Skyhouse is a house in the sky, a residential penthouse located at the summit of one of the earliest surviving skyscrapers in New York City and situated within the incomparable vertical cityscape of Lower Manhattan. The project involved the construction of a set of unique living spaces inside a decorative penthouse structure which had never before been used as a residence… The spaces of this residence and the vistas channeled through it ascend and descend through all four levels of the penthouse structure and into the three-dimensional cityscape surrounding it in every direction.
The building was designed by architect R.H. Robertson and constructed in 1894-95 to house the printing operations of the American Tract Society. The building is one of the earliest -and one of the oldest surviving- steel framed skyscrapers in New York. It was also one of the city’s tallest and largest skyscrapers upon its completion, with twenty-two full stories plus cellar, basement, and a four story penthouse. A two-story high open arcade originally wrapped around the penthouse structure with 15’ tall winged caryatids at the four corners. A two-story hipped roof rises above the arcade, creating a picturesque feature in the skyline of lower Manhattan but serving a largely ornamental function at the crown of the building.
The original riveted steel beams, idiosyncratic steel connections, and longitudinal steel truss supporting the roof ridge -among the earliest structural steel used in skyscraper construction in New York- figure prominently in the renovated penthouse. The enormous hipped roof, the massive masonry arches spanning the main level windows, the projecting copper dormers, and the intimate ocular windows at the attic level also contribute to the dialogue between the handsome traditional envelope and the startlingly contemporary interior. When the restoration of the caryatids is complete, the enormous angel at the entrance to the private penthouse terrace will again spread her wings over the arched doorway, adding a final spectacular element from the original building to the experience of the new penthouse residence