This project began with the simplest of briefs. The client wanted three things: access to the backyard, a top-floor rental unit and – the animating feature – they wanted to minimize the circulation space in order to take advantage of the 25ft wide lot.

We began by consolidating the rental unit circulation space to a straight, two-story stairway along the party wall – a subtle nod to the city's early industrial buildings and an efficient means of maximizing the rentable square footage. The second floor of the owner's duplex steps back to allow for a triple-height space over this stairway, bringing light into the shared vestibule, and providing an unexpectedly grand entrance for the rental unit's occupants. The rental unit itself was organized around a central skylight, and a large joint casement window overlooking the rear yard.

The owner's duplex was similarly organized around a central skylight, which was brought down through the unit above via a cleverly located light shaft in that unit's utility space. This central skylight washes light all the way down to the ground floor, from which a staircase wraps around a pool of light. The duplex features sweeping views, through joint casement windows, of the private backyard, hemmed in by adjoining formerly industrial buildings covered in ivy.

During the early phases of construction it was found that the building had originally been constructed as a stand-alone residence when Gowanus was better known as bucolic farmland than as a superfund site. The building needed to be entirely reframed from the outside in, which required a high degree of structural coordination to ensure that the building would stand for at least a hundred years more.

Gowanus Residence
3,500 GSF
Nicholas CalcottZara Pfeifer