Brooklyn, New York
This house for a bachelor began as a 2,200-square-foot, one-story workshop that occupied its entire 22-foot-by-100-foot site.
Design concept and solution:
The pre-existing condition of a built-full lot meant that, according to NYC zoning regulations, if the house is not enlarged, then the architect need not comply with typical residential requirements such as a 30-foot rear yard. Thus, the architect was able to build something very unique and rarely found in New York City: an atrium house, built around a courtyard. The building gives maximum exposure to the outdoor space and a sense of intimate privacy. In some neighborhoods this would spoil an array of adjacent, verdant backyards, but this is a mixed-use block. The neighbor to the east is a built-full recording studio, for example.
Both the living room and the bedroom suite open completely to the courtyard through folding glass doors. There are also outdoor spaces at both ends of the second floor—a catwalk through the double-height living room connects them.
The primary circulation path extends the full depth of the house, along the east side wall. This axis helps the side wall become a “special wall.” The owner is a creative individual—musician, actor, storyteller, and artist—and the “special wall” becomes an elongated surface for creative projects. It is clad in pine boards that were sawn from the house’s original joists. Embedded in the wall are steel channel struts. There are dozens of fittings that bolt to these struts, and most anything can be mounted on them. Running parallel to the struts are electrical plugmolds that ensure that electrical devices can be installed anywhere on the wall. Lighting along the wall is from fixtures made of plumbing pipe, designed by the architect. The house is heated by a radiant concrete floor.
The experience of moving through the house provides varied conditions and changing views. There are narrow spaces—the entry and first flight of stairs—and an open and airy main space. The stair is cantilevered from the wall dividing the two flights—it starts in a compressed space and ends suspended above the double-height living room.
The front facade is modest and unassuming. It is basic stucco, with wire mesh to support vines that will soon cover it.
Total construction cost:
Eric Liftin, AIA, partner in charge
CAD system, project management, or other software used: