for those neo-Gothic crossed forms. We try to create something new that celebrates history, even when there’s not an explicitly historical component to a project.

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I wanted to take a peek at the ceiling above the tile, so I got up on a desk and stuck my head up there and said, “Oh my God.” It was the most amazing plaster ceiling. That gave a whole new sense of history and quality to the space. Sometimes you have to invent it, but it’s better when it’s already there. So many times we’ve opened up ceilings like that hoping to find something, and it’s all been destroyed. There’s nothing there but wires and ducts and empty space. Why drop a ceiling so far if you don’t have to? It’s easy to get the ductwork up there and conceal it with a clean tile ceiling.

Terra-cotta units at Boston Valley Terra Cotta JLS: MA:

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I think that has to do with material choice. I just read something about Raymond Loewy in The Atlantic. He had this idea that when you want to do something that’s new, you have to make it feel somewhat familiar. Most people will reject something if it feels totally alien. So you don’t want to be too far ahead of your time. But he was, in a certain sense. The initial designs he did for the locomotive looked too futuristic. It took time for people to catch up and assimilate his ideas it into a language of form. When was the Schumacher finished? About a year ago. If you saw the before picture, it was very different. It was completely painted; you couldn’t even tell the sills were marble. The storefront was behind corrugated aluminum siding. When we first visited, there was a small hole in the siding and we could see a little bit of cast iron, so we assumed there was a lot of cast iron. Thankfully there was, and it was pretty much intact. We actually found more inside. Those surprises can work both ways. Sometimes you assume something is there and it’s not there, and it’s not a happy moment. Other times, you take some sheet metal off and find some beautiful ornament—often cast iron. Morris, did you know about the concealed plaster ceilings at ROOST? The first time we went to see the site—it’s in an office building—we went upstairs and it was typical 1970s carpet and drop ceiling; a quarter of the window was covered by this drop ceiling. It was really depressing. We see that all the time.

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7 West 21st Street, New York JS:

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That’s another part of preservation or conservation that seems incredibly creative: how you integrate new systems. It is so hard to do that right, to update a building with new mechanical systems while being sensitive to what’s there. It all depends on the building type. In some places, exposing the ductwork is very much in the spirit of the building, even if it wasn’t previously existing. Again, you have to evaluate: what do we want to keep? What’s important to the space? What has value? What’s your best strategy to heat and cool this building? It can be almost anything these days. I want to talk a little about 134 Wooster Street, because that’s one project where we really tried to understand how we could do something different that would fit in. We had to determine what was critical with the program, and how that might have looked in the context of the buildings in SoHo. We were looking at the buildings and asking, what are the typologies that relate to that program? We really looked closely and were able to find things that weren’t immediately apparent. That’s very evident in your process drawings that show the rhythms and the patterns of windows and masonry in the district.


A Conversation with Judith Saltzman

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And the differences and the attenuations and the offsets. And the things that make it exciting. You can find a way to express these things that is appropriate for the district but very much of our time. It’s really about process. Too often, in the world of architecture, things are about product. There are a lot of architecture conceits where the idea is there and then they come up with some post-rationalization. With Morris, it’s really about thinking, asking, talking to a lot of different people. It’s about ideas and discussion and looking at things. Sometimes people think our meetings are out of control because we’re talking too much or too loudly. We’re just having a good time.

Analysis of SoHo facades prepared for 134 Wooster JLS:

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We are having a good time, and we advance the project with every meeting. It’s a noble, collaborative spirit. That makes the ultimate product better, of course, but the process is better, too. It’s enjoyable. It’s a learning experience. People get involved and feel invested in the project. And when you’re invested, you find yourself wanting to do more research or look at things more closely or from a new perspective. What’s most exciting to me is when you have people sharing the same interests and goals, but looking at them from slightly different perspectives. That goes back to this whole idea of the process of developing a project. It’s not just about finding justification for what you want to do. It’s about understanding what the conditions are and what informs those conditions and how that can inform the project. So much of what we do is looking and thinking. SoHo is a really good example because when you start to look, there’s a lot to find—but a lot of new buildings are just formulaic, superficial. Morris’s work is less formulaic because he looks deeper. If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. It’s the same thing with architecture. And New York is amazing for both. Anytime you’re stuck or obstructed, you walk ten blocks and you have your answer.

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The Schumacher

Tucked away on a quiet corner of Bleecker Street in the NoHo East Historic District, this surprisingly large brick structure was built in 1885 for the Schumacher & Ettlinger lithographic printing company. After decades of neglect, the Romanesque remnant of the neighborhood’s industrial past has been rejuvenated with a deferential conversion that highlights the building’s original architectural features, imbuing its 20 condominium apartments with authenticity and historic character. Restoring the Schumacher involved scraping away the several indelicate renovations to reveal marble windowsills, beautiful brick detailing, and an ornate cast-iron storefront. What couldn’t be repaired was rebuilt, including several parapets and a missing pediment that was documented in a 1904 photograph. The reconstructed pediment conceals two new rooftop penthouses, both of which are connected to the building’s history. The first incorporates an existing photography studio whose 16-foot-high ceilings and long horizontal windows gave the space a surprisingly contemporary quality. The second penthouse, partially enclosed by the pediment, is a new addition inspired by the old photo studio. Inside, the masonry building’s original brick and terra-cotta vaulted ceilings were restored carefully, but not too carefully—their imperfections bestow character and charm that can only be earned with age. These architectural artifacts drive the interior design of the building’s two- to four-bedroom apartments: mechanical systems are concealed within exterior walls to keep the ceiling open and unobstructed, the cabinetry and finishes are simple but refined to contrast with the rough-hewn brick, and the new wood floors are wire-brushed and oil-rubbed, giving them an aged appearance that echoes the nineteenth-century vaults above. With a focus on contemporary craftsmanship, the interventions foster a new appreciation for the Schumacher’s traditional masonry construction while injecting the historic warehouse with a new vitality.

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2016 New York, New York 61,000 square feet 7 stories 20 units Residential

1 View west toward the corner of Bleecker Street and Mott Street. The recon­ structed pediment hides the new penthouse additions, preserving the Schumacher’s original appearance.



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2 A 1904 photo shows the original pediment and parapets, but the extreme angle and poor quality made it impossible to use as a model for a precise reconstruction. 3 Competition drawing of about 1900 for the Union League Club by Edward E. Raht, the Schumacher’s original architect, features a pediment design similar to the one seen in the blurry 1904 photograph. This drawing was used to develop an approximate reconstruction of Raht’s pediment for the Schumacher.

4 Before restoration and renovation, the Schumacher’s original pediment and parapets were missing, the brick exterior was painted over, and the ground-floor cast-iron facade was concealed. 5 A sketch showing how Raht’s pediment was adapted for the Schumacher. 6 Bleecker Street facade with restored cast-iron storefront and reconstructed pediment.


The Schumacher

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7 In the Schumacher’s lobby, custom furnishings, restored brick vaults, and commissioned artwork that incorporates industrial glass lenses attest to the focus on craftsmanship and character that drives the interior design. 8 The Schumacher’s ground-floor lounge and library look out onto a landscaped courtyard, excavated to bring light and air into the building’s lower two floors. 9 The thick masonry exterior walls were made even thicker to conceal the building systems, allowing the ceilings to remain unobstructed. This depth, which is characteristic of old masonry buildings, is most apparent in the window bays where mechanical units and dropdown shades are hidden behind a blackened metal enclosure.

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The Schumacher

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10 The vaulted brick ceilings give the Schumacher apartments a historical authenticity that is complemented by aged wood floors and simple, Shaker-inspired cabinetry. 11 Custom fittings include contemporary interpretations of traditional five-panel doors and com­ plementary Shaker stairs.

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The Schumacher

12 & 13 The Schumacher’s bathrooms and bedrooms incorporate white oak finishes and custom cabinetry.

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14 Every apartment in the Schumacher looks into the courtyard. Landscape architect Ken Smith provided privacy and greenery by means of suspended vines.


THE SCHUMACHER

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15 Section. The original structural vaults and courtyard are central to the integrity of the residential conversion. The two lower floors of the courtyard were built up at some point in the building’s past; as a result, the walls were damaged and were covered with stucco finish. 16 Plan, ground floor. 17 Typical plan, floors 2–5.

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18 Plan, upper level penthouse and roof. The reconstructed pediment has been incorporated into the front penthouse as one wall of a sunroom that opens on both sides to a private terrace. The small pavilion connected to the rear penthouse is a repurposed elevator shaft. The central terrace is shared by all residents.

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414 West 14th Street

Located in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, 414 West 14th Street combines two adjacent nineteenth-century structures behind a restored brick facade. This project was the latest in a series of alterations to the properties, which, like many buildings in the area, had been adapted multiple times to multiple new industries as the district evolved—and had the architectural scars to show for it. A four-story Italianate printing factory and stable was constructed in 1874; 13 years later, an adjacent five-story structure, which borrows many of the same details and facade elements, was built. Both buildings were altered in the early twentieth century to accommodate meat storage and distribution; changes included a new storefront, new ornament, and a “false front” to raise the height of the factory. After many more years and many more modifications, two very different buildings had emerged: a narrow brick structure with an elaborate cornice and a wider stucco building with an ersatz storefront. The intention for this new commercial building was simple: unity through painstaking rehabilitation. Making the old brick facade look new was a delicate process that required great care in stripping away layer after layer of stucco and paint without damaging the original masonry. New punched openings continue the existing fenestration pattern across the false front, and all the windows were updated with historically appropriate glazing. To further tie the facades together, a new cornice and new corbels were fabricated to match the existing elements, and a continuous metal and glass canopy was added as a contemporary interpretation of the historic district’s characteristic architectural feature. Beneath the canopy, former loading bays were replaced with contemporary glass storefronts. To create additional leasable space in this dense neighborhood, a new penthouse—designed to evoke the ad hoc roof features scattered throughout the historic district— was constructed behind the formerly false front. Set back from the facade, it creates an outdoor terrace and preserves the building’s street presence.

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2008 New York, New York 50,000 square feet 6 stories Commercial

1 The restored brick facades are united by the reconstructed cornice and contextually appropriate new canopy.



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414 WEST 14TH STREET

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2 A historic photograph of 414–418 West 14th Street, dating from about 1940, shows long-gone features: arched openings, ornament, and cornice.

3 By the time the restoration began, few historic details remained. 4 Elevation. A continuous canopy and new glazing help unify the two facades. On the roof, the modern penthouse addition is set back from the new cornice so that it’s almost invisible from the street.

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ROOST

ROOST apartment hotels occupy a unique place in the hospitality industry: between vacation home rental and corporate housing. Development of the first two locations, both in Philadelphia, combined branding and building, integrating contemporary design and historic architecture to create distinct spaces that don’t feel like anonymous hotel rooms but lived-in residences that have a sense of history. The flagship ROOST hotel is located in the historic Packard Building in Philadelphia’s Midtown. Two floors of former office space were converted into 27 furnished apartments—a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom units—that reflect the ROOST mantra: “comfort, place, and enlightenment.” At first, the drab offices did not appear particularly accommodating, but hidden behind the dropped ceiling, and the cords and cables it concealed, was a beautifully ornate coffered plaster ceiling. The restored ceiling became the focal point of the design. The apartment interiors accentuate the highly detailed plaster ceilings, corbels, and moldings with clean lines and a subtle palette of refined materials, including oak herringbone floors and stone countertops. Built-in shelves and seating nooks are painted to match the existing dark steel window frames. To give each room warmth and authenticity, all apartments include custom credenzas, desks, and kitchen islands. Additional furnishings, art objects, and textiles selected from an array of designers, artisans, and vintage collections make every ROOST apartment feel like home. The historic but dated lobby was modernized in collaboration with the Packard Building’s full-time residents, who share the space with the hotel. Moldings and coffers were retained, but the walls were finished in white plaster and the stone floors were honed to soften their color. A custom blackened-brass reception desk and contemporary lighting anchor the space. After the concept was proven in Midtown, ROOST expanded to a second Philadelphia location in Rittenhouse Square. ROOST Rittenhouse

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ROOST Midtown 2014 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19,000 square feet 2 floors 27 guest rooms Hospitality ROOST Rittenhouse 2015 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 27,000 square feet 9 floors 28 guest rooms Hospitality

ROOST Midtown

ROOST Rittenhouse

1 The penthouse at ROOST Midtown with its vaulted plaster ceiling. All ROOST apartments offer a sophisticated selection of furniture, lighting, and objects to create a quiet, comfortable refuge for extended stays in Philadelphia.



RENEW AND REVITALIZE

2 View looking across 15th Street toward the entry to Philadelphia’s historic Packard Building, the home of ROOST Midtown. 3 At ROOST Midtown, the refined mid-century decor was developed to highlight the building’s original ornate plaster ceiling.

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4 Vintage textiles, hand‑selected art, and eclectic furnishings make staying in a ROOST Rittenhouse apartment feel like staying in a wellappointed home.

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elaborates on the design ideas developed at ROOST Midtown. The existing nine-story turn-of-the-century building has been transformed into a 28-room apartment hotel that includes two duplex penthouse suites as well as a lounge and communal workspace inspired by mid-century design; future plans call for a coffee shop and wine bar. In addition to the antique furniture, the Moroccan carpets, and the oak flooring that have become a signature of all ROOST apartments, each penthouse unit expands the concept with a freestanding bathtub, fireplace, and private office. The ROOST program didn’t only involve designing a hotel; it involved designing a brand. Extended-stay hotels often have cold, corporate connotations, but ROOST challenges that perception with a design that’s specific enough to feel like home but general enough to be adapted for any city.

