ABOUT THE ARCHITECT:
For Todd Poisson, great design is beautiful, inventive, buildable, and responsible. Uniquely, Todd is both a big picture thinker and a stickler for details, with natural talent for building consensus. By collaborating closely with colleagues and clients, he consistently achieves multi-faceted success on his projects, for today's beneficiaries and generations to come.
An exemplary leader of complex teams, Todd's current work is mainly comprised of ground-up buildings in New York City. Particularly notable are The Jefferson and Citizen Manhattan condominiums, as well as 529 Broadway, a six-story retail building in the Soho Cast Iron District, who facade reflects its context with a gradient from the punched windows of one historic neighbor to the expansive glazing of the next. Todd's interest in the tools of architectural practice, as well as his commitment to excellence in project delivery, result in his teams being at the forefront of today's design research, technologies, and processes.
In addition to architecture, Todd has a contagious passion for sports. He is an active volunteer with the American Youth Soccer Organization and a former coach and referee of regional leagues. In addition, Todd is a lecturer and interviewer for Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, of which is an alumnus.
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Doug Patt (DP)
Let's go inside the vault. The design vault.
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Todd Poisson (TP)
They wanted to expand the building, and a vertical expansion is taboo for individual landmarks. So, in order to get them any significant square footage additions up there, we wanted to go bold. Why not propose a more robust, bold roof scape? And given the history of Chief Tamanend being the namesake of Tammany and with this desire to really honor the Lenape, why not be inspired by the Lenape's origin story of a rising turtle coming out of the water, shedding water?
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This is my guest, Todd Poisson. I'll share more about him shortly. In this episode from the Design Vault, we’ll highlight Todd's project, 44 Union Square.
44 Union Square sits at the northeast corner of Union Square Park in Manhattan. The project includes a remarkable contemporary steel and glass dome addition to the storied landmark building on Union Square's northeast corner for Redding International Ink.
The new building expands the usable square footage of the historic building and adds an iconic anchor to Union Square. The building's former life was as the last headquarters for the political machine, Tammany Hall, an American organization founded in 1786, famous for controlling New York City and state politics for a time.
The restoration and expansion of the building includes preserving two facades, new bronze storefronts in the likeness of the original 1928 design and a three-story rooftop addition. This wild steel and glass building cap is composed of a self-supporting free form shell grid dome atop a reconstructed hipped roof with gray terracotta sunshades.
If you're wondering, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved this incredibly creative design.
Hi, I'm Doug Pat and this is Design Vault.
Today we're talking to Todd Poisson. Todd received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University. He became a partner at BKSK in 2007 and has over 30 years of experience in the architecture profession. Todd has been responsible for the design and construction of some of the firm's most ambitious projects, ranging between residential mixed use and institutional works. Recent award-winning projects include the Gansevoort Row redevelopment for Aurora Capital and 44 Union Square, which we'll discuss today.
Other notable recent projects of Todd's are 200 East 21st Street, a 20 story, highly sustainable residential tower in Gramercy for Alpha Development and 470 Columbus, a passive house, multifamily development on the Upper West Side for the Rowe Corporation. Todd is currently a volunteer with the American Youth Soccer Organization and a long-term coach of regional athletic leagues.
In addition, Todd is a lecturer and volunteer interviewer for Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. So welcome, Todd. Nice to have you with us today.
We're going to talk about 44 Union Square. But before we do, I should mention that we recently interviewed one of Todd's peers at BKSK, David Kubik. He told us a bit about the firm. But for those who haven't listened to that episode, tell us a little bit about BKSK in New York City. Where are you guys located? What's the size of the firm and what type of work do you do?
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Sure. So, thank you for having me. BKSK Architects is headquartered in New York City in Manhattan, not too far away from your center here on West 38th Street in the garment center of Manhattan. We've been in business since 1985 celebrating 38 years. David and I are kind of second-generation partners. We've been in business about 38 years. We have over 200 built projects. David and I both joined the firm about 20 years ago plus and were made partners about the same time.
