Everybody’s bending over in this upside down building
Social life in a typical apartment building is limited. Apart from a few common areas or the infrequent passage of a neighbor in the hallway, apartment dwellers can sometimes feel like they are living alone in tall buildings filled with other people they rarely see.
Brooklyn-based developer Tankhouse hopes to change that paradigm with a series of new residential buildings in the borough that reinvent the way people move in and through apartment buildings. The buildings are inspired by a classic element of New York architecture: the steps of the building.
“One of the things people associate with Brooklyn is the predominant type of building, which is brown stone. And the link between the brown stones and the street goes through the hybrid space of the porch, ”explains Sebastian Mendez, co-founder of Tankhouse. “It’s private, but there’s also this important public component because that’s where people interact with their neighbors.
For a new 18-unit condo project nearing completion, Tankhouse partnered with Brooklyn Architects SO-IL, known for their modern and minimal building designs, including a social housing project in Leon, Mexico, and art galleries from around the world. SO-IL’s approach was to bring the public-private hybrid of the front porch inside the building and inject it into the space in front of each unit.
Instead of the typical building layout with apartment doors lining a narrow hallway, SO-IL’s design turns the building upside down, dividing it into three buildings separated by courtyards. Each is surrounded by external walkways on each level that lead to the units and overlook the courtyards of the other walkways. In front of each accommodation, a small semi-covered room serves as a mini porch, neither totally private nor totally public.
SO-IL architect Florian Idenburg says the idea is to “make the journey from the street to your home a joyful, not a frightening experience.”
“We believe that when you live in a neighborhood and in a city, you want to be connected to that environment,” Idenburg says. “Particularly in this part of Brooklyn, the street itself with the steps and the relationship with the outdoors is an integral part of the life experience.”
Transforming the interior space of a building into this type of hybrid environment doesn’t come cheap. “The exterior wall as a percentage of interior floor area more or less doubled, which became an issue that needed to be addressed,” says Tankhouse co-founder Sam Alison-Mayne. The material choices and window sizes ensured that the extra expense for the facade didn’t ruin the budget.
Idenburg says most developers in New York aren’t interested in doing something like this because, apart from costing more, it raises questions about the upkeep and upkeep of shared spaces.
“Often this space is reduced to the absolute minimum, and we believe that it is exactly in this space that we can gain a lot,” Idenburg explains.
The design of the exterior spaces and the separation of the project into three separate buildings also means that each unit has more windows, bringing in more natural light than is normal for a New York apartment, and also adding to the sense of connection between the rooms. residents who can more easily see each other by looking at their shared spaces. “There are literally visual, aural and other connections that exist between the public sphere and the internal bowels of the project, and that was very important to us,” says Alison-Mayne.
Idenburg says he was careful not to make the project too porous. “We have a careful calibration between exposure and waiver of privacy,” says Idenburg. “But the idea that every room in your house is lit by daylight is quite unique.”
The small porch-shaped spaces at the entrance to each unit, however, raised some challenges. Building and energy codes would generally require interior spaces to meet a certain level of insulation and the ability to be heated and cooled. But the point of these spaces, Idenburg argues, is that they are neither indoors nor outdoors, and should be treated more like mud rooms, which are mainly used to remove wet shoes and jackets. .
“They are very difficult to identify in the building code. Do you count them as inside the house or are they outdoor spaces? Said Idenbourg. “We are currently working with the New York City and State Department of Energy to determine where can we also fit non-air conditioned space into the home so you can live outside a bit more. “
These types of spaces are common in southern Europe and Tokyo, Idenburg says, and he hopes this project can help persuade New York regulators to think differently about how to fit them into buildings.
“I think what’s going to be very interesting, [though] it will take time because the city works very slowly and the code works slower than anything else is understanding how some spaces in our homes don’t necessarily need to be kept in that same comfort zone 72 degrees, ”Idenburg explains. “That’s what we’re trying to do here, and maybe it’s a first step.”
Tankhouse and SO-IL have two other projects in the works, and both build on the ideas of circulation and outdoor space explored in Brooklyn condos. On the one hand, a 13-story tower that will be inaugurated later this year, Tankhouse takes a similar approach by creating porch-shaped foyers at the entrance to units and using hallways outside the building to give more possibilities for light to enter the building. Getting away from the inner hallway becomes a key element in the work of Tankhouse.
“Indoor circulation forces a certain structure in a building that is incredibly limiting. It’s one of those things that as soon as you free yourself from the need or the perception that circulation has to be interior, the amount of architectural solutions that come up is kind of endless, ”says Alison-Mayne. “There is a real enthusiasm from one project to another to see how these ideas manifest themselves.