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5 Apartment at ROOST Midtown. 6 & 7 At ROOST Rittenhouse, clean lines, elegant textiles, herringbone oak floors, and a combination of bespoke and vintage furnishings create a contemporary ambience in a turn-of-the-century building.


ROOST

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Spring Studios

This flexible, modern production and event facility for the London-based production company Spring Studios occupies the upper four floors of a former call center in Tribeca. Against a backdrop of downtown Manhattan, the versatile space hosts fashion shows, art exhibitions, pop-up restaurants, and the Tribeca Film Fest and also provides the specialized infrastructure necessary for photography, film, and television production. Spring Studios, a collaboration between Morris Adjmi Architects and Aldo Andreoli, was designed specifically to accommodate a varied program. Entire floors of the existing building were removed, and new structural components were discreetly added to create large, open studios and the necessary support spaces. The most visible change is the introduction of a three-story curtain wall to the masonry facade, which was further refreshed with dark gray paint to give the dull and dated 1960s building an unmistakably contemporary appearance. The seven studios, which can be combined using an operable wall divider, range from intimate spaces designed to for small photo shoots to a grand sixth-floor space suitable for large productions or events. Flexible lighting, electrical, and sound systems were unobtrusively integrated into the design: they are easily accessible but out of sight. All the studios share simple white walls and an understated versatility evocative of a modern art museum or contemporary “white box” gallery. Spring Studios’ carefully designed spaces can accommodate almost any function. Through a combination of painstaking but almost invisible design features and bolder moves—opening up the facade and carving away interior floors—this former Tribeca office building has become one of the most sought-after state-of-the-art production, event, and exhibition venues in New York City.

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2014 New York, New York 120,000 square feet 4 floors Commercial

1 The most visible change to the former call center is the demolition of the exterior masonry wall and the addition of a threestory curtain wall that spans nearly the length of the facade.



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2 The sixth floor offers 10,000 square feet of “white box” production or event space with a 30-foot-high ceiling, concrete flooring, and a west-facing glass wall. The low-iron glass admits only the pure, unfiltered daylight ideal for photography and video production. 3 A custom-fabricated steel stair rises from the sixth floor to the roof.

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Spring Studios

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4 Section. The top three floors of Spring Studios were dramatically reconfigured to yield a production facility that features double-height studios with separate editing and greenroom spaces, a penthouse, and a roof terrace. The ground-floor lobby was also renovated.

5 Plan, floor 6. Versatile, west-facing production space can be divided with a flexible wall system. The opposite side of the floor provides amenity space for Spring Studios’ other ventures. 6 Plan, roof. The terrace furnishes 2,500 square feet of outdoor shooting space. Views of Tribeca and downtown Manhattan are attractive backdrops.

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134 Wooster

With a design that offers a unique interpretation of traditional cast-iron and masonry architecture, 134 Wooster Street introduces contemporary office and retail space to the SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District. Historically, much of Wooster Street provided services and support for businesses on the adjacent West Broadway and Greene Street, and many of the facades along Wooster Street are accordingly restrained in their use of ornament. Located on the site of a former one-story brick garage that had been repurposed as a commercial storefront, 134 Wooster’s unadorned glass and steel facade celebrates SoHo’s nineteenth-century cast-iron facades, but with a spareness appropriate for the street. Yet the design is also informed by a close study of the architectural rhythms, patterns, and proportions that shape the neighborhood. Many buildings in this part of SoHo incorporate arched windows or arched recesses to help articulate the traditional tripartite facade. 134 Wooster employs arches as the building’s primary organizing principle. The two-part facade comprises a stepped glass curtain wall behind a steel screen of stacked arches that change in rhythm and depth to express distinct base, middle, and top sections. As in many historic buildings, the ground-floor storefront features large openings that maximize display area; at the top of the building, a row of six small arches seemingly supports a simple, contemporary interpretation of the deep cornices typical of the area. A s­ eventh-floor penthouse, clad in dark gray brick, is pulled back from the front facade to ensure the continuity of the Wooster Street cornice line. 134 Wooster doesn’t aim to imitate historic buildings but to learn from them to produce contemporary spaces that capture the feeling of historic architecture. Inside and out, the new building is an up-to-date, elegant, and respectful addition to the SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District.

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2021 New York, New York 26,000 square feet 7 stories Commercial

1 Rendering of view south along Wooster Street. Despite the lack of embellishment on the thin arches and attenuated columns, their scale and proportions imbue the facade with an almost Venetian quality, which is particularly apt since many pioneers of cast-iron architecture admired and imitated the lightness and openness of the Venetian Renaissance.



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2 134 Wooster’s floor-through offices feature board-formed concrete ceilings that evoke the warmth and richness of old timber warehouses or pressed-tin ceilings. The full-height glass walls and deep arches recall the feeling of looking out through the punched openings of a thick masonry wall.


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3 Elevation. The minimalist arches at 134 Wooster seem to share little with the classically inspired ornamentation found throughout the Soho–Cast Iron Historic District, but the facade has a surprising depth reminiscent of the deep recesses that characterize traditional freestanding cast-iron building fronts.

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4 Section through front facade. As the depth of the arches increases with setbacks on the second and sixth floors, their rhythm changes and the thickness of the columns increases. Four large arches supported on thin columns frame the ground-floor retail space; five narrower arches frame the mid-level floors; and the sixthfloor curtain wall stands behind a dense row of six arches.

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SECTION IV

Context as Content

A Conversation with Fred Bland Theory Building 254 Front 11 Great Jones 7 West 21st Street 207 West 79th Street 363 Lafayette

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A Conversation with Fred Bland

Fred Bland is the managing partner of Beyer Blinder Belle, a New York–based architecture and planning firm whose work is guided by a sensitivity to historic, cultural, and civic meaning. Beyer Blinder Belle is widely recognized for building in urban areas and for the restoration of landmarked buildings such as Grand Central Terminal. Fred is also a commissioner on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. In this conversation with Morris Adjmi (MA) and writer Jimmy Stamp (JS) , Fred (FB) shares some of the unique insight he gains from these two roles. JS: FB:

JS: MA: FB: JS: FB:

For someone who might not be familiar with the LPC, can you briefly tell us a little about the landmarks process? Any new building or substantial change to a building in an officially designated landmark district must first get approval from the LPC. The owners and architects put together a package of photos and drawings describ­ ing their proposed scope of work and send it to the LPC. It first goes through a staff of researchers and histo­ rians that work it over a bit, and then there’s a public hearing during which the owner or the owner’s represen­ tative—often the architect—presents the project. After hearing the presentation, and then public testimony, the committee will discuss the project and decide whether or not to approve the design. What happens when the commissioners disagree? I think it’s healthy to have opposition within the group. I do too, but it can be a conundrum. We try to reach a consensus. There’s a discussion. Does it ever get contentious? Not among the commissioners; sometimes among the community. But the commission isn’t very conten­ tious, even if we have different opinions. There are eleven commissioners. The rule is that you need six

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votes to gain approval from the LPC. There will be healthy discussion. At the end of the day, it takes a strong, confident designer to listen to that discussion as objec­ tively as possible, with equanimity, with a thick skin if necessary—Morris is always smiling and taking notes. But at the end of the day, as Paul Rudolph used to say—to disastrous effect ­sometimes—the architect can only deal with about 10 percent of the program, so just design your own building. Absorb as much as you can as a designer and come back with a tweak or, if needed, a fresh approach. How specific are the suggestions the commissioners make? How much of an impact do you think is app­ ropriate for you to have? Each commissioner has their own view on that. I’m one of the architects on the commission who designs; there are also preservationists on the commission, and historians. They’re all different. Even though I’m a design-focused architect, it’s not my position to design the building. I’m not sure the others always share that opinion. I’m surprised sometimes at the chutz­ pah some of our commissioners exhibit when they’re suggesting specific changes to some of the more


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notable design architects in the world. I prefer to take a big picture approach: if the big picture is just wrong, if the concept or general approach or massing is wrong, I’ll say something. If I think some things could be imp­roved, I’ll say so. But I’m also quick to say that I’m not designing the building. You sure let us know when something was wrong with our project at 363 Lafayette Street. Yes I did. Nobody articulated exactly what was wrong with the design, but you let us know it wasn’t working. The narra­ tive was there, we all agreed, but the building didn’t reflect the narrative. Sometimes the commissioners’ com­ ments seem to come from left field and leave us reeling and confused, and sometimes they’re just so insightful. You cut right to the quick and pointed something out that still eluded us after weeks of design. With Lafayette, as I was listening to the commission and taking notes, it just clicked—and it totally changed the project. The applicants will often come back after we turn them down, and they’ll often agree that the revised design is better. There have been many occasions where the commission’s input has helped. If you embrace their comments, you’ll find that it makes the building better. We do a lot of work in these districts—I would say probably 40 percent of our work. There is almost always a very healthy debate, and going through the process results in better build­ ings, but only if you embrace the process. It’s basically a critique from very good, very smart critics. You can’t just go through the motions. Everyone’s goal is to create something that’s better, something that’s great, not just something that’s “appropriate.” You have to listen critically. If you take Commissioner A’s comments and Commissioner B’s comments and incorporate them into your own design, what do you end up with? You can’t design a building like that. It might be “appropriate,” but that’s not how you produce a good design. It ends up being design by committee. There’s a noticeable shift that’s occurred recently within the LPC. You seem much more open to contemporary, more progressive... Oh, I think we’ve been open for a long time. There’s a better quality of building, without question. But there’s also just more getting built. The market is amazing. I think it’s fair to say that Morris Adjmi Architects’ build­ ings are some of the more progressive in landmarked districts. From your perspective as a commissioner, is there anything that distinguishes what they do? Absolutely. Others might do this to some degree, but Morris’s work has always—since Rossi and the Scho­ lastic Building—taken heavy cues from the context, as is appropriate. It’s easy to take too many cues from the

JS:

context and slavishly reproduce something, or just line up cornices or brick courses and call it contextual. When you’re reviewing projects that are applying to build in a landmarked district, and they’re imitating what’s right next door or right across the street, do you ever feel like you need to say something to stop that from happening?

837 Washington, New York FB:

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We do say something. But they have the right to do whatever they want. We can only argue that it’s not done well enough. If it’s badly done or badly proportioned, or a bad version of a copy or a pastiche of some sort, we’ll comment on that. But look at Kevin Roche’s addition to the Jewish Museum all those years ago. I think he proposed something else at first, but then he came back with the decision to replicate, exactly, the Warburg Mansion. It seemed unthinkable—Kevin Roche does this? But he did it. And it was controversial. But to get back to the point, I feel, and most of the commissioners would probably agree, that it’s not our right to say how an architect should approach the problem. And of course, that’s the great divide: contemporary or traditional. What do you build in a landmarked district? It’s not a new problem, and there’s no right answer. There’s just doing it well on either side. We try to do it well on both sides at the same time. I think your understanding of context, Morris, is more profound. Your work isn’t a pastiche, even though you produce buildings that fit in rather than stand out. That’s appropriate in a city like New York. Very few buildings, in my judgment, should be “standout” buildings—there should be some, like the Flatiron, because of its incredible site, or the Guggenheim, because it breaks the mold. The city can’t be filled with those kinds of buildings, or we become a World’s Fair. But we’re getting more and more of that. Everyone feels like they need to make a big statement. Everyone wants to break the mold. Every building is the Guggenheim. Herbert Muschamp started it. Not alone, but he was an important architecture critic in this town who pushed that to the point of absurdity—to his own detriment, in a way, when he sponsored that competition and hired

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all his buddies to produce schemes for the 9/11 site. I can’t believe the Times let him do that. You had one crazy form here and another there. It really did look like a World’s Fair. But those were usually demolished a year after the fair was over. JS: A lot of big projects getting built right now just don’t feel like New York. That’s why the work you do, both of you, is so important. We need stewards of the idea of New York. These landmarked districts can change, every building could be replaced, but if those new buildings are informed by the history of the district, it will still feel the same. It will still feel like New York. FB: When you work in a built-up city like Rome or Paris, your responsibility to what’s come before is profound, but that doesn’t mean you have to copy. Of course, New York is much younger than those cities, but, like them, it does have a unique sense of place. And archi­ tects have a responsibility to maintain that. But that doesn’t mean you have to bury your creativity. It doesn’t mean you can’t explore new materials and new techno­ logies and new ways of thinking.

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can wow without knocking everything and everyone on their ass. You can stand out and still fit in. It’s more lasting. Morris, is it hard for you to find that balance between a sense of responsibility to the city and the desire to create something new, or something that draws people in?

House with cast-iron grillwork, New Orleans MA:

It kind of comes naturally. I don’t want to make a big state­ ment every time. The statement is made judiciously. It’s made with every small choice you make on the details. Growing up in New Orleans, I was always confronted with the old city and looking at mansions in the Garden District, elaborate courtyard houses in the French Quar­ ter, or just simple shotgun houses. They were amazing.