BKSK specializes in many things. We like to say if you know New York, you know our work. Our work is kind of separated between, generally speaking, cultural, institutional work, libraries, religious structures, parks, and commercial buildings and residential buildings. Residential projects ranging from new condominium buildings, towers or private residential projects, combining units or renovating someone's home.
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Do you guys do residential projects outside of New York City?
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We do. In fact, we have a little annex office out in Oklahoma City that we had so much Midwest work. Now we have private residential projects, upstate New York and in Connecticut and in New Jersey.
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So, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you end up at BKSK? How long have you been there – I believe you just said that. What's your role in the office?
00;04;53;13 - 00;05;49;13
Well, I joined back in 1998. So, 25 years ago I answered a New York Times wanted ad – remember those, actually where you had to get the newspaper Saturday, the Sunday paper? You got to subscribe to get them a day early to rifle through the want ads. And I answered a want ad for a project manager at an architecture firm called Burns, Kendall, Schieferdecker, with this crazy name. I thought it was a law firm. Back then there was no websites. You couldn't look up the firms. You had to go to these places, and you'd open the front door and you'd be disappointed but had to sit through the interviews to see what kind of work they did.
But the moment I met George Schieferdecker – he interviewed me 25 years ago, he's still there, one of the founding partners – knew immediately that I had found the mothership. You know, these guys knew each other from school way back. They were so intellectual. They all had lives outside the office. This was not a sweatshop kind of architecture firm that one sometimes encounters. And I've just had just a great time with them.
00;05;49;16 - 00;06;05;23
It's funny, when you were saying that, all these awful memories started flooding in of making one phone call after another and going through the phone book and then showing up and knowing nothing about the work of that architect, and endless interviews. So where were you working before BKSK?
00;06;05;25 - 00;06;23;21
I was here in Manhattan already. I was working for Stephen Jacobs Group, an architect who specialized, at the time, in new construction residential work. So, I really cut my teeth as a young architect in the field, hardcore development construction experience in Manhattan, which has paid off a great deal.
00;06;23;24 - 00;06;28;20
So now you're partners. So, what's your role like now? Has it changed significantly?
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Sure. So over time, our roles change as partners as we grow in the firm. David and I and Julie Nelson, the other second-generation partner. Julie, David, and I really grew up there and our roles have evolved from being in the trenches and drawing every line and every detail for projects that get built. Lucky for us, our sites tend to be in Manhattan.
We're also a little bit regional. We have some work in New Jersey and Philadelphia and Connecticut, but still about 80% in Manhattan. So, we are very lucky. We could visit sites very easily to get hands on experience. And so, our roles really evolved quickly into project management, into client facing roles, consultant coordination, field work. When we were promoted to partners, our roles shift gradually into more finding work, finding new work, finding repeat clients, developing those relationships to continue getting new projects, setting the design direction for new projects, and then just kind of being the face of the project.
We pride ourselves to being involved with every phase of design as partners. We don't just disappear after landing a new project. We really stay involved in the trenches at meetings. I just came from a mechanical coordination meeting for a new hotel project we're doing. I really love that stuff. I really love the details – love the field work as well as the design and the client facing opportunities.
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I'm curious how big was BKSK when you joined them?
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So, they were about 15 people, I think, in 1998.
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And now you're 50.
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We're about 50, 52 people. Yes.
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Interesting. I love the field stuff, too. I love the people stuff. It's just the best part of the job.
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The soap opera arcs during it, like a seven, eight year project are just terrific. We refer to them at project meetings or say previously on this project in season two, you might recall that the elevator consultant said the opposite of what you just said. Like years later, it's a way to keep things light at these construction meetings.
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That is really funny.
00;08;23;04 - 00;08;43;02
We try to keep it light and funny, and the construction industry has changed a great deal, as you could imagine, along with everything else. But in the last 35 years since I've been working, you know, sites are tech savvy. It seems to be it's a much more civilized kind of operation, and there's opportunities to really develop great relationships with the builders and consultants.
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Great insight. Totally true. So, let's dig in here and talk about the building. Tell us about 44 Union Square. So how did your office get the project?
