New York City

Whipping around the globe, Shigeru Ban designs everything from major museums to modest relief projects when and wherever disaster strikes. And the Japanese architect regularly wields his craft to make walls that move, rooms that roll, and entire buildings that can be packed up in shipping crates. The realization of Metal Shutter Houses marks another feat for Ban — this time in the heart of Manhattan.


Located on a quiet street between the High Line and the Hudson River, the 11-story condominium features a layered facade — one that opens completely. Enclosed by perforated-steel shutters that roll, and hangarlike bifold doors that fold up, the building front literally peels away, so that its eight units are filled with daylight, air, and marvelous city views. According to Ban, “I wanted to open the living room to the cityscape because most apartments in New York are very closed.” But it took five years to bring his unconventional idea to fruition.

The project began in 2005 when gallery owner Klemens Gasser, impressed with Ban’s Nomadic Museum — a traveling structure on view in New York that year made of stacked shipping containers and showcasing photographs by artist Gregory Colbert — contacted the architect for a potential two-story building renovation. The scope of the job changed when the High Line’s refurbishment triggered rezoning in the surrounding West Chelsea area and local property owners were granted special development rights. Taking advantage of the revised legal restrictions, the client decided to team with a developer and rebuild instead.

There was no getting around the site’s tight conditions. Just 50 feet wide and hemmed in by the Frank Gehry IAC building on its west side and Annabelle Selldorf apartments on the east, the project was saddled with a 120-foot height restriction, plus setbacks front and rear. “That’s when Ban’s creativity took over,” says Jeffrey Spiritos, who partnered with Gasser to form HEEA Development. Making the most of the property’s assets for his clients, Ban proposed dividing the permissible building volume into duplex units that run the lot’s full 92-foot depth and benefit from both northern and southern exposures.

Sites with a height restriction of this size often hold 10-story buildings. But Ban needed an even number of floors for the duplexes in addition to a ground-floor lobby and gallery. So he incorporated mezzanine levels into the apartment plans, and created minimized 8-inch-deep floor slabs. In so doing he was able to redistribute the allotted space for the necessary horizontal levels, providing the units with dramatic double-height living rooms to boot. Vertically, he sliced the permissible volume into three bays. The result is a mixture of three-, four-, or, in the penthouse, five-bedroom apartments — every one facing the street with retractable walls and an engawa-like indoor-outdoor veranda.

A signature element of Ban’s architecture, shutter walls are common in Japan, where he grew up, and California, where he went to graduate school. However the idea is foreign to New York City. “Metal security shutters are a common element [for commercial businesses] in the West Chelsea area, but never before have they covered an entire building,” says Dean Maltz, New York City–based partner at Shigeru Ban Architects. Made of off-the-rack components, the 16-by-20-foot screens open and close using a standard, motorized rolling mechanism. Yet they needed a customized perforation pattern with a 50/50 aperture ratio to comply with city regulations for a building facade that encloses habitable space.

Five and a half feet behind the shutters, a curtain wall system integrating the bifold doors protects the residences from drafts, dirt, noise, and rainwater. Normally used for industrial buildings and airplane hangars, these hybrid doors comprise double-glazed window sashes (rather than metal panels) with a central horizontal hinge, and are operated by motorized belts that cause each steel-framed door to jackknife up and out of the way. Ample gaskets and a mechanized latch maintain an airtight seal when they are closed. “We took a standard [door] system and improved it acoustically and thermally,” says Ban.

When the doors and shutters are raised, the loftlike units are unlike any other in the city. Each is a fluid space with lower-level living, dining, and kitchen areas as well as a library or bedroom set apart by sliding glass doors. Stairs with transparent glass rails ascend to private bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. “The apartments are so unique that they don’t feel like apartments, they feel like houses,” says Maltz, explaining the building’s name.

Two built-in elements underscore the north-south axis in most of the apartments: a cantilevered kitchen island and a functional wall that houses the adjacent kitchen cabinets and appliances, the stairs, and full-height storage (in the dining/library areas). The tall white lacquer doors of the latter also conceal HVAC ducts and plumbing chases. By concentrating the mechanicals here, and by embedding the sliding-door tracks and recessed downlights directly into the slab, the design team was able to eliminate the need for a plenum, which enabled maximum room height.

The cantilevered counters and multifunctional built-in housing for storage and equipment are details Ban devised for Japanese homes he designed, many of which (as stated previously) blur the lines between indoors and out. Though Ban had to adjust to the style and ability of New York construction crews, and U.S. liability concerns spooked some of his overseas suppliers, Metal Shutter Houses evokes the spirit of his Japanese buildings — a feat that, in New York, is nothing short of heroic.

Naomi R. Pollock is RECORD’s Tokyo correspondent and the coauthor of New Architecture in Japan (Merrell, 2010).

Size: approximately 35,000 square feet

Cost: undisclosed

Completion date: May 2011

Shigeru Ban Architects + Dean Maltz Architect
330 West 38th Street Suit 811
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.9252211


Owner: Heea Development Llc, A Partnership of Spiritos Properties Llc And Klemens Gasser

Shigeru Ban Architects + Dean Maltz Architect
330 West 38th Street Suit 811
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.9252211

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Partners: Shigeru Ban, Dean Maltz (NY State registered Architect); Director of Projects: Nina Freedman;

Project Team: Grady Gillies, Chad Kraus, Michael Joy, Grant Suzuki 

Architect of record
Montroy Andersen DeMarco, LLP. 99 Madison Avenue, 14th Floor   New York, NY 10016
Richard J. DeMarco, Maurce Walden, Ihab Fam

Robert Silman Associates
PC 88 University Place
New York, NY 10003
Nat Oppenheimer, Scott Hughes, Justin Den Herder

ICOR Associates, LLC Consulting Engineers
256 West 38th Street, Suite 7R
New York, New York 10018
Igor Bienstock, Masha Dinaburg, Peter Kokoszka, Ed Bansil

Environmental and Geotechnical:
Langan Engineering and Environmental Services
PC 21 Penn Plaza
360 W. 31st St. 8th floor
NY, NY 10001
Marc Gallagher, Jamie Barr, Jamie Rogers 

Focus Lighting, Inc.
221 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10026
Paul Gregory, Juan Pablo Lira, Stephanie Williams

Cerami and Associates, 404 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10018
John Longman

Exterior Wall Consultant:
Israel Berger Associates, LLC
232 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Israel Berger, Fred Zanghi, Robert Pelham

Jam Consultants
104 West 29th St.
New York NY 10011
Robert Anderson

Jenkins & Huntington, INC.
5 Climax Road
Avon, CT. 06001
Tom Terhaar  

Construction Manager (not General Contractor):
Quattro Construction Management, LLC.
611 Broadway, Ste 401
New York, NY 1001
Pasquale Suriano
Spiritos Properties LLC
New York, NY 10025

Photographer(s): Michael Moran

110 Leroy Street
New York, NY 10014

CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCAD



Structural system
Reinforced Concrete

Exterior cladding
Bifold Doors: Schweiss Bi-Fold Doors, Fairfax, MINN, 55332

Bifold Door Latching System;Uni-System, Minneapolis, MINN 55422

Fabricated by Cornell Iron Works, INC., Mountaintop, PA, 18707
Installed by Global Overhead Doors, Bronx, NY 10474

Rainscreen (terra cotta, composite, etc.): SEE METAL SHUTTERS

Canopy: Z Studios  219 Cook St, Brooklyn, NY, 11237

Moisture barrier: Henry Airblock

Built-up roofing: Johns Manville

Metal frame: Schuco USA, IP, Newington, CT, 06111

Glass: Oldcastle  Building Envelope, East Rutherford, NJ 07073

Entrances; Blumcraft of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PENN 15213

Wood doors: Mohawk Flush Doors, Northumberland, PA, 17857
& Vancouver Door Company INC., Puyallup, Wash, 98371

Trimless Fire rated Door frames; Ez Jamb by Studco Building Systems, Webster, NY 14580

Locksets/Handles: Oshima, Tokyo, Japan, Design by Shigeru Ban.

Closers: Stanley

Exit devices: Dorma

Pulls: Valli & Valli, Oshima, Tokyo, Japan, Design by Shigeru Ban

Interior finishes
Lobby ceiling: Perforated Metal Slats by Cornell Iron Works, Fabricated and Installed by Z Studios

Lobby floor and walls; Artesian Plaster Walls and Concrete Floor by Art-In Construction LTD. Brooklyn, NY 11201 

Cabinetwork, Vanities ,Kitchen and Storage Units,  custom woodwork: 5 Elements West, NY 10168

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore

Solid surfacing: Corian

Floor and wall tile:
Vogue bay 5/8”x6” milk white glass tile bath walls, Bianco Dolimiti 2’x2’ bath floor tile
Resilient flooring: NONE

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Wood floors: Rift and Quarter Sawn 4” wide, ¾” thick white Oak, installed by Tipp Floor Covering INC. Ridgefield, NJ 07657

Downlights /Track Lighting: Edison Price

Dimming System or other lighting controls:Lutron GRAFIC Eye Dimming System

Elevator: Rotavele Elevator INC., Ridgewood, NY

Dornbracht Plumbing Fixtues and Accessories
Duravit and Toto Toilets and Bath tubs
Corian sinks in kitchen and bath vanities

Energy management or building automation system: ALERTON BACNet CONTROL SYSTEM

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: DEAN