New York, New York


Elegant limestone and brick facades conceal dramatic entry sequences, grand staircases, and rich millwork—these are the historic residences of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. One such building, at 15 East 84th Street, is now home to New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, a center for advanced research and graduate education. And while one will find all the appropriately traditional details inside, its limestone-and-brick exterior also conceals an unexpectedly modern gesture.

Built in 1899 and designed by Renwick, Aspinwall & Owen, the town house was featured in Architectural Record in 1903. The Leon Levy Foundation, which endows the Institute, acquired the 6-story town house in 2004 and engaged Selldorf Architects to renovate the building to accommodate a modern academic facility. The program called for museum-quality exhibition galleries on the first floor as well as the restoration of the grand elliptical staircase and the corresponding elliptical skylight above. Original wood paneling in the second-floor library reading and conference rooms was refinished and reinstalled, sometimes with a new configuration, to obscure new mechanical systems.

The primary programmatic requirement was a library to house the Institute’s vast collection of books. Rather than segregate the library to several compartmentalized rooms, Selldorf Architects approached the task more radically than the renovation brief originally suggested: removing parts of the fourth and fifth floors at the back of the building and inserting a freestanding steel stack structure within the resulting three-story atrium. “We sought to create an identity for the library and cohesiveness for a space that was very convincing,” principal Annabelle Selldorf, AIA, explains.

A floor-to-ceiling glass partition maintains visibility between the library and the adjoining office space; Selldorf imagines this as an “interstitial space, a moment to ponder the whole of history and to see all of the books at once.” Moreover, the structure pulls away from the existing walls to create a separation of architectural generations that is as literal as it is symbolic. In another contrast—this time to the carefully concealed building systems throughout the rest of the project—sprinkler piping and HVAC branch ducts visibly snake below the library’s perforated steel floor.

Despite the use of perforated steel plates, powder-coated to a blackened color, for floors, landings, and stair risers, the structure has an overall lightness thanks to daylight flooding windows and penetrating glass railings, as well as custom semicircular luminaires that cast a fluorescent glow on the steel members in which they’re installed. Whereas studies of the ancient world calls up the dusty, earth-toned libraries of Indiana Jones’s Barnett or Marshall colleges, the The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World suggests that crisp modernity is a fitting environment, and perhaps a welcome change, for the discipline.


Leon Levy Foundation
One Rockefeller Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10020
ph: 212.455.6251
fx: 212.455.6231
John Bernstein

Shelby White; Elizabeth B. Moynihan

Owner's Rep
Levien & Company
570 Lexington Avenue, 3rd Floor
New York, NY  10022
ph: 212.702.0888 
fx: 212.702.8758

Kenneth D. Levien, AIA

Project manager
Amy Cohn

Selldorf Architects LLC
860 Broadway
New York, NY 10003 
ph: 212.219.9571
fx: 212.941.6362

Annabelle Selldorf, AIA

Partner in charge:
Randall Goya

Project architect:
Julie Hausch-Fen

Interior designer:
Petra McKenzie

Jose Rodriguez

Consulting architect
Franke, Gottsegen, Cox Architects
443 Greenwich Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013 
ph: 212.334.1191 
fx: 212.334.1317

Matthew Gottsegen, AIA

Project architect:
Bruce Harvey, AIA

Structural engineer
Gilsanz Murray Steficek, LLP
129 West 27th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001 
ph: 212.254.0030 
fx: 212.477.5978

Partner in charge:
Phillip Murray

Project engineer:
Vicky Arbitrio

Cathy Huang

Mechanical engineer
AltieriSeborWieber, LLC
31 Knight Street 
Norwalk, CT 06851 
ph: 203.866.5538 
fx: 203.866.5243

Partner in charge:
Andrew J. Sebor

Project engineer:
Ken Wieber Jr.