16 West 21st Street, New York JS:

FB:

That technology can be part of the context. Morris, your buildings in Ladies’ Mile Historic District don’t mimic the old department stores, but they reference the idea of a technological development that first made those ­buildings possible. It’s a more conceptual read­ ing of the context. There’s always something in Morris’s work. He does the homework. And then he can step back and say, “Yeah, but I also have a really great idea I want to try.” And he can integrate that. Or introduce a little detail that changes the whole perception of the context, so when you’re walking down the street there’s always something that invites you to stop and say, “Hey, look at that.” You’re not thrown on your back with wonder, the way a lot of current build­ ings in China try to do, for instance. It’s so awful to hear a client say they want a “wow” factor. “Where’s the wow factor?” It shouldn’t be about that. A building

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Ladies’ Mile, New York

Then I’d see someone just appropriate those styles or those forms and it was terrible. That’s what I ended up doing my thesis on: how to draw from these historic buildings without imitating them. And that’s why I wanted to study with Aldo Rossi. Look at Ladies’ Mile: one of the things that’s amazing there is that the period of development was so long and the types of building are so diverse. There’s a rich history there that you can participate in; you can continue it. The department stores and the loft buildings built in the nineteenth cen­


A Conversation with Fred Bland

FB:

MA:

tury weren’t copying the language of the stables or the townhouses that came before. These districts, these places, are varied and changing. You can contribute and pay homage to that past without copying it. Have you ever been confronted with a site or a project that calls for something that breaks the context? In New York, we so often get one face to design, but have you ever had to confront something in the round? The Samsung building, 837 Washington, was a building that is seen more or less in the round, as an object. Maybe that torquing or twisting can be seen as a dramatic gesture.

selves. They’re selling an idea. They’re selling a mission. Ultimately, though, it’s about design. That was some­ thing we had to confront as a firm years ago. We had to make that transition. When Beyer Blinder Belle started out, Jack Beyer likes to say, we were “housers.” We sort of pioneered the idea of adaptive reuse in New York, but we were not preservationists. We didn’t know anything about preservation. But we pitched our tent in the Jane Jacobs camp, as opposed to the Robert Moses camp. In fact, Jane Jacobs was our first client.

Wilf Hall, Provincetown Playhouse, New York MA: 837 Washington under construction FB: MA:

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Right—in the Meatpacking District. It’s still a restrained statement, I think. And it’s still quite contextual. Obviously the building is twisting, but it’s doing so in a way that... It’s doing so with familiar materials, materials from the district. And then there’s the twist, a literal twist. There was a previous design, from another architect, that was just an extrusion from the existing building. That’s something I consciously didn’t want to do. I felt like looking at it as two buildings that coexist on a site as opposed to building an addition—not that we haven’t done that in other cases, but I thought that the twisting made sense in the context of the two city grids crashing together there, as well as the relationship to the existing building. What about institutional work? We’ve done some projects for NYU, Wilf Hall notably. But that was finished before its block was included in the historic district, so you never had to review that one. As the office grows, I’d like to do more public work—a gallery or museum. I think we’ve been able to do great work, but I do feel like it would be nice to work on a space that’s a little more complex—a larger-scale public space. Your work is very susceptible to moving laterally into other types, more public projects or institutional projects. You’ve done a lot of work for residential and commercial developers that are interested in sales, but institutions are just as interested in selling them­

FB:

MA:

FB:

Really? She was part of a group of West Side community members who asked us to get involved. We sort of figured out and pioneered how to make old law and new law ­tenements viable, often by gutting the interi­ ors and reorganizing the layouts, but also by taking a wing down when necessary. So those buildings maintained the integrity of the street, but they felt new and they were livable. That’s what we try to do with all our projects, regardless of scale or type. Anyone who comes to the LPC and doesn’t acknowl­ edge the context will be and should be doomed. It’s critically important to show that you understand the city you’re building in. Whatever way you inter­ pret it—whether literally or more artistically—is legiti­ mate. It’s just a question of how. Are we the best judges to make that decision? Are we qualified to judge these new buildings that sometimes tower dozens of stories over a historically significant building, or buildings that are so tall they literally rise above the context? That can be debated as well, but it’s what we’re called on to do. It’s our duty.

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Theory Building

The Theory Building stands on the foundations of a 1948 poultry facility that was the last purpose-built market structure in the Gansevoort Market Historic District, more colloquially known as the Meatpacking District. The old building signaled the end of the largest meat market in the world; the new building, used as a flagship store for fashion brand Theory since its completion in 2006, marked the beginning of one of Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhoods. As the first structure to be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission after the district earned its historic designation, the Theory Building would set a precedent in the Gansevoort Market area. Accordingly, it had to be unmistakably contemporary yet respectful of the historic context. The design began as a direct descendant of the Scholastic Building, which the client had cited specifically, but developed into a distilled expression of the qualities that contribute to the character of the district. At street level, the metal-clad storefront weaves itself into the fabric of the surrounding structures with explicit references to the neighborhood, like the corrugated metal and glass canopy and oversized storefront windows reminiscent of old garage doors. The floors above are separated by metal beams and divided into vertical bays by prefabricated brick pilasters that culminate in a rounded corner column. The Theory Building was inspired in part by the brick warehouses of the Meatpacking District and by the rhythms and patterns of the townhouses encroaching from Greenwich Village. It doesn’t imitate contextual elements but integrates them using contemporary fabrication methods. It also has particular significance as the first major building the office completed in New York City after the death of Aldo Rossi. Though it proudly shares some of the DNA of the Scholastic Building, the Theory Building pushed the studio to develop a voice that was respectful of Rossi’s legacy while at the same time establishing a new direction.

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2006 New York, New York 50,000 square feet 5 stories Commercial

1 The operable windows of the Theory Building set in deep metal frames, strike a balance between townhouse-style punched openings and ­­ factory-style sashes.


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2 The corner column of the Palazzo Sforza, on the Grand Canal in Venice, is a remnant of an unfinished palace that was incorporated into a more modest residential building. The memory of this architectural fragment, and its symbolic importance, would inspire Aldo Rossi to include similar corner columns in several projects. 3 Friedrichstadt Block 10 in Berlin, designed by Aldo Rossi. The corner column at the Theory Building is an homage to Rossi, but it’s an homage rooted in its immediate context.

4 Prominent corner columns can be found throughout the Gansevoort Market area and neighboring Greenwich Village, such as this example at the corner of Washington and Bank Streets. 5 The rounded corner column of the Theory Building was built on site by local masons.


Theory Building

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6 The corner of Greenwich and Gansevoort Streets, an intersection paved in large Belgian blocks, is a European-style pedestrian plaza surrounded by shops and restaurants. 7 The facade of the Theory Building is a composition of metal-lined brick piers and full-height operable windows.

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254 Front

The South Street Seaport Historic District is one of the oldest neigh­ borhoods in New York City, having evolved from a swampy collection of warehouses in the eighteenth century to a thriving international port that the New York Times once called the “first World Trade Center” and then to a major tourist destination. These transformations have yielded a diverse collection of buildings including Greek Revival accounting houses, small clapboard homes, and the famous Fulton Fish Market, affectionately called the Tin Building for its corrugated metal cladding. 254 Front Street is an architectural interpretation of the district’s maritime heritage and an homage to its eclectic architecture. The seven-story apartment building occupies two lots across the street from where the Brooklyn Bridge first touches Manhattan: a corner lot on Front Street and an adjacent lot on Dover Street that was acquired during the initial design process. Instead of simply extending the scheme for the corner building, the expansion consists of a distinct but comple­ mentary structure designed to reduce the scale of the project to better fit the nineteenth-century context. The corner structure is clad in horizontal zinc paneling that nods to the nearby Tin Building while recalling the clapboard siding that was once common in the Seaport; such clapboards are now found only on a building at the opposite corner of the block on Dover Street, the last wood structure in the district. The stone piers and metal lintel on the Dover Street annex are a contemporary interpretation of the historic storefronts in the area, while the brick facade, punctuated by deep, metal-framed windows, alludes to the district’s masonry buildings. Because 254 Front was inspired by the evolution of the South Street Seaport rather than by any single period in its history, the design will resonate with its architectural context even as the district continues to evolve.

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2012 New York, New York 25,000 square feet 7 stories 41 units Residential

1 A metal canopy typical of nineteenthcentury warehouses juts out over the commercial space on Front Street and marks the entrance to the new building. On Dover Street, changes in height and material help reduce the perceived size of the building in deference to its nineteenth-century setting.


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2 The corrugated zinc facade, which is punctuated by oversized mahogany-framed windows, recalls traditional clapboard houses. This composition lends depth and complexity to the facade while bringing generous amounts of natural light into the apartments.


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3 Plan, floor 3. On the exterior, 254 Front appears to comprise two separate buildings, but the distinction is erased inside the residential structure. A single core unites the Front Street and Dover Street volumes, which house nearly identical studios and one- and twobedroom apartments. Some of the 41 units feature private balconies overlooking a rear courtyard, but all residents have access to two shared roof terraces that offer vistas of the East River and a unique view toward the Brooklyn Bridge, just across the street.

4 Detail drawings. The window assemblies on the Front Street facade incorporate deep mahogany window frames that project beyond the metal cladding to conceal individual mechanical units.

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11 Great Jones

The NoHo Historic District developed primarily during a nineteenthcentury commercial boom that prompted the construction of new warehouses, storefronts, and factories to meet the demands of a quickly growing New York. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the occupants of these buildings left Manhattan in search of lower costs and better infra­ structure outside the city, artists settled in the area, drawn by the large industrial loft spaces and cheap rent. 11 Great Jones Street, a six-story rental building located near the heart of NoHo, draws on this history with a design that both evokes the district’s past and resonates with the markedly contemporary buildings ushering in the next phase of its evolution. The design was influenced by the classically inspired cast-iron facades of old manufacturing buildings, but the details were informed by the work of artist Donald Judd. An untitled Judd work comprising a metal column embedded in a wood box was a direct model for the pilasters, which read as Juddesque metal channels running through a brick box. The artist’s resi­ dence, located just a few blocks away, was a model for further details. The pilasters on his nineteenth-century cast-iron building increase in size as they climb the facade. Similarly, 11 Great Jones’s metal pilasters expand with each floor above street level, thereby reducing the size of their brick surrounds until the sixth floor, where they disappear completely and the naked metal pilasters become columns wrapping an outdoor terrace. Though subtle, the progression introduces a sense of movement to the building and a degree of articulation that recalls the district’s more traditional facades. While the brick piers were inspired by Judd, the initial motivation for adding a masonry element was a suggestion made by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The development of 11 Great Jones was, therefore, a collaboration across time, with the luminaries of the city’s past and the stewards of its future.

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2016 New York, New York 18,000 square feet 6 stories 8 units Residential

1 View west toward the corner of Lafayette Street and Great Jones Street. 11 Great Jones balances NoHo’s traditional masonry architecture with contemporary design.


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2 View west across Lafayette Street to the facade of 11 Great Jones. 3 Elevation detail. The metal pilasters expand as they rise up the building. On the sixth floor, they enclose a private roof terrace and terminate at the established cornice line. 4 Plan, floor 6. The fifth and sixth levels are occupied by duplexes. The upper floor is set back from the facade in response to zoning requirements.

5 Typical plan, floors 2–4. 11 Great Jones houses two units per floor, with an elevator at the center of the building that opens directly to both apartments. 6 Plan, ground floor. The building’s residential lobby separates two commercial spaces.

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7 West 21st Street

This through-block development in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District was built on a lot that had been vacant since the 1920s, thus filling a prom­ inent gap in the street walls of both West 21st and West 22nd Streets. It brings much-needed apartments to a neighborhood that first emerged as a residential district in the early nineteenth century but grew to become one of the most popular manufacturing and commercial centers in the city. Ladies’ Mile’s unique evolution, made possible by advances in iron and steel construction, has produced an eclectic streetscape where former stables and small row houses stand alongside large department stores inspired directly by the neoclassical structures of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago—also known as the “White City.” Clad in white and gray terra-cotta masonry, 7 West 21st Street reinterprets the district’s turn-of-the-century structures to bring a sense of architectural continuity to Ladies’ Mile. The project consists of two 18-story buildings separated by a shared courtyard. With frontage of varying widths on both sides of the site, the pair have distinct but related street fronts defined by dense grids of sloping terracotta piers and lintels. Both facades are organized in classical tripartite fashion with faux-granite “bases,” but each is individually “tuned” to its respective street: the narrower West 21st facade is distinguished by a four-story base and five narrow bays that emphasize the building’s height; the wider West 22nd facade responds to the more expansive buildings lining that street with a large central bay, two-story base featuring a prominent aluminum storefront and full-height bay windows, and a pronounced zinc cornice. The buildings’ rear facades, facing one another across the shared courtyard, are simpler and similar in appearance, composed of dark gray modern brick and large tilt-andturn windows. Despite the apparent simplicity of the terra-cotta forms, recessed detailing, along with varying scale, slope, and color, creates a depth

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2017 New York, New York 288,000 square feet 18 stories 288 units Residential

1 7 West 21st Street's deep terra-cotta grid enlivens the facade with dramatic shadows that shift with the light.


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2 The Court of Honor at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, known as the “White City.” The enormous influence of the White City’s neoclassical architecture is clearly evident in Ladies’ Mile, where several of the buildings were designed by architects who worked on the exposition.

3 Terra-cotta components. 4 Full-scale mock-up used to test the assembly of 7 West 21st Street’s terra-cotta facade.


7 West 21st Street

5 The wider 22nd Street facade of the through-block building, seen with its immediate context.

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and complexity evocative of the traditional ornament adorning many of the historic facades in the district, particularly the elegant tracery of early-twentieth-century Gothic Revival buildings. Terra cotta was selected because it is flexible, suitable, and resilient, but also because it has deeper ties to the district. Historically, terra cotta has been used primarily for decorative elements, as evidenced on nineteenth-century buildings throughout Ladies’ Mile. One notable exception is the Flatiron Building—located just a block away from 7 West 21st Street—which is clad almost entirely in elaborately ornamented terra-cotta panels. Designed by Daniel Burnham, the architect who oversaw the design and construction of the White City, the Flatiron Building was one of the city’s first steel-framed skyscrapers, a technological feat that made its intricate facade possible. The white terra-cotta masonry used to clad 7 West 21st Street is an homage to Burnham’s White City and to the Flatiron Building. It was made using a process that merges tradition and technology to produce a building that has a clear affinity with the historic structures of Ladies’ Mile but remains firmly rooted in the present moment.

