Architype Dialogue presents
What was the most difficult issue about working on an adaptive reuse project or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
The most difficult issue in a building like this one, which was loaded with unique architectural details from turn-of-the-century industrial Brooklyn, was knowing when to strip something away verses when to leave it alone. As architects we have a vision of how a design should turn out. It can be tough to step back, especially while the process is in motion, and drastically alter some areas while being completely hands off with others.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
We hope that this project and others like it help expand the role of the architect in general, from someone who just creates pretty forms to someone who really understand their environment and designs to it. The concept of sustainable design is changing amongst architects and developers, many of whom are just realizing the benefits of reuse verses building anew. In our case, adopting this post-industrial loft-style building was like opening a treasure chest. Because it was originally a cooperage (barrel factory), its structure was way overbuilt for its new use, so we had a lot of “extra” material to work with. Our job was to figure out how best to take advantage of that excess material. We ended up using a lot of it for furniture and millwork throughout the hotel interiors, and almost all of it was made locally.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
I would like to think that adaptive reuse projects are MORE possible today because projects like this one demonstrate to people, not just architects but to regular community members, that there is a great deal of value & potential in repurposed buildings, both economically and aesthetically. It challenges the idea of the disposable culture that became prevalent in America over the past couple of decades. I would love to see this attitude percolate from buildings to other areas, like overall consumerism. Not to mention that adaptive reuse is a way of preserving a piece of history, which is itself a service. We can learn a lot from the old, oft neglected buildings right in our own neighborhoods.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Like the entire profession, the technological advances in drawing, modeling, mapping, etc. influence us, but it is the research and understanding of a context that informs the design and how we use the new materials available. Using new materials, means and methods in one of New York’s Landmarked districts pushes us into a dialog between old and new, between high tech and historical. In general, however, there seems to be a shift away from fabricating a history a’ la Venturi and Graves, and instead really delving into it, understanding a place, then figuring out if and how to celebrate it for what it was.