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So back in 2012, the phone rang. It was Michael Buckley calling from Edifice Real Estate Partners. He invited us – because of our strength of our record of getting very challenging approvals through the Landmark Commission of New York City – invited us to join, I think it was a group of five firms that competed in a competition that lasted a month of design work, and then we each presented our work to the owner, Margaret Cotter of Redding International that month.
The design happened to coincide with when Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan. So, our office, like many offices in Lower Manhattan, lost power. So, I brought the competition work home with me, and at the time I had a five-year-old daughter, and she sat in my lap, and we drew together. It really resonates with me to this day because fast forward ten years and there we were finishing the project during a global pandemic where we all had to work from home again. So, this project really bookended two kind of catastrophes in New York City, starting with Hurricane Sandy, working from home and then ending with the pandemic and closing out the project in 2020, using my daughter's big scooter to scoot down to Union Square. During the height of the pandemic, as work was finishing up.
So anyway, Michael invited BKSK to join this limited design competition. I dived into the history of the building. We're all students of history. We feel that every project, even if it's not a landmark project, has its history, has context to learn from. And immediately I learned the story of Tammany Hall that was different from what we're all taught in school, at least in the Northeast. We're taught that Tammany Hall is synonymous with greed and corruption and graft. And while that's all true, Tammany Hall is not named after an Irish politician of the 19th century, which you might think given the Boss Tweed stories and the background of Tammany Hall, that's in the social conscious. But in fact, the namesake of Tammany Hall is an indigenous 17th century chief, Chief Tamanend of the Lenape, who signed a peaceful coexistence treaty with William Penn in 1680, an event that's documented in our Capitol's rotunda in Washington, DC, rules that really held in place for quite some time.
Chief Tamanend was revered and legendary to the European settlers as a native representative who welcomed visitors and who wanted to listen to all voices. And listening to all voices became kind of the theme of these early social clubs, which became known as Tammany Societies. We were surprised to learn that there were dozens of these Tammany societies that dotted the East Coast from New York to Cleveland in the early days of the Republic, and I think they even predated the revolution. I think they, maybe, formalized themselves after the revolution, but the clubhouses began even before the American Revolution, where people joined and sat around talking about what ideals the New Republic should represent. And they chose Chief Tamanend to represent them as a symbol of listening to all voices. Over the centuries that story was lost. The only Tammany society to make it into the 20th century was ours here in New York, only to become known for craft, greed and corruption.
So right from the beginning we thought it was an opportunity to rebrand the building in Chief Tamanend’s name – kind of erase this idea that Tammany is associated with just greed and corruption, but is associated with the indigenous population of North America, of the Northeast, especially of the Lenape. Given that background, looking at this Neo-Georgian red brick and limestone building at the corner Union Square, which was designed originally to emulate Federal Hall downtown. Federal Hall is where George Washington was inaugurated on the balcony. Federal Hall was demolished in 1812, but it looked like Tammany Hall does today, except Federal Hall had a much more robust roof line, had a big hipped roof and a cupola, whereas Tammany Hall and Union Square chose the architects Thompson, Holmes, and Converse out of Philadelphia in 1928 – chose to replicate the federal Hall facade quite literally, but they gave Tammany Hall here in Union Square a much more tepid roof.
And so, the thought was, given the brief from Edifice for Redding International, they wanted to expand the building, they wanted to rebrand the building, but they knew it was a landmark. They knew it was an individual New York City landmark. So, demolition was out of the question. And a vertical expansion is taboo for individual landmarks. Typically, the New York City Landmarks Commission approves maybe a handful each year, but they're very difficult to convince the commission that it's an appropriate addition to the base landmark. Union Square is such a vast public space that we knew immediately that even if you put like a shampoo bottle on top of the roof, it would be seen from across the square. So, in order to get them any significant square footage addition up there, we wanted to go bold. We felt that, given this Neo-Georgian base that used to have or was modeled after a building that had a bigger roof, why not propose a more robust, bold roof scape?
