Inverting the New York Townhouse - Design Bureau

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The project was split into two phases to allow the clients to live in the building once the first phase was completed. This helped keep expenses manageable for the clients, says Dean. The first phase included the master bedroom and entertaining spaces on the top two and a half floors.

Dean Wolf / Inverted Warehouse Townhouse

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Fascinating project details include frameless burgundy glass floating down through the walls of the structure and glass floors on the lower levels. Dean and Wolf used simple details to keep construction costs down on the lower floors, which contain kids’ bedrooms and playrooms.

Dean Wolf / Inverted Warehouse Townhouse

Inverting the New York Townhouse

Monday, June 10th, 2013

By Heidi Kulicke
Photos © Paul Warchol

New York’s formerly industrial Tribeca neighborhood has its share of old warehouses converted to chic loft buildings, but not many architects would think to turn a warehouse into a townhouse. When Kathryn Dean and Charles Wolf of Dean/Wolf Architects first saw the five-story warehouse they were to revive, it lacked the natural light and yard space that usually makes townhouses appealing.

Why? The future living space was 85 feet long with windows only in the front and back. Dean and Wolf remedied the situation by carving out the middle of the building to bring light deep into the center of the house, and created “gardens” built down into the depths of the space. The entrance to this “inverted townhouse” can be found on the fifth floor, where a two-story outdoor garden occupies the middle of the space.

Because of the unusual setup, Dean and Wolf were very particular about the way they used materials and light. “We often combine metal, glass, and wood because of their appeal,” says Dean. Contrasting the brick building, metal played such a huge structural role in the inverted townhouse that it became an integral part of the interior aesthetic. Excited by the Richard Serra sculptures they had seen at the Dia Art Foundation, the clients requested Corten steel to finish interior and exterior spaces—a challenge because the material is usually used outside and achieves its aged look by rusting.

To get the rusted finish the steel has in its final state, it needed to be specially manufactured at a plant in Long Island, then shipped to another location for a chemical finish, then transported to the city for installation. “The steel is a powerful presence,” Dean says, and now it can be seen in everything from exposed roof beams to a two-story shelving unit.

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