Electrical engineer:
Joseph Renzulli

Lighting consultant
Renfro Design Group
15 East 32nd Street, Fifth Floor
New York, NY 10016
ph: 212.229.9990
fx: 212.229.9985

Richard Renfro

Project designer:
Andrew Thompson

Acoustical, A/V, IT and security       
Shen Milsom Wilke
417 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016 
ph: 212.725.6800 
fx: 212.725.0864

Van Deusen & Associates
5 Regent Street, Suite 524 
Livingston, NJ 07039 
ph: 888.994.9220 
fx: 973.994.2539

Building Conservation Associates, Inc.
158 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
ph: 212.777.1300 
fx: 212.777.1606

Raymond Pepi

Project consultant:
Dean Koga

Color consultant  
Donald Kaufman Color 
336 West 37th Street, Suite 801 
New York, NY 10018 
ph: 212.594.2608

Code consultant 
Paragon Building Consultants, LLC
15 Maiden Lane, Suite 1107 
New York, NY 10038
ph: 212.571.7500 
fx: 212.571.3893

Zoning consultant
A.E.C. Consulting & Expediting, Inc.
20 Vesey Street 
Suite 909 
New York, NY 10007 
ph: 212.619.0200 
fx: 212.619.0550

Spec writer     
Construction Specifications, Inc.
22 Tennent Road
P.O. Box 488
Morganville, NJ 07751
ph: 732.970.0700 
fx: 732.970.0790

Asbestos monitor       
GCI Environmental Advisory, Inc.
655 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017 
ph: 212.986.9460
fx: 212.986.9464

Geotechnical engineer
Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
21 Penn Plaza
360 West 31st Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10001
ph: 212.479.5400
fx: 212.479.5444

Lenard Smith 

General contractor
E.W. Howell Co., Inc.
592 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10036 
ph: 212.930.1050 
fx: 212.704.9817

Vice president of Manhattan operations, project executive:
William Sawch

Project manager:
Kevin Muessig

Project supervisor:
Robert Zirkel

Structural steel fabricator and erector
Post Road Iron Works 
345 West Putnam Avenue 
Greenwich, CT 06830 
ph: 203.869.6322 
fx: 203.869.0288

Fabricator and erector miscellaneous steel and architectural/ornamental metal 
United Iron Inc.
6 Roslyn Place 
Mount Vernon, NY 10550 
ph: 914.667.5700 
fx: 914.667.5925

Deerpath Construction Corporation 
37 Progress Street
Union, NJ 07083
ph: 908.964.0408

Deerpath Construction Corporation 
37 Progress Street
Union, NJ 07083
ph: 908.964.0408

Towne House Restorations (for cornice GRFC)
341 Ten Eyck Street 
Brooklyn, NY 11206 
ph: 718.497.9200 
fx: 718.497.3556

EIFS, ACM, or other
Stucco-Island Diversified 
4062 Grumman Boulevard
Calverton, NY 11933
ph: 631.953.6990




Built-up roofing
Suprema Roofing

Wood windows
H. Hirschmann Ltd.

Aluminum windows
Neversink Glass Corp.

Champion Metal & Glass Inc.

Midhattan Woodworking Corp.

Metal doors
M&D Firedoor

Wood doors
Midhattan Woodworking Corp.

Glass doors 
Blumcraft of Pittsburgh





Cabinet hardware


Acoustical ceilings

Woodwork and woodwork restoration
Midhattan Woodworking Corp.

Interior stone and stone restoration
Cathedral Marble & Granite 
ph: 718.461.0701

Paints and stains
Donald Kaufman Color Collection

Benjamin Moore

Reception furniture, reading room tables

Xenon Architectural Lighting

Library lighting
Winona Lighting                                            

Xenon Architectural Lighting

Exhibition lighting, recessed track lighting 
Edison Price Lighting

Recessed art lighting

Custom lighting design

Custom lighting manufacture 
Vision Quest Lighting

Lutron GRAFIK Eye

Dale Travis Associates, Inc.

Precision Engraving
ph: 631.842.5060

Mobile storage
Modern Office Systems, Inc.