This project reinvents the typology of the urban townhouse on a typically narrow infill Manhattan plot.
By radically reconfiguring the organization and façade of the building, open loft-like living spaces find privacy from the street behind a four-storey vertical library. The clients asked for generous light-filled interiors and privacy from the street – in contrast to the standard New York City row house with parlor room windows right on the street, usually curtained or shuttered from the eyes of passersby.
The conventional plan and section were redefined with the stair and elevator core pushed up against the street façade, instead of running along one of the party walls. As a result, loft-like spaces run fluidly the entire length of the 38-foot-deep building, rather than being compartmentalized into small front and back rooms. An open mezzanine living room, a private office nook, and sitting rooms to private bedrooms, extend off the stairs which wind like a ribbon around the elevator core.
The front façade engages the street with a custom water-cut aluminum rain screen with brick-shaped openings relating to the solid bricks of its neighbors and panel joints corresponding to the neighboring building stories. During the day, it appears as a flat, patterned mass, marked off from the adjacent houses by the tall glass slots on either side. The horizontal joints of the aluminum panels break up the vertical surface as a reference to the rhythm of the window spacing of the row houses.
At dusk, this impression wanes as the glow from the horizontal slit windows and the vertical glass slots animates the street façade. The aluminum appears more as a screen than a mass, and invites the eye toward, but not into, the house.
The rear facade is in counterpoint to the front: It is all glass; a full-height, full-width curtain wall that bathes the interior in light. At night, the warm lantern-like light of the interior illuminates the rear garden.
The public spaces of the townhouse (living room, dining room, and kitchen) are linked by a light-filled mezzanine which overlooks the backyard. The etched glass on the upper three floors gives privacy to the bedrooms and baths, as well as a diffused light that is in fact, brighter than clear glass. By extending the materials (brick, stone and wood) of the ground floor open living and dining area out into the garden, the spatial experience captures the full 70-foot-depth of the site.