Brooklyn Residential: Rethinking Home Design in NYC’s Most Populous Neighborhood
New York City is defined by its architecture and, in turn, by different ways of living. As the nation’s “metropolis,” it has also faced some of the most challenging housing challenges of any US city. From single-family homes to high-rise residential towers, housing in the boroughs has evolved at different speeds and scales. Each district and province in turn accommodates a wide range of living styles and housing solutions.
All five boroughs came into being with the creation of modern New York City in 1898, when they were consolidated within one municipal government under a new city charter. Brooklyn, named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, is located on the west side of Long Island in Kings County. It is New York City’s most populous borough, with about 30 percent of NYC’s total population. From the first urban center to emerge in downtown Brooklyn to the modern urban fabric, new housing projects are being designed to reshape life throughout the borough. The following designs showcase this changing landscape and provide a glimpse into the lives of Brooklynites today.
As the design team pointed out, the evolution of life in cities is increasingly embracing nature, almost nullifying the urban character of neighborhoods. The design for a renovation and additions to a Brooklyn townhouse grew out of the idea of merging the interior space with the exterior landscape by creating ground pavilions with specific experiential qualities. Two main pavilions are placed next to the existing building – in a way to have an unobstructed view of the garden through the windows and also a blurred view – obtained by partially imposing a wooden screen on the additional facades.
Carroll House is a single-family home on a typical 7.5 x 30-foot corner lot in Brooklyn. 21 sea containers are stacked and cut diagonally from above and below, creating a monolithic and private volume within the urban fabric. The diagonal cut modifies the conventional ground level backyard type and uses, allocating outdoor space on each level. At the same time, the container walls along the oblique cut shield the outdoor space from passers-by. Large sliding glass walls provide continuity between the interior space and the enclosed private terraces outside.
Aperture 538 is a 10-unit multi-family home located in the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn neighborhood of Washington Avenue. At the center of the exterior is a copper screen, finished to a Corten look, perforated with an abstracted image of the Brooklyn Bridge and modified for light and air requirements. The building’s flat, warm brown face is intended to continue the rhythm of brownstones on Washington Avenue. Unlike the brownstones, however, this face moves – shutters on windows and balconies can be opened to give residents a direct view of the tree-lined street.
The DUMBO Townhouses are located on the corner of Pearl Street and Water Street in the Borough of Brooklyn. The project involves the demolition of an existing one-story warehouse in Brooklyn’s DUMBO Historic Section and the construction of 5 single-family homes. The total project comprises approximately 18,000 gross sf. Facing a newly designated public park, the building envelope consists of a series of high-performance Ductal concrete panels that provide shade and privacy to residents.
Originally built in 1889, this three-storey townhouse was renovated into a certified passive house with the aim of preserving as much of the building’s original character as possible while significantly reducing operational energy consumption. The shell was substantially insulated on the inside of the building and new triple glazing installed. Multiple interventions keep the building cool with minimal mechanical requirements, even during New York City’s increasingly hot summers.
Located at the corner of 4th Avenue and 1st Street in Brooklyn’s coveted Park Slope neighborhood, 251 1st by ODA New York is the manifestation of the company’s commitment to improving the quality of life in urban areas. In this case, ODAs flexed the upper mass of the building with a cascade of setbacks and terraces, providing significant outdoor space as well as multiple exposures for units. In addition to light and outdoor space, playing with the masses in this way also provides a contextual wink.
The owners of this 10-foot-wide row house in Brooklyn were faced with a conundrum that many young families in New York eventually face: the ability to sacrifice location for space. After living in the house for eight years, the couple — an architect and jewelry designer — chose to expand to make room for their two growing children and to stay in the Brooklyn neighborhood they had come to admire. The original 1000SF 2 story home was completely gutted and expanded to 4 levels by adding a bedroom suite above and digging a new urban mudroom below.
Rather than an addition, O’Neill McVoy’s concept for this residential project was a thin, linear-framed garden pavilion that contrasted with the heavy brick masonry. The 19th century brownstone remains exactly as it was, while the new pavilion, with kitchen and informal social space, stands next to it, against the original backyard wall with no mediating connection. Entering the pavilion from the residential floor of the house is like stepping into the garden. The hybrid wood and steel frame members form a lattice-like structure that is open to the changing seasonal landscape of Brooklyn’s backyards.