- Calyer Street House
- ⁄ Brooklyn, NY ⁄
- 2007 / 2011 ⁄
- updated: 02/07/2013
The neighborhood of Greenpoint is full of small wood frame houses whose exteriors tell the tale of more than a century’s worth of modifications. Collages of siding styles and colors and quirky protrusions and bulges into the rear yard spaces create visually provocative contexts. The renovations that we made to this circa1840s house for two consecutive sets of owners follows in that tradition, albeit driven more by modern day zoning requirements and minimalist sensibilities than DIY improvisation.
For the first, a couple of artists, the addition of a super-sized dormer window onto the rear slope of the roof transformed the attic into a master bedroom suite. We kept the original low slope in the corners and at the edges to preserve the spatial sense of the roof as a canopy, and extended the planes of the dormer walls and ceiling past the glass to provide shade and privacy. Throughout the interior, the materials and details were designed to elegantly express the physical narrative of past and present: existing aged pine-plank floors contrasting with new clear maple millwork; delicate white painted steel railings and planes of translucent laminated glass juxtaposed with exposed rough timbers.
Several years later, a new set of owners who bought the house because of its unique design asked us to add a dance studio onto the rear. The concepts of balance and poise (pose) in dance informed a solution to two main architectural problems: how to add on in a way that would not destroy the charming scale of the original structure, and how to allow for natural light in every major space. The new studio is created to be experienced as a discreet volume, balanced atop a slender steel frame and seeming to rest against the rear wall of the house. On the exterior, its figurative “pose” creates a series of negative spaces between itself and the existing structure. These spaces accommodate the required zoning setbacks and sun angles, and afford new opportunities for outdoor living: a covered terrace, a raised deck, and a roof garden. As before, the detailing and material palette expresses the intended autonomous relationship of the old structure and the new addition. The new volume is clad in red metal panels with flush joints that enhances its cubic form and makes it “pop” against the existing blue siding. Where the addition abuts the existing wall there is no visible connecting or overlapping element.