Collective Housing, Brooklyn, New York (USA)

 

Collective housing, Brooklyn, New York (USA)

The imposing Domino factory has been located in Brooklyn for more than 150 years and is no ordinary building. It is a historic New York city monument, and there was a time when more than half the sugar consumed in the union was produced within its walls. It was inconceivable that the end of refining activities and closure of the site in 2004 should lead to the disappearance of this major element of industrial heritage, ideally positioned on the east bank of the East River, facing Manhattan, at the landing of the Williamsburg Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

Architect: SHoP Architects, Contractor: PG New York
Technique: VMZINC® Cassettes, perforation, Surface aspect: natural zinc

 

In 2017, rid of its cumbersome industrial appendages, the plant’s central building, a brick edifice more than 10 storeys high, topped with a chimney, became  the heart of an urban development operation that will ultimately feature more than 2,700 new housing units adjacent to a park overlooking the river

 

 

New York architecture firm SHoP designed the 21-hectare redevelopment plan for the neighbourhood, focusing on some simple principles: evocation of the site’s history, mediation of the operation with the surrounding neighbourhoods, and functional and social diversity. Developer Two Tree committed to renting part of the housing at below-market prices, to make all exterior spaces public (60% of the site’s surface) and fit these with play equipment made from the old Domino plant’s sugar silos. A well-ordered generosity given that, in return, Two Tree was authorised to construct two private housing tower blocks.

 

 

As well as the master plan, SHoP designed the 325 Kent, one of the first apartment buildings in the scheme to be completed. The building illustrates the principles of connection and integration into the context, advocated for by SHoP in its role as urban planner. he shape of the building reflects the programme’s mix of uses. Occupied by shops, the base of the building has the same average-level height as the other buildings in the neighbourhood. It is upon this base that 500 rented housing units are laid out in terraces over 11 storeys, shifting from a domestic dimension to monumental proportions, allowed by the sheer scale of the huge landscape. The opening at the centre of the 325 Kent led to it being compared to a donut, Homer Simpson’s favourite pastry. This comparison is fully accepted by the architects, who imposed this giant opening for all the operation’s new buildings, allowing the sun to shine through to the surrounding neighbourhoods while multiplying views of the river from the apartments.

 

The logic of urban reconstruction is not foreign to SHoP. In 2003, the firm designed the Porter House in Manhattan, a rehabilitation of a 19th century brick building augmented by a roof extension clad entirely with ANTHRA-ZINC® zinc cassettes. For the 325 Kent, the architects renewed their approach to zinc, used here to distinguish the housing section from the retail section, which is identifiable by its copper-clad base.

 

Zinc and copper are integrated into a curtain wall in the form of panels perforated with circles creating a unique design on each element. The overall result is a vibrant facade, which is also unique. The architects point out that this constructive and aesthetic choice required a very close working relationship between themselves, the developer and the transformer. They also praise the merits of a material that is as appealing visually as it is technically, with zinc panels concealing ventilation and air conditioning outlets while enabling the building to breathe while looking beautiful!