Virtual Light Loft
Dean/Wolf Architects devises ways to bring light into the core of a floor-through apartment in New York City called the Virtual Light Loft.
Architects & Firms
The good news was that the generously proportioned loft apartment of 3,200 square feet in New York’s Tribeca district was a floor-through. On the north expanse, one sees the Empire State Building dramatically framed by two huge, arched windows; toward the south, there is a picturesque melange of rooftops. The bad news was that a ganglia of mechanical ducts and plumbing pipes clotted the central portion of the apartment, keeping daylight from filtering far into the apartment’s recesses.
The Romanesque Revival light-industrial building, dating to 1905, was carefully but conventionally converted to residential use in 1999. In this particular apartment, the living and dining areas, separated only by a row of cast-iron columns that support the concrete barrel-vaulted ceiling, were segregated from the three bedrooms along the south wall by the dense, dark central core.
The clients encountered Dean/Wolf Architects’ work on a tour of Tribeca lofts, and recognized its skill in combating New York’s typically shadowy, crepuscular interiors. They soon enlisted the firm, founded in 1991 by Kathryn Dean and Charles Wolf, to bring a Modernist approach to the complex space.
The two architects differentiated the wall planes so that vertical surfaces parallel to the east and west bearing walls are opaque, shimmering, stainless-steel panels. They fabricated the panels as folded doors to endow them with structural properties and obviate the need for wood frames. Next, they had the stainless-steel panels sandblasted by hand for a smooth, but not super-reflective sheen. Perpendicular to the existing bearing walls, smooth, translucent, laminated-resin planes conceal such elements as closets or shafts containing ducts. The laminated-resin panels vary subtly in color; one embedded with a copper and gray textile gleams with a particularly gossamery shine.
Now light bounces softly off the various surfaces or emanates ethereally from within shafts of laminated resin containing fixtures. Dean and Wolf were able to dematerialize the “supportive entrails,” as they describe the mechanical and plumbing elements that cluster at either side of the central hall. “We wanted to turn these shafts into “haunting luminous presences,” Dean says.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Paints and stains:
Floor and wall tile: Baths – Stone Source
Interior ambient lighting: