St. Felix Street Townhouse
Brooklyn, New York
The site for this townhouse placed the project on the fault line between a protected historic neighborhood [in which it sits], residential and small in scale and a busy commercial district of large, modern office buildings, a commuter train terminal and “big box” retail. The house consists of a spacious owner’s duplex on the top two floors and a rental unit at ground level. think!’s client requested a modern residence in both its architectural expression and interior design. On the other hand, the NYC Landmark’s Preservation Commission, which had jurisdiction over the project, required, as is their mandate, a design sympathetic to its historic context. think!’s design evolved from the apparent contradiction in attempting to satisfy both requirements.
The massing and proportion of the house took their cues from the row of neighboring townhouses that terminated at the project’s corner site, currently a vacant lot. With the exception of a large living room window, which faces the commercial street, all windows, though decidedly modern in detail recall the proportion and patterning of the historic homes. Likewise, brick has been used as the primary exterior material but in a size, proportion and bonding pattern distinct from its brick neighbors. All design details were carefully considered from a similar point of view resulting in a timeless architectural vocabulary, at ease with the building’s complex and contradictory site.
As a result, the final design prompted one of the LPC commissioners to call the building “extraordinarily successful,” noting that the edges of historic don’t just relate to the district, but to that which is over the border outside of it. He called the design the “most successful riff on the town house” that he had seen in his time on the commission. Despite its clearly modern tilt, the project was approved unanimously by the commission on the first ballot.