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6 The lobby space for the two buildings extends through the entire block. The 21st Street and 22nd Street entrances are anchored by dark wood and stone finishes. Toward the center of the lobby, a double-height atrium and lighter finishes brighten the ground floor. 7 The second-floor amenities lounge opens onto the central courtyard and can be partitioned for private events.

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8 Site section. A shared residential lobby, featuring a central atrium, passes through the block to unite the buildings at the ground floor. 9 Typical plan, floors 3–15.

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207 West 79th Street

This new condominium building recalls the classic pre­war architecture typical of New York City’s Upper West Side. Narrow nineteenth-century row houses line most of the numbered side streets in the landmarked neigh­ borhood, but 79th Street is different. One of just three cross streets that are 100 feet wide rather than the more typical 60 feet wide, 79th Street is lined with larger apartment hotels built in the early twentieth century in response to new zoning codes and changing demographics. 207 West 79th was conceived in the spirit of these grand residential buildings with a design that distills the eclectic architectural history of the district. Like many of the classically inspired apartment buildings and hotels on the Upper West Side, such as the adjacent Beaux Arts–style Hotel Lucerne, 207 West 79th features a tripartite division with a rusticated lime­ stone base and ornate terra-cotta detailing. The wrap-around windows and bold geometric articulation of the base and top, however, evoke the Art Deco towers of nearby Central Park West. These varied influences are unified by a subtle contemporary sensibility evidenced in the building’s restrained ornament: brick soldier courses separating the floors, slightly projecting limestone lintels, and operable six-panel casement windows. The balance of contemporary design and classic New York estab­ lished in the building’s exterior continues inside to create a complete architectural experience. Art Deco motifs are prominent in the building’s lobby: geometric tray ceiling and mosaic floors, custom curving reception desk, and brass and wood wall finishes. A complementary material palette is used in each of the building’s 19 units, which all offer large open spaces finished with custom oak cabinetry, Calacatta marble, porcelain tilework, and elaborately patterned parquet flooring. 207 West 79th Street is the rare new construction project that fits seamlessly into its context, providing residents the chance to live in a classic New York neighborhood in a classic New York building, but one designed for a decidedly modern lifestyle.

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2018 New York, New York 72,000 square feet 13 stories 19 units Residential

1 The streamlined, subtle ornamentation and geometric forms on the building’s facade recall the classic Art Deco architecture of the Upper West Side.


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2 & 3 207 West 79th Street’s interiors feature custom gray oak cabinets, parquet floors, patterned tiles, and monumental vein-cut marble surfaces.


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4 The new condominium building takes its place alongside 79th Street’s historic apartment buildings, hotels, and commercial storefronts.

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5 Elevation detail. Brick soldier courses and terra-cotta panels separate the windows. The floral motif evokes the early-twentiethcentury ornamentation seen throughout the district. 6 Plan, floor 12, lower floor of the two-story penthouse. 7 Typical plan, floors 2–6. Among various apartment types are townhouse-style residences with private terraces; six-bedroom full-floor units; two- to four-bedroom half-floor apartments; and a two-story rooftop penthouse with a wraparound terrace and outdoor kitchen.

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8 Plan, ground floor. Two new retail spaces with large glass storefronts are another attribute rooted in the history of the neighborhood. In addition to its 100-foot width, this particular block of 79th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, has numerous ground-floor commercial storefronts. These were, in part, a result of the location near New York’s original subway system, the Interborough Rapid Transit.

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363 Lafayette

363 Lafayette Street opens like a fan from a prominent corner in the heart of New York’s NoHo Historic District. Each floor of the commercial building angles back from the one below to produce a dynamic form inspired by the unusual wedge-shaped site—a result of the nineteenth-century extension of Lafayette Street. The setbacks between each floor are subtle, but the overall effect is bold, producing a sense of movement that’s appropriate for the bustling street. The lot, which features a sliver that extends through the entire block, presented the unique opportunity to design a signature structure that embodies the history of the neighborhood. 363 Lafayette’s distinctive one-story commercial storefront, with frontage on three streets, recalls the famous Flatiron Building, as does the building’s prominent use of decorative terra cotta. The terra-cotta curtain wall, along with the metal storefront and brick piers, echoes the massing and materials of the nineteenth-century store-and-loft buildings that contribute to the district’s architectural character. But the scale and form of these materials are unmistakably contemporary. Inside, the modern update of the store-and-loft concept continues to be expressed through large flexible floor plans, tall ceilings, industrial fixtures and finishes, and oversized windows that flood the office spaces with natural light and give the terra-cotta mullions an almost gossamer quality. This sense of lightness is heightened by the curtain wall’s recessed detailing and strong horizontal spandrels. With its location in a historic district on a challenging site directly across from the office’s project at 11 Great Jones Street, 363 Lafayette was subject to many restrictions and expectations. The final scheme, which was strengthened through conversations with community members and feedback from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, respects the neighborhood’s past, is mindful of the present residents, and will help advance NoHo into the future.

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2018 New York, New York 34,000 square feet 10 stories Commercial

1 View south toward the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets. 363 Lafayette’s contemporary expression of traditional forms and materials is consistent with the architectural character of NoHo, but the distinctive silhouette has given the neighborhood a new landmark.


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2 View looking north up Lafayette Street. The fanning setbacks terminate at the south facade, which steps back to clearly express the change in each floor plate.

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3 Corner detail showing construction of the terra-cotta curtain wall. 4 Plan, floor 7. Every floor contains a column-free office space, but the private terrace is exclusive to the seventh floor. 5 Plan, floor 6. The setbacks introduce subtle variation on each floor. 6 Plan, ground floor. The idiosyncratic sliver along Lafayette Street recalls the triangular site of the Flatiron Building.

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SECTION V

Inspiration and Innovation

A Conversation with Lyle Starr 16 West 21st Street 83 Walker The Sterling Mason Atlantic Plumbing 42 West 18th Street The Standard at South Market

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A Conversation with Lyle Starr

Lyle Starr is a New York City–based painter whose work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. He has had numerous one-person shows, including an exhibition at the offices of Morris Adjmi Architects. His colorful, abstract paintings layer references to pop culture and Americana to evoke the anxiety and accessibility of modern life. Lyle (LS) joins Morris Adjmi (MA) and writer Jimmy Stamp (JS) to discuss the artistic process and the sometimes surprising inspirations that inform their work. LS:

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I walked by 83 Walker recently. It’s so quiet. It fits on the street and yet it’s so shocking when you actually look at it and realize what’s happening, that the facade is inverted. There’s this current fascination with... let’s say, “loud” buildings. One of the things that we talk about in the office is how buildings can be quiet. They don’t need to scream. It takes a little more effort to notice, maybe, but at the end of the day it can be more satisfying. The idea for 83 Walker was really to show a process, to comment on the nature of cast-iron architecture. But you made a flat building that feels different from castiron architecture, which has depth and shadow. It feels wrong but, at the same time, so right. It’s definitely an abstraction. The other important thing to note is that it’s not cast iron, it’s precast concrete. But it speaks to prefabrication and panelization and the idea of ordering from a catalog. We tried to create something that refers back to the nature of the process. And there’s also the clear Rachel Whiteread inspiration. I’ve admired her work for a long time—since working on the Doubletake exhibition at the Southbank Centre with Aldo Rossi in 1991—but the idea didn’t come to

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me until I was working on that building and realized it might be a good place to explore a method of casting. The facade references a process. I try to avoid making stylistic references or copying specific details. Except for that one time you did, with Sterling Mason.

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Right. Every project has its story and there’s always a moment where the idea just crystallizes. With Sterling Mason, I was designing and designing and then— boom!—I just copied the building. I wasn’t thinking about Warhol, but it was a comparison that was made almost immediately. What I was thinking about was various ways to replicate masonry, which referred back to cast iron.


I was thinking about the identical buildings of the Ise Shrine in Japan as a statement about how buildings change over time. I was thinking about Aldo, who said, “If you’re going to copy something, copy it exactly.” That’s not going to be my go-to way of designing something, but it made sense for Sterling Mason. When I started sketching 83 Walker, I was thinking, “What can we do to make this building explain cast iron or make something about it more apparent?” By showing the negative, it suggests what isn’t typically seen: the forms that were used to make these old facades.

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You don’t have any prescribed method, but you typically work in a responsive way to the site. I don’t know if you do that more or less than other architects... Less than some and more than others. It doesn’t seem like a matter of more or less, but of quality. Morris, your work doesn’t always respond to context in an obvious or direct way, but it relates to the site or the history of the site at a deeper level. Exactly. 83 Walker isn’t an obvious response to cast-iron buildings, but it’s inspired by the process of creating those cast-iron facades. The artists that you mention most often as inspirations, Rachel Whiteread, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Do Ho Suh... Right. Do you think they have anything in common? Is there a reason you’re drawn to their work in particular? When an artist is good, they show you something that was there but that you never saw. They change the way you see or think about the world. There are other artists I love, but those four you mentioned do that. And they’re all on the borderline between sculpture and architecture—Rachel Whiteread and Do Ho Suh in particular. They’re making form or quoting form or modeling space inside form. But they’re capturing something very personal, or referencing an experience. That’s true. Perhaps that personal aspect is what resonates with you? So many of Aldo’s projects were tied to his personal experience, to things he saw and loved.

I’m not trying to compete with Aldo, to be sure. The difference between what he did and what I do is definitely personal. Any artist draws from personal experience. In Aldo’s case, I think his vision changed over time. Early on, it was very local and very specific to Italy—or even a specific region in Italy. As he traveled more, he preferred to draw from a wider range of places, whether it was the cast-iron facades of New York or the lighthouses of Maine. It was always direct and very clear; he went to Maine and he came back drawing lighthouses. He was taking these very personal experiences and proselytizing them. I’m looking at ways to take what’s there, or what’s just under the surface, and make it more apparent. So it’s less personal? With 83 Walker, I wanted to make the process of castiron apparent. It’s not my personal experience of castiron, but it’s my way of thinking about it. You have both talked about your personal experiences of being in New Orleans after Katrina and you both mentioned being sort of disoriented because the absence of trees and shadows—more than buildings, really—created a new sense of space. There’s this notion of proprioception, which is the body’s memory of space in relation to your own physical dimension... It was a strange feeling. There was a definite sense of being in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Aldo Rossi, sketch for Il Faro tableware, 1988 MA: LS: MA:

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Do you feel like you have a particular sensitivity to place and space that developed from living in New Orleans? Well... Maybe I’m putting forth too much of a Jungian notion of what it means to have deep subconscious roots, almost like a prelanguage experience... We’re going to need a hypnotist, a therapist, and a philosopher to continue this conversation. Or just a few more drinks. Here’s what I’ll say. Growing up in New Orleans made me very aware of the fabric of a city, and how a city is composed of many things that are the same or similar. There

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are tremendous swathes of the city that have a lot of the same architecture, where nearly identical buildings— very specific vernacular buildings—are repeated. There’s the French Quarter, where the fabric is all very similar, and then there’s the Bywater, which evolved differently, and these other neighborhoods, all with distinct identities. This is a huge generalization but...

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You’re talking about type. Right. There are types. And in neighborhoods composed entirely of one or two types, the subtle differences in the type become so much more powerful. That’s maybe why I’m less interested in creating big architectural statements and more in creating buildings that work in context—because it’s the variation that’s interesting. One of the most compelling things about that is why the variations exist. They typically exist for very human reasons. People adapt the general type to fit their specific needs, and those changes compound over time, ultimately transforming the buildings to reflect the lives of the people who live there. So how is architectural type different from copying? I recognize that architecture is, by its very nature, different from painting, but I’m being a little bit of a devil’s advocate. Architecture’s not so specific. Architects have always drawn on one another, on what came before, and on the environment to find solutions. But very rarely will an architect create an identical copy of an existing building. That said, I’m fascinated by fakes and forgeries. To me, forgers are technicians, not artists. They can be geniuses but what they create isn’t art. They’re missing that thing—that spark of inspiration— to create something new. There’s something interesting about outsmarting the art world by creating something that makes experts doubt their own judgments and capabilities, and undermines the whole value system. Architects don’t have to deal with that. You’re talking about the perceived value versus the

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inherent value of something. How does that work with architecture? An architect could copy something and it’s just a copy. It wouldn’t devalue the original or affect the market. There are tons of Mies copies just like there are tons of fake Eames chairs. Knock-offs are a part of industrialized society. But they’re made cheaper and not worth as much as the original. Unlike forgers, architects who might be considered “technicians”—rather than “artists”— still add value, don’t you think? There’s a perception that if you’re working with an architect you’re getting a better quality product. You have to ask yourself, is a competent background building worse for the city than an architectural spectacle? I don’t know that it is. When did you even become aware of the city’s architecture? I want to know how you got started, why you decided to be an architect. When I think back, there are three distinct moments that helped me choose architecture—or that helped architecture choose me. The first: I was in third grade and we took a field trip to the French Quarter. I remember I just kept sketching the columns and balconies and later learned about the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders.

