45 East 7th Street

New York, NY

Architect
Morris Adjmi Architects
Mason Contractor
Ark Builders Corp
Distributor
Extech Building Materials
Brick breakdown
53,000+ Dolomite Grey Wirecut Econo & Shapes

“I used to think New York was a red brick city, and it is in many places,” says Morris Adjmi. “But if you look at the neighborhood around 45 East 7th Street, or the Lower East Side in general, you see a lot more of that lighter brick.” He notes the influence of the white buildings at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair in the whitening of Manhattan. “A lot of the architects who were in Chicago were either New York architects or they were Chicago architects who came back to New York.” And he points to the white buildings of the Ladies’ Mile, a Manhattan shopping district popularized in the late nineteenth century, as an example of their work and influence on the city.

MA uses a light-toned brick in the 34,000-square-foot, 7-story, 21-unit 45 East 7th to reflect the tenement buildings in its locale. Responding to the neighborhood was a necessity, as the site is within the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District and so had to reply to certain codes. But it was also a matter of sensitivity, as the boutique condominium building is located on the site of a deadly gas explosion that leveled 3 tenement buildings previously occupying the corner of 7th and 2nd Ave. A plaque on 45 East 7th commemorates the two people who died in the event.

The bricks define familiar tripartite facades in a new way. The unconventional use of hand-laid brick creates an incredibly dynamic play of light and shadow that changes throughout the day, lending the bricks a multi-tonal quality. The building’s cornice resembles those of adjacent structures but is composed of a perforated metal panel - simultaneously fitting in and standing out. “It is an abstraction, but it’s a very literal application in that we created a modern version of some of the buildings that you see in the historic district by using different patterns of brick.” The ground level has brick piers in a single corbel pattern. The middle portion sets a custom L-shaped brick in a checkerboard pattern, which was often used below windows or in banding courses on neighborhood buildings. The frieze at the top of 45 East 7th uses a brick pattern with a double corbel. Adjmi seems little concerned that this light, now pristine, surface will weather over time. He talks about the authenticity of materials. “You think about cars—old Jaguars had a waxed wood dashboard, and now they’re dipped in acrylic or Lucite or something, and there’s wood back there, but does it really matter? It doesn’t smell like wood. It doesn’t really look or feel like wood.” He continues, “Coming back to bricks, they’re real, they get dirty, they get dusty, and they get better with age.”

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