Architecture

July 24 2013

Imagine the renovation dilemmas. A huge penthouse of a converted 1930s office building in TriBeCa, New York, is to be turned into a functioning home for a family with three teenagers.

In fact, we can not quite imagine the issues that faced Steven Harris Architects when the family showed up, literally, at the doorstep of the celebrated architect and asked if he’d like to work on their home. Harris said yes and proceeded to make his magic.



The scale of the apartment is huge and the freedom from budget constraints allowed for some spectacular solutions.

Harris’s work is often distinguished by clarity and light, by the use of glass, by the maximization of views and, above all, bold solutions. All of those are evident in this project.

What emerged as a result of the TriBeCa Penthouse project,  is a multi-level (27th and 28th floors) nearly 8,000 square-foot (743 square meter) family-friendly residence that includes self-contained guest quarters and a new glass-and-teak-beam rooftop pavilion that functions as a recreation room.


 
The most frequently used areas of the apartment – kitchen, master bedroom, rooftop gym, even the laundry room – have the best views, including those of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and many of the city’s significant landmarks.

The double-height living area on the lower floor boasts an 18-foot high window with the view of the Woolworth Building. The room gained its height by necessity because adding the rooftop pavilion took the condominium conversion over its allowable floor area ratio. The team solved this problem by cutting off part of the lower-level ceiling, thus creating the double-height living area.



Harris’s team replaced the existing 70 double-hung windows with single-panel tilt-and-turn versions, and used glass in dividers and doors where-ever possible. The window panes were limited to 61⁄2 by 91⁄2 feet in size because of the size of the building’s freight elevator.

Early on, when the owners and architect realized they were looking at a substantially dramatic remodeling but the owners did not want to move out of the building, the family bought a couple of other apartments in the same building for temporary residence – and had them renovated before move-in, too. Those two apartments are now for sale.

One of our favourites in this apartment are the stairs. They are made of ¾-inch-thick steel plates wrapped in leather. The stairs appear to float in space and take up almost no visual room yet they are also stunning eye-catchers. Stairway to heaven, indeed, or at least toward it. - Tuija Seipell.