Detail of new and existing buildings at Sterling Mason JS: MA:

That was the purpose of the trip? No, it was just a historical tour of the Quarter. But I was fascinated by the architecture and I kept ­drawing it. I remember drawing an entire streetscape. I wish I still had it. The second moment happened in sixth grade. We had this wild teacher, and she took us to the New Orleans Museum of Art. The teachers drove us themselves, and our teacher had an acid green Porsche 911 that I rode in—it was amazing. Anyway, I remember this exhibit that was a giant inflatable, translucent, amber-colored sculpture in the lobby of the museum that you could walk through. It filled up the entire lobby. So I was really just


A Conversation with Lyle Starr

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Lyle Starr’s show at Morris Adjmi Architects’ office​

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starting to have an awareness of architecture when I encountered this sculpture, this work of art you could enter. It had this little slit, you peel it back, and then you can enter the sculpture and walk around in it. And in the museum lobby it created this strange juxtaposition with the large neoclassical space. It was incredible to me. That might have been the first time I connected art and architecture. So those are the first two inspirational moments. What was the third? The third thing, which finally convinced me to study architecture, is much more banal: a ninth-grade aptitude test. The results came back and said I would be a good architect or photographer. My interest in architecture had grown, and at the time, I was taking an environmental design class that I really liked. It was taught by a painter who was basically teaching spatial awareness. It all just clicked into place. So this interest in the fine arts, which inspires a lot of your work today, is something you’ve always had? Yes, but I didn’t think that being an artist was ever a possibility. My father believed I needed a “real” profession. He wanted me to come work with him in retail, and I had to tell him I didn’t want that. It was easy for me to sell something if I liked it and felt passionate about it—if I was selling a camera I thought was great, it was fine, but if I was selling some junky instamatic, I couldn’t get into it. I realized you have to love what you do. But even when I was taking photography and printmaking and drawing classes, I was always interested in making that into something that was more viable. So we’re talking about your history and the impulse to be an architect, but how important... Wait, let me flip it on you. How did you become an artist? It was much more indirect. I went to college to study biology, possibly a pre-veterinarian course. I grew up in the West and spent a lot of time around animals when I was younger. When I entered college I had to take all these biology classes and other courses needed to work toward a veterinary degree. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know how to do it. And then second semester some-

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body said, “Hey, I took this sculpture class and I think you’d really like it.” Were you interested in art? Not at all. But I did always make stuff. We had a 4-H class where I lived in New Mexico, and along with animal husbandry they taught us leatherworking. I really got into leatherworking, but I didn’t think of it as art. So I signed up for this sculpture class just because I needed an elective. The first week of the class amazed me. It was exactly what I liked to do—make stuff. No rote learning through lectures and textbooks. Art was the only thing from then on. Once you realized you liked doing this, did you start studying art history and looking at the work of other artists? You have a pretty deep well of knowledge and references. Not exactly. I was a little bit of a contrarian at that age. I realized quickly that I didn’t want to learn what art was through other people; I wanted to discover it myself. So I would leave for Europe as frequently as possible and just bum around going to museums. Again, I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting in a lecture hall looking at slides. It seemed like such a pale comparison to seeing the real thing. You can’t see scale, you can’t see texture, you’re just memorizing names, dates, and places, which were meaningless to me. I wanted to experience the thrill of Baroque or Rococo or Romanesque. It stays with you when you experience it in a visceral way. Right. That was the way I approached it. I experienced it. I taught myself. There are a lot of artists who rebel against, or work toward, some other movement or artist. I don’t see your work like that. There are certain artists whose work I would say yours is similar to, but I don’t necessarily think the connection is so direct or literal. Being self-taught was probably a benefit in that respect. It’s also an ethic and aesthetic of the late twentieth century to try and find a new way. It’s interesting how artists often develop, and art movements are typically born, in rebellion against what came before. There’s always a change or a reappropriation and then a moving on. It’s a rejection. And that’s fine for big moments in art, but we don’t always respect that in an artist’s own body of work. We expect an artist to progress along a trajectory. The idea that they could suddenly question everything they’ve done and do something totally different—people usually reject that. I still have a problem reconciling de Chirico’s metaphysical landscapes with his later paintings of fanciful gladiators wrestling on a neoclassical stage. A lot of those

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paintings aren’t in his catalog. They were sort of edited out of the public consciousness. Do you think about the historical relevance of your own work? Architecture is so permanent and real. That’s one of the reasons I try to do architecture that’s not fashionable. A lot of stuff out there now gets old before it’s finished. Do you consider your work a reaction against any movement or style?

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Lyle Starr installing his work MA:

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By designing buildings that are quiet, that concentrate on subtlety as opposed to overt or loud gestures, I think I’m making a statement that way. Do people ever put you into any categories? Does anyone associate your work with postmodernism or some other movement? I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it in that way, in terms of postmodernism or any other style. I don’t think I fall into any category so easily. You may not be consciously reacting against anything, but your work can certainly be seen as a rebuttal to a lot of contemporary architecture, especially in New York, where anonymous glass towers are rising everywhere. It’s more important to be consistent and to do good work that doesn’t necessarily seem too self-conscious, that doesn’t stand out or isn’t recognized as an “icon” or isn’t associated with any moment or movement. In some ways, this ties back to our experience in New Orleans. After the storm, we both had that feeling that our neighborhoods just didn’t feel right. In this case, we’re not talking about things being taken away—trees being uprooted or buildings destroyed—we’re talking about things being added that have the same effect, slowly changing the feeling of the place. It’s not that slow. In terms of volume, in terms of new construction here, I’ve never seen anything like what’s happening right now. We’re losing a sense of scale in some parts of the city. Lyle, getting back to this idea of inspiration, you’ve told me that you and Morris first bonded over... Music. We talked a lot about music right away. But we

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share a lot of common interests that influence our disciplines in some way, even though our disciplines are different. I’m curious: Morris, how do all these things get expressed in your work? I know it’s a difficult question to answer, but I find it fascinating. As an artist, you probably approach your work in a different way than I approach architecture. Obviously, a building has more constraints than a painting or sculpture—this is why art is so much more interesting than architecture. Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’m breaking new ground by saying restraint can drive creativity. But for me, drawing from art and music is a way to find an idea or an approach that transcends the limitations of architecture. That’s one of the reasons we run a regular exhibitions program in the office. Every few months there’s an entirely different exhibition. That whole program was a result of dismantling our old office and taking work down that was up for five years and never changed. We needed to do something new. We wanted a space that was always evolving and changing, and we wanted something that would stimulate people to think about their connection to their world. I don’t want us to just think about our own work and be self-referential; I want us to bring in new ideas. It serves three purposes: one, it keeps the environment fresh; two, it creates a source of inspiration; and three, it creates a way to connect artists with developers and bring things into our projects that might not have otherwise happened—to start new conversations. For me, it’s as important to draw from the art world as it is from architecture. But Lyle, you’re drawing straight from life and culture. I don’t see your work being that referential.

Lyle Starr, Drift, 2000 LS:

I disagree with you a little bit. First, I’m not drawing from life in the sense that I’m a representational artist. Rather, I’m looking to mitigate or filter my experience of the world through my medium and give it form. But I wanted to add something to what you said earlier


A Conversation with Lyle Starr

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about sculpture. One of the reasons that you, in your practice, look to sculptors for form—this is my theory— is that you’re interested in art across the spectrum. You’re as interested in Iggy Pop as in Tarkovsky, but sculpture is just the closest analogue to architecture so you’re drawn to it in particular. You can be equally enthusiastic about a Tarkovsky film, but it’s hard to find an architectural expression of a Tarkovsky film. Maybe architecture just isn’t as creatively stimulating to me. I love designing buildings. I just feel like I can bring something else to them. I feel similarly. Sometimes I’ll get excited about a painting, but more often I get excited about other things and I want to bring them into my paintings. Lyle, at your exhibition you mentioned that old Play­ skool tray puzzles were a major inspiration for you. It’s really interesting to think about those old children’s puzzles purely in terms of the relationship between line, shape, and image. Yes. I think a lot about how we use the contents of our daily lives and our interests—whether it’s a William Faulkner novel or a Tarkovsky film or a Playskool puzzle. How do these things get channeled into what we do, into our architecture or art or writing? It’s also about editing. What are you choosing and what are you filtering out? And why. We’re drawn to these things that seem completely disparate from our chosen vocations because on some level it’s resonating with what we do as an artist or architect or writer. Right, and that’s the fun part. And the challenge in life, as I see it, is to take these seemingly disparate interests and fold them back into what you do, to make them relevant. I’ve said before that I wouldn’t know how to start a project if it was in a blank field. Obviously, I’d figure it out, but for me having a physical context to work from is important. It gives you something to relate to and to build on, rather than a blank canvas. So context gives me a structure—that’s the grid. That’s how I start my projects, and that’s how we started this book. The grid is the constant, the principle. Beyond that, you need to figure out something else to make it relevant. Relevant to you, or to... Both. That’s the conversation, the relationships, the ideas, the inspirations that give a project meaning, I hope, and artistic merit. By purposefully engaging with cultural influences outside of your vocation, you’re expanding the possible range of your creative activity. That’s it, exactly. The connection to architecture is a given. We have to use the building blocks of architecture. We still have to make a building, and there’s

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definitely a connection in our work to the history of architecture, but we try to infuse it with other ideas to make it connect to our time and to our culture. To show something new. Or reveal something hidden. Exactly.

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16 West 21st Street

Situated on a thin slice of land in the center of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, this 15-story residential building resonates with its historic context not by imitating the forms of the district’s architecture but by innovating in the spirit that first inspired those forms. Ladies’ Mile is named after a stretch of Broadway that became a popular shopping district in the nineteenth century, when the rise of mass production and ready-to-wear clothing spurred the construction of large department stores. Many of these new buildings were designed by architects who had participated in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; the white brick and limestone facades were directly influenced by the neoclassical structures that led the exposition to be nicknamed the “White City.” But Ladies’ Mile’s staid Beaux Arts facades belie a technological sophistication: cast iron and structural steel made it relatively easy and economical to create large, flexible loft spaces clad with elaborate ornamental facades. The classically composed facade at 16 West 21st Street is built entirely of translucent glass that has been slumped, pressed, and carved to imitate brick, stone, and steel. Glass beams divide the floors, translucent glass pilasters separate the bays, and the glass base imitates the rustication seen on historic buildings in the area. The building front reproduces the tectonic rhythms of those older buildings with superscaled, rounded columns and lintels—elemental forms that also invoke Aldo Rossi’s Hotel Il Palazzo in Fukuoka, Japan, and his Scholastic Building in SoHo, both of which reflect a fascination with New York’s historic architecture. 16 West 21st Street ceremonially closes the office’s connection with Studio di Architettura and establishes a focus on using materials in unexpected ways.

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2009 New York, New York 23,000 square feet 15 stories 11 units Residential

1 16 West 21st Street’s spare facade distills the architectural character of its neoclassical neighbors in basic forms and a single material—glass.


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2 View west down 21st Street: like typical loft buildings found throughout the area, 16 West 21st Street features a classical tripartite division and a double-height ground floor.

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3 Plan, ground floor. Behind the building’s lobby is the lower level of a ­three‑bedroom duplex unit which has a large private terrace. 4 Plan, floor 2. Along with the duplex, there is one other apartment that spans multiple levels: a three-story penthouse with three bedrooms, two balconies, and a private rooftop terrace. 5 Typical plan, floors 3–9. Full-floor, two-bedroom units feature glazing at the front and back of the building as well as a small private balcony.

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83 Walker

This new apartment building is located in the Tribeca East Historic District, an area with a significant number of noteworthy structures by pioneers of cast-iron architecture James Bogardus and Daniel D. Badger. In the nineteenth century, the use of ornate cast-iron components to imitate carved stone ornament and other types of masonry construction was cutting-edge technology; today New York City’s cast-iron facades remain a fascinating study in the relationship of form, material, and technology. 83 Walker Street honors this history with an interpretation of the classic cast-iron facade that is both edifying and unexpected. The building front, which is constructed from sandblasted precast concrete panels, was designed as a “negative” of a typical cast-iron facade. Everything about it is traditional and instantly familiar, from the basic tripartite division to the composition of the arched windows, lintels, and understated pilasters—but it is an inverse of that traditional and instantly familiar Tribeca facade. Instead of projecting out from the facade, the pilasters are impressed into it. 83 Walker is, essentially, an enormous mold for creating a cast-iron building. This homage to the casting process was inspired by the work of sculptor Rachel Whiteread, who uses plaster and resin to cast negatives of architectural artifacts. 83 Walker’s cast form, in comparison to Whiteread’s work, is relatively simple. But the clarity and depth of its inverted components create a dynamic play of light and shadow that subtly changes the appearance of the facade. The building’s coloring relates to both the white-painted cast iron and buff-colored stone found throughout Tribeca. 83 Walker does more than invoke the color and forms of buildings in the district, however. It inspires a consideration of how these buildings were actually constructed, how the components were cast and assembled. In this way, it is a singular record of the architectural processes that have shaped the city and neighborhood.

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2017 New York, New York 14,000 square feet 9 stories 9 units Residential

1 Despite its nontraditional expression of cast-iron forms, 83 Walker was praised by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission as a “contemporary and sympathetic complement” to the loft buildings in the Tribeca East Historic District.


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2 Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993. Whiteread’s works were a notable inspiration for 83 Walker. Her surprising, intricate plaster and resin casts of objects and spaces defamiliarize everyday architectural elements.

3 One of 83 Walker’s precast concrete panels being removed from its mold. 4 Cover of Daniel D. Badger’s 1865 Architectural Iron Works catalog, which features cast-iron facades and components. 5 View west down Walker Street, showing 83 Walker in context.


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6 The concrete facade fits the cast-iron context so well that it’s easy to walk past 83 Walker without giving it a second glance. Up close, however, the unexpected construction method and material offer a dramatic contrast to the neighboring buildings.


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7 Elevation detail of front facade. 8 Section through front facade. 83 Walker’s facade isn’t the only aspect of the building that offers a surprising twist on the Tribeca vernacular. The eight full-floor apartments and ground-floor duplex unit all feature windows that look like the traditional two-over-two double-hung sashes commonly found throughout the area but are, in fact, large hopper windows that open inward.

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The Sterling Mason

Many buildings designed by the office relate to a city’s architectural context without directly imitating a specific historic structure. The Sterling Mason is a little different. It does directly imitate a specific historic structure. The Tribeca condominium building is composed of two joined buildings—or, rather, one building twice: a renovated brick warehouse originally built in 1905 and its mirror image, a new metallic duplicate. Warehouses in the area were frequently expanded with additions that reflected the tastes or technologies of their time, revealing the historic progression of the city. The Sterling Mason continues this tradition. The original six-story former coffee and tea warehouse is a quintessential Tribeca warehouse on a quintessential Tribeca cobbled street corner. Its facade is defined by four-story recessed arches containing pairs of windows that mark every floor; the top story is distinguished by a procession of arched windows set between a limestone sill and a terra-cotta cornice. The addition is equal in size and proportion, with every detail of the masonry facade re-created in marine-grade, plasma-finished aluminum and aluminum-coated glass fiber reinforced concrete panels. The effect is startling, inviting a second or even a third look along with comparisons to a photographic negative, a ghostly mirage, or a work by Andy Warhol. The shimmering “copy” derives from a study of its site, which has the same dimensions of the existing warehouse’s lot. An exposed brick party wall, covered in fading advertisements for a paper company, suggested that the old building had been halved or left incomplete—so it was completed. The new half of the Sterling Mason is built using the materials and technologies of today to imitate the appearance of traditional construction methods—a contemporary technique reminiscent of using painted cast iron to imitate stone. A sense of historic continuity can be found inside the twin buildings as well. The large apartments thoughtfully balance open plans with traditional detailing, including custom hand-built cabinetry and elegant, slender

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2016 New York, New York 115,000 square feet 7 stories 32 units Residential

1 A thin reveal separates the Sterling Mason’s original brick building and its metallic copy, which is clad in GFRC panels cast to replicate brick and stone.


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2 View west toward the corner of Laight Street and Green­wich Street, at the garage that previously occupied the Sterling Mason’s site. 3 Sketch by Morris Adjmi. This early design closely resembles the original building but is not identical. Rather, it attempts to mediate between the original brick warehouse on one side and a second existing building—an earlier project by Morris Adjmi Architects—on the other.

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4 The Ise Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Japan dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu, which is rebuilt every 20 years on an adjacent site. In this aerial photograph, the older shrine is clearly distinct from the newly built duplicate. This process of architectural renewal, which dates back nearly 1,300 years, helps preserve tradition and ensures a continuity within the culture. The Sterling Mason aims to do the same. 5 Concept sketch by Morris Adjmi suggesting duplicating the existing building. 6 A mock-up of the Sterling Mason’s new plasma-finished floor facade was fabricated in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


The Sterling Mason

columns, thereby offering the best of both contemporary loft living and classic prewar apartments. Although local traditions and conditions shaped the Sterling Mason, the project was also inspired by the Ise Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Japan that is demolished every 20 years and replaced by an identical copy built on an adjacent site using a single piece of wood from the previous structure. Thus, the Ise Shrine is simultaneously new and old. It’s not just a building; it’s a ritual. The Sterling Mason makes no such claims, but it can be interpreted as a commentary on how buildings—and cities—can evolve while continuing to participate in an architectural tradition that holds them unchanged in viewers’ minds. The metal half of the Sterling Mason will remain perfect, frozen; the restored brick half will weather and age. One is the ideal, the other the real; together they offer the opportunity to reappraise the architecture of the city and consider the effects of time.

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The Sterling Mason

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Rendering of Laight Street elevation.

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The Sterling Mason

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8 Southwest corner of Laight Street and Greenwich Street. The GFRC addition almost reads as if it were always a part of the original brick building. 9 Plan, floor 7. The left half of the drawing illustrates the upper floors of two duplex penthouse units that are located at the top of the metallic addition. The right half shows a single-story penthouse built on the original structure.

10 Typical plan, floors 2–5. Although old and new buildings are essentially identical from the exterior, their interior layouts differ in response to column locations. In the original brick building, the apartments are designed to highlight the existing architectural elements. A landscaped courtyard brings light and air into the units through oversize windows with Juliet balconies and operable metal shutters—similar to those once found throughout Tribeca.

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Atlantic Plumbing

Atlantic Plumbing is a large mixed-use development intended to help revitalize a creative, up-and-coming neighborhood near Howard University in Washington, D.C. It comprises four structures on three sites previously occupied by parking lots or abandoned and overgrown warehouses, including the Atlantic Plumbing Supply Company. The sites brought to mind the large industrial buildings that line the railways leading into Washington—buildings that, seen from a passing train, evoke the work of artists Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers are best known for their black-and-white photographs of industrial structures, which are typically exhibited as a grid of images depicting one specific type—water towers, blast furnaces, or silos, for example. The deadpan photographs illustrate the beauty of industrial forms and invite an appreciation of the variations that can be found within a single type. Atlantic Plumbing’s industrial setting and the Bechers’ photographs together inspired the design and planning strategy for the Atlantic Plumbing development. The four distinct but architecturally related structures combine modern and industrial languages by means of brick, glass, and steel. Inside, the buildings’ various units feature high ceilings and wood floors, as well as industrial-style fixtures and cabinetry that nod to the neighborhood’s history while creating a consistent design experience. Although its design may be rooted in the recent past, Atlantic Plumbing’s bold graphic forms, contextual material palette, and thoughtful public programming are drawing people to the area, cultivating a sense of community, and, ultimately, inspiring better buildings throughout the neighborhood to give it an apt new identity. In that sense, the Atlantic Plumbing project isn’t just about responding to its context; it’s about creating a new one.

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1 Site isometric. Atlantic Plumbing A is at right; Atlantic Plumbing B at bottom left; and the pair of buildings known as Atlantic Plumbing C at top.



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2 A selection of cooling towers photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers’ work is shot in a shadowless, detached style that presents architectural subjects almost as if they were sculptures. Exhibited in grids, the photographs invite a close look in order to identify variations between functionally identical structures.

3 Early sketch of Atlantic Plumbing A. 4 Masons reconstruct the original Atlantic Plumbing sign before reinstalling it in the lobby of Building A.


Atlantic Plumbing

Atlantic Plumbing A

2016 Washington, D.C. 290,000 square feet 11 stories 310 units Residential

This 11-story rental building, Atlantic Plumbing’s first completed structure, is located at 2112 8th Street on the site formerly occupied by the Atlantic Plumbing Supply Company. It is essentially a glass box set within a Cor-Ten steel structural exoskeleton. The weathered, rust-colored cross-bracing—an industrial form that can be seen along the railroad tracks leading into the nation’s capital—gives the building a strong graphic identity and allows for open, loft-style apartments. In addition, it creates space to integrate landscaping: private garden plots, climbing vines, and planted terraces soften the building’s industrial character and recall the overgrown warehouses that once stood on the site. A site-specific artwork inspired by the infamous “gum wall” at the 9:30 Club, the historic music venue located next door, further ties the building to the history of its neighborhood. The steel-encased glass volume rests on a gray brick base reminiscent of the warehouses that can still be found throughout the area. Instead of loading docks, the building incorporates large glass garage doors that lead to highly visible restaurants, a theater, and subsidized art studios that are regularly opened to the public and designed to overflow onto the sidewalks to increase pedestrian activity. A communal rooftop offers all tenants fully equipped kitchen and lounge spaces, outdoor entertainment areas, a swimming pool, and an outdoor screening area. The building’s address is writ large on its facade in recycled brick, an homage to the original black and white brick Atlantic Plumbing Supply Company sign that was built into the facade of the old warehouse and has been carefully reintegrated into the brick walls of Atlantic Plumbing A’s lobby.

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5 View north across V Street NW to Atlantic Plumbing A. 6 The original brick sign of the Atlantic Plumbing Supply Company has been carefully preserved and integrated into the lobby of Atlantic Plumbing A.

7 Atlantic Plumbing A offers residents a rooftop lounge with a kitchen and café seating areas, among other amenities. A large folding door opens the lounge to a landscaped terrace featuring private vegetable gardens.


Atlantic Plumbing

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8 Atlantic Plumbing A’s wraparound roof terrace. 9 An interior garden wall brings Atlantic Plumbing A’s “overgrown factory” aesthetic inside the building. 10 Custom metal stair designed for the lobby of Atlantic Plumbing A.

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11 The integrated plantings softening Atlantic Plumbing A’s facade were derived from the old, overgrown factories surrounding Washington, D.C. Many of the plants were harvested from the abandoned lots in the neighborhood.


Atlantic Plumbing

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12 Plan, roof. Generous spaces are dedicated to resident amenities, including a swimming pool and roof deck, full kitchen and several dining areas, a rec room, lounge spaces, and a fitness center with locker rooms. 13 Typical plan, floors 4–6. 14 Plan, ground floor. Restaurants, retail, and subsidized art studios can be found at street level.

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Atlantic Plumbing

Atlantic Plumbing B

2016 Washington, D.C. 73,000 square feet 7 stories 62 units Residential

15 View west toward the corner of 8th Street NW and V Street NW to Atlantic Plumbing B. 16 Early sketch of Atlantic Plumbing B.

The second Atlantic Plumbing building is a 62-unit condominium located on a lot adjacent to the first, at 2030 8th Street. The two buildings share a basic aesthetic sensibility that makes them immediately identifiable as part of the same development, even though the designs are quite different. In lieu of steel cross-bracing, the smaller, square building is wrapped in dark metal framing that forms a superscaled running bond pattern to divide the facade into enormous glass “bricks” of one- and two-bedroom apartments enclosed by floor-to-ceiling factory-sash windows. At the top of the building, five two-story penthouse units feature private terraces, but all residents have access to a communal landscaped terrace as well as other rooftop amenity spaces. Like Atlantic Plumbing A, Atlantic Plumbing B rests on a brick base suggestive of old warehouses—albeit with much more glass. The base introduces 5,000 square feet of new retail space to the neighborhood, including a destination restaurant with outdoor seating. Atlantic Plumbing B is more restrained than its Cor-Ten-framed neighbor, with high-end interior finishes and details designed to attract a more established demographic looking to make the neighborhood their long-term home.

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Atlantic Plumbing

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17 Atlantic Plumbing B in the foreground with Atlantic Plumbing A behind. 18 The rooftop clubroom at Atlantic Plumbing B offers views over the terrace to Atlantic Plumbing A.

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Atlantic Plumbing

Atlantic Plumbing C

2019 Washington, D.C. 354,000 square feet 11 stories 161 units 95 guest rooms Residential and hospitality

19 Rendering looking east across Florida Avenue NW toward Atlantic Plumbing C.

The third phase of the Atlantic Plumbing development consists of two 11-story, through-block structures joined by a seven-story skybridge. Although Atlantic Plumbing C shares a general sensibility with the two previous buildings, it has a more restrained design that reflects the changes in the neighborhood that have occurred since the completion of those structures, and anticipates further growth as the area continues to mature. On the north side of the site, a glass rental building is wrapped in a screen of multicolored terra-cotta baguettes. The screen’s depth and warm colors recall older masonry structures—an effect reinforced by the regular openings that evoke punched windows in a masonry facade. Inside, a similar effect is achieved with walnut, brass, and leather finishes that give the building’s refined public spaces a historic resonance. On floors four through nine, the apartments continue into the glass and concrete skybridge that spans a new internal street—inspired by the Dutch woonerf, or “living street”—and connects the rental building to the structure on the south side of the site, a hotel clad in a glass and metal curtain wall. The concrete supports of the skybridge angle down to the street, offering both an architectural focal point in the newly created space and a gateway to the project from the east. The street itself, which restores a connection through the block that was removed long ago, is lined on both sides with new retail spaces. It is designed for both pedestrian and light automotive traffic and may be extended as future developments are completed.

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20 Rendering looking down the woonerf interior street. 21 Site section. The two buildings of Atlantic Plumbing C are connected by shared underground parking and by the glass skybridge.

22 Typical plan, floors 4–9. The rental units in the longer building continue into the bridge that links the two structures at the eastern side of the lot. Landscaped courtyards at the edges of the site admit light and air into all units in both buildings.

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42 West 18th Street

Advancements in construction technology during the nineteenth century helped transform New York City’s Ladies’ Mile Historic District from a residential neighborhood of townhouses and stables into a prominent shopping district known for manufacturing and retail lofts. This new mixed-use project, composed of two residential towers—one facing West 17th Street and one West 18th Street—was designed not only to tell the story of Ladies’ Mile but to continue that story using a language that resonates with a contemporary audience while remaining familiar to those versed in the original vernacular. On 17th Street, where delicate window grilles adorn many nineteenth-century structures, the new building features a glazed curtain wall overlaid with a screen of metal mesh woven in the image of a typical Ladies’ Mile facade, complete with traditional masonry, fenestration, and architectural ornament. The design was influenced by the work of sculptor Do Ho Suh, whose translucent fabric reconstructions of domestic objects, interior spaces, and even entire buildings have been likened to built memories. The 17th Street facade similarly uses architectural elements to allude to a larger narrative about history, place, and identity. Its re-creation of traditional architectural elements using contemporary material technology evokes— without historicism—the tradition of innovation that shaped Ladies’ Mile. The more abstract 18th Street facade tells a similar story by means of a grid of windows surrounded by light gray stepped brick frames that dissipate as they rise up the building. At street level, the building resembles a heavy masonry structure, but the punched openings expand as the “steps” are removed at each successive floor, transforming the facade into a refined, contemporary window wall. There are no direct allusions to traditional ornament, but the brick suggests a depth, complexity, and coloration typical of nineteenth-century architecture.

