The rising demand for commercial spaces in a predominantly residential district, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, prompted the client to expand his existing three story building to the maximum allowable zoning floor area.
The existing condition of the building, however, proved a challenge in achieving this desired goal.
Originally, the entire site consisted of three small lots, each with a three story residential walk up building. In later years, these were combined and converted into a single commercial structure. Poor construction, countless alterations and severe settlement, prevented the addition of floor area over the existing building by bearing down upon it.
The solution was to construct a completely independent structure, or exoskeleton, which supports the new two story addition. Four steel columns, partially inserted into the front and rear walls, support four trusses from which the two new floors will be hung. The bracing needed to stabilize the 60 foot high columns was carefully concealed behind opaque glass, allowing unobstructed views from the offices.
The facade is now a combination of new and old. Most of the existing brick was replaced by a glass curtain wall with metal louvers. The entire first floor, to a point half of the height of the third floor, was replaced with new brick to preserve the original look of the building. Floor to ceiling windows were used to open up the structure to much needed natural light.
The design brings a fresh look to an otherwise conservative neighborhood. The lightness and transparency of the building provides a welcoming contrast to the massive masonry surrounding buildings of the Williamsburg community.
By providing an inviting look, the building becomes accessible to the public eye, while softening what is otherwise a very harsh streetscape.