Brief: In a Manhattan Federal Greek Revival townhouse that had seen extensive renovations in the 1880’s, 1940’s and 1980’s, restore the original structure, add two stories, excavate to enlarge the kitchen, create a garden and return this structure to a single-family residence.
Solution: In order to clarify and respect the dignity of this historic Greek revival townhouse, the nature of the original building had to be recaptured and restored. The new construction does not turn its back on the past yet does not try to replicate what was built in 1840. The modernist vocabulary of bronzed steel and glass is sensitive to the scale and composition of the Federal Architecture.
The changes and additions are not visible on the street facade in order to repeat the context of the neighborhood. The rooftop addition is set back on both street and garden elevations. The rear façade incorporates a vertical three-story interior circulation space and 4th floor larger scale window. These openings bring more light into the north façade and integrate views of the garden. The proportions and composition of that glazing are derived from the historic windows of the original structure yet do not try to literally replicate them.
At the upper and lower garden level, the bronzed steel and glass curtain wall is of a larger scale. A sandblasted glass roof/terrace structure and the curtain wall enclose the kitchen and seating area. The curtain wall becomes ceiling becomes the railing for the terrace above by omitting the glass and reduces the number of elements that would distract from the historic building. The glass terrace platform brings light into the kitchen/seating below and acts as an illuminate for the parlor floor.
The color and texture of the cinza limestone paved garden and terrace are also similar to that of the sandblasted glass platform. This reduction of paving materials makes the garden space continuous and takes advantage of the full 25-foot width. Four trees and a circular puddle are inserted into the limestone paving that continues inside and becomes the floor in the kitchen/sitting area. A full story wall of water reflects light, creates a soothing sound and makes a weightless transition from the upper level of the garden to the lower space. A lightly bronzed steel stair floats above the water.
The two additional floors are integrated into the façade composition by an over-scaled bronzed steel window at the fourth-floor family room on the garden side. The divisions are similar to those in the glazing of three-story elevator space and the buildings’ original historic windows. The fifth, or top floor, has a canted roof structure that is cantilevered in the north direction to focus on the communal gardens and views of the Manhattan skyline. This fifth floor encloses an office, seating area and terraces facing north and south with the same curtain wall utilized in the kitchen. With the setbacks, it is not visible from the street.
The interior spaces are consistent with the architecture. Historic rooms are restored; modern spaces do not try and look “old.” A curated collection of important twentieth-century furniture is restored and reupholstered to blend harmoniously with the custom designed upholstery, furniture, rugs, and millwork.
Architecture, interior, and landscape are integrated to create a seamless environment.