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2023 New York, New York 84,000 square feet 17 stories on 18th Street 16 stories on 17th Street 66 units Residential

1 Rendering of 17th Street facade. The metal mesh reads as a historic veil concealing a contemporary glass facade—or, more romantically, as the ghost of a building that never existed hovering in front of its contemporary descendant. The shared lineage between screen and facade is apparent in the alignment of vertical elements and the similar proportions.


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2 Do Ho Suh, Home Within Home, 2013. The 17th Street facade was inspired by the ghostly work of sculptor Do Ho Suh. 3 Assembly diagram for the 17th Street facade. 4 Ladies’ Mile was initially developed as a residential neighborhood full of small masonry homes, stables, and carriage houses similar to the smallest building. The next two buildings represent the transformation of the neighborhood into a commercial center of loft buildings used for retail or light manufacturing. Advancements in construction technology made it possible to build large department stores and offices like the fourth building. 5 Rendering of 17th Street facade.


42 West 18th Street

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6 Rendering of 18th Street facade. 7 Site isometric. Both towers—16 stories and 50 feet wide on 17th Street and 17 stories and 25 feet wide on 18th Street—have distinct

designs influenced by lot size and streetscape. Yet both buildings symbolically represent the architectural innovations responsible for shaping Ladies’ Mile.


42 West 18th Street

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The Standard at South Market

The Standard is a new residential building in the burgeoning South Market District in downtown New Orleans. This formerly neglected area near the center of the city has become a creative, transit-oriented, mixed-use ­development. Inspired by the neighborhood’s historic significance as a hub for industry and commerce, and as home to one of the most prolific architectural ironwork factories in New Orleans, the design of the Standard echoes the rhythms and materials of old warehouses and industrial structures and reflects the neighborhood’s modern context at the intersection of the city’s business and arts districts. To draw more pedestrian traffic to the quickly growing neighborhood, the building has a three-story base that introduces 24,000 square feet of retail space with frontage on three streets, including Julia Street, the main thoroughfare of the city’s Arts District. These retail spaces accommodate boutiques and galleries, extending the lively gallery-lined promenade of Julia Street. At the top of the base, a private 30,000-square-foot deck features a large saltwater pool, cabanas, and outdoor kitchens. Balancing modernist ideals and industrial forms, the Standard’s tower is an apt fit for the city’s skyline. Operable factory-inspired square windows are set in a regular grid of deep metal frames that project outward from the iron-colored cladding. These recesses and projections create an interplay of light and shadow that recalls the depth and complexity of the city’s historic facades. The elegant simplicity of the metal-clad exterior is balanced by the richness of the interiors, where a palette of stone, bronze, and wood gives the lobby and common spaces a timeless charm. The building’s 89 one- to three-bedroom units are characterized by high ceilings, large windows, and a focus on craft, with saw-cut oak floors, mosaic tiles, and custom walnut cabinetry milled by local craftsmen.

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2018 New Orleans, Louisiana 237,000 square feet 15 stories 89 units Residential

1 View west toward the corner of O’Keefe Avenue and Julia Street. The 15-story tower facing Julia Street bookends the block as well as the new South Market District.


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2 Kitchen and dining area in the third-floor residential lounge. The floors are honey gray limestone, the countertop is marble, and the cabinets are finished with white oak, in contrast to the walnut cabinets in the private kitchens. 3 The Standard’s serene lobby doubles as a public exhibition space, extending the gallery-lined promenade of Julia Street.

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The Standard at South Market

4 The Standard’s clearly defined three-story base continues the architectural scale established by the historic buildings of the Warehouse District, while the tower helps the neighborhood transition to a new scale.

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5 In addition to the saltwater swimming pool and surrounding cabanas, the 30,000-square-foot terrace features an outdoor kitchen, dining spaces, and a garden landscape of native plants including elm, magnolia, and fig trees. 6 The private cabanas around the pool create an oasis in the middle of the city.

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The Standard at South Market

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7 Section through base and tower. 8 Plan, floor 3. The Standard’s terrace, along with the pool house and lounge, sits on top of the base.

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9 Plan, floor 4. A small terrace overlooks the large, landscaped roof deck. 10 Plan, floor 15. A wraparound terrace circumscribes the living spaces on the top floor.

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

Project Chronology

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

SCHOLASTIC BUILDING

2001

PRUDENTIAL CENTER

2007

414 WEST 14TH STREET

2008

Newark, New Jersey 250,000 square feet

New York, New York 50,000 square feet 6 stories Gansevoort Market Historic District

2006

New York, New York 50,000 square feet 5 stories Gansevoort Market Historic District The first structure to be approved in a newly designated historic district, this retail building set a precedent for future development by blending residential, commercial, and industrial vernacular forms into a design that is unmistakably contemporary yet respectful of the historic context.

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Translucent glass forms define the facade of this 15-story residential building, which celebrates the spirit of architectural innovation that gave rise to the large neoclassical department stores of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.

Two adjacent nineteenth-century industrial buildings, scarred by a century of ad hoc adaptations, were united behind a restored brick facade and renovated to accommodate new office and retail space.

New York, New York 120,000 square feet 10 stories SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District

THEORY BUILDING

2009

New York, New York 23,000 square feet 15 stories/11 units Ladies’ Mile Historic District

The exterior design of this stadium features a bold precast frame, beaconlike glass towers, and brick cladding that reflects its ­Newark context.

The world headquarters of the educational publisher Scholastic provides new office and retail space in a through-block, ten-story building designed with Aldo Rossi. The building’s colorful Broadway facade reinterprets New York’s historic cast-iron architecture in simple, almost childlike forms, while its steel and glass rear facade reflects the more industrial character of Mercer Street.

16 WEST 21ST STREET

THE EMORY

2008

408 GREENWICH

2008

New York, New York 23,000 square feet 15 stories/14 units Ladies’ Mile Historic District The limestone base, glazed gray brick, and zinc detailing that define this luxury apartment building were inspired by the white neoclassical facades found throughout the historic neighborhood.

NYU WILF HALL

2010

New York, New York 50,000 square feet 6 stories South Village Historic District

New York, New York 34,000 square feet 9 stories Tribeca North Historic District With a facade constructed of unadorned precast concrete arches, this nine-story mixed-use building is a modern interpretation of the traditional masonry buildings common to its Tribeca neighborhood.

This academic building for the NYU School of Law incorporates a preserved theater into its facade. To better fit the scale of Greenwich Village, it was designed to resemble four brick townhouses.


PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

PRIVATE RESIDENCE

2010

254 FRONT

2012

250 BOWERY

2013

New York, New York 25,000 square feet 7 stories/41 units South Street Seaport Historic District

2014

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19,000 square feet 2 floors/27 guest rooms Situated in Philadelphia’s historic Packard Building, the flagship ROOST location redefines apartment hotels while defining the company’s brand with mid-century-inspired custom furnishings along with elegant finishes that highlight an ornate carefully preserved plaster ceiling.

Built in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge in one of New York’s oldest neighborhoods, this residential building is an interpretation of the district’s maritime heritage and an homage to its eclectic building stock.

New York, New York 48,000 square feet 8 stories/24 units

New York, New York 2,000 square feet To take advantage of exposure on three sides, this apartment renovation in a prewar building is designed around a central core that features custom millwork.

THE HIGH LINE BUILDING

ROOST MIDTOWN

This residential building has a deceptively simple steel and glass facade that brings upscale, factory-inspired architecture to New York’s quickly changing Bowery neighborhood.

2011

837 WASHINGTON WYTHE HOTEL

2014

2012

Occupying four floors of a former call center in Tribeca, this new production facility features a dramatic new glass curtain wall, state-of-theart technology, and flexible studio spaces that have hosted film shoots, fashion shows, art exhibitions, and other events.

To convert this 1901 cooperage into a boutique hotel, a contemporary addition was built on the roof of the restored brick warehouse. Up-to-date mechanical systems were integrated into the historic architecture, and every room was designed to enhance the building’s postindustrial spaces and materials.

This commercial mid-rise, comprising a new glass tower and an existing 1930s Art Deco warehouse, is the only building in New York that shares the structural supports of the High Line.

2014

New York, New York 120,000 square feet 4 floors

Brooklyn, New York 43,000 square feet 9 stories/70 guest rooms

New York, New York 100,000 square feet 15 stories

SPRING STUDIOS

New York, New York 52,000 square feet 6 stories Gansevoort Market Historic District With a design inspired by its 1930s brick base and the nearby High Line elevated park, 837 Washington has a twisting steel tower that fits into its postindustrial context while simultaneously standing out.

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

290 WEST STREET

2015

ATLANTIC PLUMBING A

2016

ATLANTIC PLUMBING B

2016

Washington, D.C. 290,000 square feet 11 stories/310 units

THE SCHUMACHER

2016

New York, New York 61,000 square feet 7 stories/20 units NoHo East Historic District

Inspired by old industrial architecture, this 11-story rental building is wrapped in a structural steel exoskeleton that features integrated planting beds and climbing vines, recalling the overgrown warehouses that once occupied the site.

A deferential conversion of a former printing house into a condominium highlights the building’s original architectural features to imbue the new apartments with a warmth and sense of history. Washington, D.C. 73,000 square feet 7 stories/62 units A superscaled running bond pattern of metal channels wraps the facade of this condominium building, the second structure in the industrial-style Atlantic ­Plumbing development.

New York, New York 37,000 square feet 11 stories/13 units Recalling Tribeca’s industrial past, this condominium features protected views of the Hudson River through factory-sash, floorto-ceiling windows.

ROOST RITTENHOUSE

2015

11 NORTH MOORE

COBBLE HILL TOWNHOUSES

2016

2016

Brooklyn, New York 21,000 square feet 4 stories/9 units Cobble Hill Historic District

AUSTIN NICHOLS HOUSE Brooklyn, New York 347,000 square feet 7 stories/338 units

This collection of nine brick townhouses includes four refurbished buildings and five new structures designed as contemporary interpretations of the classic Brooklyn row house. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 27,000 square feet 9 floors/28 guest rooms Occupying an entire turn-of-thecentury building near Rittenhouse Square, ROOST Rittenhouse offers uniquely appointed, mid-centuryinspired apartments, including two duplex penthouse suites, as well as a 24-hour lounge and communal workspace.

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2016

Located along the East River waterfront in a converted concrete warehouse designed by Cass Gilbert in 1915, these luxury apartments are designed to complement the surprisingly modern building. New York, New York 72,000 square feet 10 stories/18 units The large units in this Tribeca condominium feature refined interior finishes that complement the limestone facade, which reflects both classical and industrial influences.


PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

11 GREAT JONES

2016

THE WILLIAMS

2016

2017

55 WEST 17TH STREET

2017

Brooklyn, New York 90,000 square feet 13 stories/82 units

New York, New York 115,000 square feet 19 stories/53 units

With an 11-story tower wrapped in a brick and metal grid rising from a massive roof terrace atop a twostory warehouse-like plinth, this apartment building near a Brooklyn transportation nexus brings a new scale to the surrounding neighborhood and also complements its postindustrial context.

Single-pane, bronze-framed windows set within a grid of handmade white bricks define the facade of this residential building, bridging the understated refinement of modern architecture and the rough-hewn quality of traditional construction.

New York, New York 288,000 square feet 18 stories/288 units Ladies’ Mile Historic District

New York, New York 18,000 square feet 6 stories/8 units NoHo Historic District

Clad in white and gray terra-cotta masonry, this contemporary residential building reinterprets the historic district’s turn-of-the-century buildings to bring a sense of architectural continuity to Ladies’ Mile.

Inspired by nearby cast-iron facades and the work of sculptor Donald Judd, this contemporary brick and steel residential building reflects NoHo’s evolution from a manufacturing district to an artists’ enclave to an upscale residential ­neighborhood. 3 EAST 28TH STREET THE STERLING MASON

7 WEST 21ST STREET

2016

2017

ONE HILL SOUTH

2017

New York, New York 58,000 square feet 12 stories Madison Square North Historic District

THRIVE CAPITAL New York, New York 10,000 square feet

A minimal intervention, built in light woods and dark metals and complemented by custom-designed furnishings, accentuates the vaulted brick ceilings of this large office space in New York’s famous Puck Building.

Originally built in 1912, this 12-story office building has been updated with a new retail storefront, large open floor plans, and a landscaped roof deck.

New York, New York 115,000 square feet 7 stories/32 units Tribeca North Historic District This Tribeca condominium building consists of two joined buildings, or, rather, one building twice: a renovated brick warehouse built in 1905 and its mirror image, a newly built metallic duplicate.

2017

Washington, D.C. 575,000 square feet 13 stories/383 units Designed around a central courtyard space, this glass apartment building near the Capitol features a checkerboard pattern of twostory projections, giving its facade a dynamic presence.

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

465 PACIFIC

2017

LANDMARK WEST LOOP

2018

1100 LUDLOW

2018

540 WEST 26TH STREET

Chicago, Illinois 326,000 square feet 31 stories/353 units

New York, New York 143,000 square feet 8 stories

An interpretation of classic Chicago modernism inspired by industrial architecture, this 31-story rental tower in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood is wrapped in a layered metal grid and sits on a parking podium clad in metal screening of surprising depth and complexity.

In the heart of New York’s gallery district, this commercial building has a facade constructed of factory sash windows in a bead-blasted aluminum frame. Inside, blackened steel, finished concrete, and salvaged wood reflect the neighborhood’s industrial c ­ haracter.

Brooklyn, New York 85,000 square feet 7 stories/30 units

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 260,000 square feet 8 stories

This residential building, located between an eclectic commercial corridor and a quiet historic neighborhood, uses scale, massing, and materials to balance the two very different contexts.

A new glass and steel facade admits copious light and air though operable factory-style windows and into renovated offices in an existing building in downtown Philadelphia. 363 LAFAYETTE

83 WALKER

2017

207 WEST 79TH STREET THE STANDARD AT SOUTH MARKET

2018

2018

New Orleans, Louisiana 237,000 square feet 15 stories/89 units

83 Walker’s concrete facade ­appears to be imprinted with an image of a traditional cast-iron building, reflecting the historic design and construction methods that have shaped New York.

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2018

New York, New York 34,000 square feet 10 stories NoHo Historic District The fanning setbacks of this building were inspired by the unusual wedge-shaped site. With its brick cladding and contemporary terra-cotta detailing, the structure reflects the architectural character of the NoHo Historic District.

Part of a new development in downtown New Orleans, this condominium building is helping to revitalize its historically industrial neighborhood with a design that reflects the rhythms and materials of old warehouses and factories.

New York, New York 14,000 square feet 9 stories/9 units Tribeca East Historic District

2018

New York, New York 72,000 square feet 13 stories/19 units Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District Recalling older masonry structures on the Upper West Side, this apartment building is clad in limestone and brick and features decorative terra-cotta detailing. Inside, custom cabinetry, natural materials, and patterned finishes balance modern and traditional sensibilities.


PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

116 UNIVERSITY

2018

New York, New York 20,000 square feet 6 stories/5 units

70 HENRY

2018

2018

2019

658 & 625 DRIGGS

2019

Brooklyn, New York 19,000 square feet 5 stories/5 units Brooklyn Heights Historic District

Brooklyn, New York 27,000 square feet and 31,000 square feet 5 and 6 stories/20 and 19 units

This residential building in the Brooklyn Heights Historic ­District comprises a renovated nineteenth-century masonry base, which includes a two-story maisonette, and a three-story addition of full-floor apartments. The new volume is distinguished from the old by its contrasting brick cladding and projecting metal-framed windows.

Located a block apart, these complementary corner buildings feature distinctive textured cladding and an industrial style that reflects the Williamsburg neighborhood.

Located just south of Union Square Park, this corner building is wrapped in a masonry facade punctuated with an irregular grid of single-pane windows. The windows are recessed within stepped brick frames that give the facade a depth and dynamism evocative of historic masonry architecture.

1199 LUDLOW

138–142 NORTH 10TH STREET

Brooklyn, New York 15,000 square feet 6 stories/10 units A refined modern condominium in Williamsburg features a boardformed concrete base and a white brick facade punctured by large, projecting warehouse windows. 260 BOWERY

2019

New York, New York 23,000 square feet 8 stories/5 units

520 WEST 20TH STREET

2019

Although this residential building’s high-end apartments may reflect the changing nature of the Bowery, its board-formed concrete facade and single-pane punched windows were inspired by the neighborhood’s traditional masonry buildings.

211 SCHERMERHORN

2019

Brooklyn, New York 90,000 square feet 14 stories/48 units This Brooklyn condominium evokes traditional prewar residential buildings with an unadorned limestone and brick facade topped by arched windows and a gently curving cornice.

New York, New York 85,000 square feet 7 stories

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 280,000 square feet 24 stories/240 units

A bridgelike glass and steel addition spans the roof of this renovated brick warehouse. Large floors, high ceilings, and original materials connect the new gallery and office spaces to the neighborhood’s industrial past.

This contemporary glass and steel mixed-use building brings new residential, retail, and parking space to downtown Philadelphia in a key component of the city’s East Market revitalization project.

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PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

ATLANTIC PLUMBING C

2019

151 MULBERRY

2019

FRONT & YORK

2020

2021

New York, New York 34,000 square feet 7 stories/12 units

New York, New York 31,000 square feet 6 stories/17 units

The custom-made profiled brick that clads this contemporary condominium building articulates the ghostly image of an old tenement building. A focus on textured materials and distinctive patterns also defines the interior spaces.

This multifamily residential building features a buff-colored brick facade with recessed sliding glass doors behind contemporary balconet railings. Repeated design motifs, shared materials, and a palette of cool colors create a sense of architectural continuity from exterior to interior.

Brooklyn, New York 1,200,000 square feet 21 stories/728 units

Washington, D.C. 354,000 square feet 11 stories/161 units/95 guest rooms The third project in the Atlantic Plumbing development, this mixeduse project has a more refined industrial aesthetic than the previous two buildings, Atlantic Plumbing A and B, reflecting the evolution of the neighborhood.

Planned to maximize views toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, this mixed-use development adapts the warehouse aesthetic at a grand scale. Steel arches support a precast concrete “supergrid” of warehouse windows and brick cladding that diminishes as it rises up the building.

30 EAST 31ST STREET

134 WOOSTER

2019 950 SOUTH CAPITOL

2021

2020

Washington, D.C. 297,000 square feet 13 stories/305 units

1162 BROADWAY

Adjacent to One Hill South, 950 South Capitol complements the unique superscaled glass projections of its sister building with a distinctive pattern of alternating two-story volumes clad in stone and metal.

New York, New York 28,000 square feet 14 stories/49 guest rooms Madison Square North ­Historic District

New York, New York 92,000 square feet 40 stories/42 units

New York, New York 26,000 square feet 7 stories SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District

A 40-story residential tower in the center of Manhattan blends neo-Gothic influences with a contemporary sensibility, making a distinctive contribution to the street and the skyline.

134 Wooster distills the rhythms, patterns, and proportions of its historic cast-iron and masonry neighbors into an elegant, tripartite screen of stacked metal arches.

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156 PERRY STREET

A new hotel on a narrow lot near Madison Square Park has a canted facade highlighted by a central window bay. Inside, light stone finishes, muted wood tones, and space-­saving custom furnishings define simple but sophisticated spaces.

2021


PROJECT CHRONOLOGY

1220 FRANKFORD

2021

144–150 BARROW

2021

540 HUDSON

2021

2021

The undulating brick facade of this mixed-use building in the West Village was inspired by nearby historic structures with embedded corner turrets and slightly projecting bay windows.

2022

Brooklyn, New York 232,000 square feet 29 stories/286 units

This mixed-use project restores the landmarked Keller Hotel and adds a penthouse as well as an adjacent contemporary structure that offers hotel rooms, apartments, and an exhibition space.

Designed to bridge a large new development and a small historic neighborhood, this residential building is influenced by the colorful Romanesque architecture of a nearby landmarked church. Views toward the church’s belfry are framed by the gently twisting tower.

Washington, D.C. 90,000 square feet 5 stories An elegant rotated glass volume that appears to float above its concrete plinth, this commercial structure anchors a new waterfront development as an architecturally nuanced counterpoint to the larger mixed-use buildings lining the ­Washington Channel.

110 EAST 16TH STREET 419 BROADWAY

2022

2021

New York, New York 36,400 square feet 8 stories SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District 42 WEST 18TH STREET

In homage to the decorative facades of the SoHo–Cast Iron Historic District, 419 Broadway is clad in folding cast-zinc panels (designed in collaboration with Dutch sculptor Mattias Van Arkel) and topped by a crown of zinc columns.

New York, New York 53,000 square feet 7 stories/26 units Greenwich Village Historic District

550 CLINTON

New York, New York 57,000 square feet 7 stories/16 units/38 guest rooms

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 100,000 square feet 6 stories/114 guest rooms The guest rooms in this Philadelphia hotel draw from European modernist influences, while the design of the brick and steel exterior, which incorporates an existing masonry building, more directly reflects its postindustrial context.

THE WHARF

2023

New York, New York 84,000 square feet 17 stories on 18th Street 16 stories on 17th Street 66 units Ladies’ Mile Historic District

New York, New York 137,000 square feet 21 stories/49 units

A through-block residential complex comprises two distinct towers that evoke the history of the neighborhood, one with a translucent screen depicting the image of a traditional facade and the other with a masonry facade transitioning to a contemporary curtain wall.

This limestone and brick condominium tower is a modern take on the classic tripartite New York City apartment building. The zinc-clad stepped crown was inspired by the mansard roofs surrounding nearby Union Square.

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Illustration Credits

Unless credited below, all images and drawings are by Morris Adjmi Architects. T: Top M: Middle B: Bottom L: Left R: Right

C1: First column C2: Second column C3: Third column C4: Fourth column

Neil Alexander: 223, 224 T, 224 B, 225, 226 T, 226 B Architectural Iron Works, D. D. Badger & others, proprietors/lith. of Sarony, Major & Knapp: 186 R Arc Media: 234 C2B Bernd and Hilla Becher, photograph by Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago: 200 T Bettmann via Getty Images: 176 L Jimi Billingsley: 35, 49, 52, 119, 140, 149, 150, 166, 170, 181, 182, 230 C3T, 230 C3B, 230 C4B, 231 C2B Binyan Studios: 169 Brick Visual: 234 C4T John Davies 1993: 186 TL DBOX: 139, 194, 195 Donna Dotan: 164, 165, 232 C4B, 233 C2B, 233 C4B Estudio Mendoza: 219, 220, 233 C4T, 234 C3B, 237 C4B Familiar Control: 235 C2T Field Condition: 157, 159, 163, 174, 176 R, 191, 232 C2B, 233 C1T, 233 C1B Etienne Frossard: 177, 178 L, 178 R Diane Ghirardo: 21 T, 21 B, 144 L Florian Holzherr: 46 BL, 50 T Evan Joseph: 115 B Alan Karchmer: 93, 94, 202, 206, 208, 214, 232 C2T, 232 C3T Lehmann Maupin Gallery: 218 TL Lisa Mahar: 7 Ed Massery: 230 C2T Moso Studio: 233 C3B The Neighborhood: 89, 90 T, 90 B, 236 C1B New York Public Library: 16, 140 R NYC Municipal Archives: 15 B, 38 BL, 46 TL, 110 TL, 110 TR, 120 T, 141 TL Eric Piasecki: 230 C2B Uwe Rau: 144 TR Redundant Pixel: 234 C1T Timothy Schenck: 33 B, 40 T, 40 B, 41 Karl Friedrich Schinkel, National Galleries of Scotland: 25 Alexander Severin: 36, 42, 86 T, 129, 130 T, 175 R, 231 C3T, 231 C4B, 232 C1T Studio DaVinci: 33 T David Sundberg: 24, 67 L, 145, 146, 147, 230 C1B Alex Tomlinson: 23, 105 R, 144 BR, 188 Paul Warchol: 14, 15 T, 230 C1T, 231 C1T Aislinn Weidele: 145 BL, 231 C2T The Williams: 97, 98 Matthew Williams: 45, 53, 54, 57, 58 T, 58 B, 73, 74 T, 74 B, 77, 78, 79, 80 T, 80 B, 81, 82, 85, 104, 109, 111, 112 T, 112 B, 113, 114 T, 114 B, 115 T, 116, 123, 124 T, 124 B, 125, 126, 127 T, 127 B, 143, 153, 154, 160 T, 160 B, 185, 187, 196, 203 T, 203 B, 204 T, 204 B, 205, 215, 231 C3B, 231 C4T, 232 C1B, 232 C4T, 234 C1B

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Published in Australia in 2019 by The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd ABN 89 059 734 431 Offices Australia 6 Bastow Place Mulgrave, Victoria 3170 Australia Tel: +61 3 9561 5544 United States 6 West 18th Street 4B New York City, NY 10011 United States Tel: +1 212 645 1111 books@imagespublishing.com www.imagespublishing.com Copyright © Morris Adjmi Architects The Images Publishing Group Reference Number: 1509 Creative direction: Lisa Mahar Graphic design: Tsto Graphic production: Jasper Pope Drawings: Kent M. Johnson, Jr. Digital retouching: Ben Gest Production manager: Nicole Boehringer

All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other­wise, without the written permission of the publisher. Title: A Grid and a Conversation—Morris Adjmi Architects ISBN: 9781864708301 This title was commissioned in IMAGES’ New York office. Printed on 135gsm GardaPat BIANKA (1.3 Vol.) paper by Gorenjski Tisk, Slovenia Every effort has been made to trace the original source of copyright material contained in this book. The publishers would be pleased to hear from copyright holders to rectify any errors or omissions. The information and illustrations in this publication have been prepared and supplied by Morris Adjmi Architects and participants. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, the publishers do not, under any circumstances, accept responsibility for errors, omissions, and representations express or implied. IMAGES has included on its website a page for special notices in relation to this and its other publications. Please visit www.imagespublishing.com

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Every building designed by Morris Adjmi Architects begins with a grid and a conversation. Sometimes these are literal: a street grid or a building facade; a conversation with the client or consultant. Sometimes they’re conceptual: a grid as an organizing system or municipal code; a conversation as a strategy for interpreting those systems. Within the urban milieu and historic neighborhoods where the office often works, this process inspires buildings that are contextual but unmistakably contemporary. A Grid and a Conversation is a survey of the firm’s first 20 years, focusing on work in New York City and featuring more than 25 key projects. Also included in the text are observations from architecture historian Diane Ghirardo, preservation expert Bill Higgins, real estate developer Charles Blaichman, architects Judith Saltzman and Fred Bland, and artist Lyle Starr, offering insight into how Morris Adjmi Architects synthesizes tradition and innovation to craft environments with a sense of purpose and place.

$45.00 [USA] £30.00 [GB]


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