So, the question is what form should that take? And given the history of Chief Tamanend being the namesake of Tammany, and with this desire to really honor the Lenape, why not be inspired by the Lenape’s origin story of a giant turtle rising from the sea, creating land to give this Neo-Georgian building the dome that it would have, could have, should have had if Tammany Hall perhaps was more honest with its intentions in 1928, when Thompson, Holmes, and Converse designed this building, which really cloaked them in kind of quasi-governmental garb at this very federal style red brick and limestone building with a pediment, portico, but a tepid roof.
So, we decided to model a very contemporary glass and steel dome modeled after a rising turtle coming out of the water, shedding water as the kind of volume to hold, to house three additional floors. And the landmarks, as you mentioned, Landmarks Commission unanimously approved it. We only had to go back once to tweak the height of the dome and some of the details.
The dome kind of erupts from a reconstructed hip roof. So, we removed the slate hip roof and recreated it in the same inclined plane with terracotta sunshades that intermittently cover the beginning of the glass and steel dome. So, the glass and steel dome starts off as in the form of a hip roof, but then quickly transforms into this parametric shell that looks like classically proportioned when one stands in front of it in Union Square. Looks like any other dome on a classic building, in terms of its proportion. But when one turns the corner and looks more obliquely on it, its organic source kind of becomes more apparent. You kind of sense something is going on there and it's turtle like as it faces north over this arched pediment that was top of the Tammany Hall's balustrade in the middle of the East 17th Street North facade.
The original building had this odd arch pediment that was kind of just vertically cantilever in there. We didn't quite realize what it was until we looked more into the history of Tammany Hall. And sure enough, they used to – before this building was built in 1928 – they occupied a clubhouse on East 14th Street down at the other corner of Union Square. And on top of that building is a giant arched, decorative element with, in fact, a 15-foot-tall statue of Chief Tamanend. That building was demolished for ConEd’s expansion in the 1920s, and that's what spurred Tammany Hall to move to this location on the northeast corner of Union Square. Chief Tamanend is only recalled on our facade in 1928 with a headshot, a limestone medallion that faces, on the north facade, over what was Tammany Hall's front door. So, the classical portico facade that faces Union Square was really always a commercial facade. The ground floor was always a retail store location. In 1928 was a manufacturer's trust bank, for example. And now just last week, we celebrated the grand opening of Petco as the new national headquarters giant, 30,000 square foot new store in the ground floor cellar and second floor of the building.
So, it's still a retail presence. And then the upper floors are remodeled to be open office space. So Tammany Hall's front door used to be below that arched pediment facing northeast 17th Street and that's where we decided to kind of turn the turtle's head on the roof. So, the glass dome takes on a little bit more of a turtle-like form as it turns its head to give that arched pediment a little bit of a home. And we think it gives it a little bit more of a reason to exist than it ever did before. And it signals that that was Tammany's front door, once upon a time.
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Wow. Some great information. There's so much to talk about here, you know, it reminds me of - I'm still a big fan of Coop Himmelblau, it's far more organized, right – but it reminds me of that kind of approach to architecture. So, there were five entries. Did you see the entries?
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We never saw the other entries. We presented our work to Margaret at Redding, like December of 2012, after a bit of a delay because of Hurricane Sandy. We were awarded the project. It took about a year for contracts and everything to be negotiated to become their architect, but we were awarded the project so roughly late 2013. We brought it to the Landmarks Commission in, I believe in 2014. We received final building department and Landmarks approval in the following year or so, and then it took a few years to build. It was interrupted a bit by the pandemic, but we finished. Construction was finished in 2020.
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So, start to finish, how long was it then?
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From the day the phone rang in 2012 to 2020. So about eight years. We've stayed on call as the landlord's architect to help coordinate work for the tenants looking at space inside.
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And this was mostly a renovation project, but there was some new construction?
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So that's great that you ask that because it appears from a lot of photographs and even as you walk around it and even when you're in it, it's hard to realize that it's actually a new building behind the 100-year-old street walls. Everything was removed except the two street-facing walls. So, we think that's a real success, that people think it is a rooftop addition with maybe a little renovation inside, because that really was the intent to be as deferential and respectful of the historic landmark as possible. But, in fact, everything was removed. The historic masonry walls were decoupled from the structure. They were braced in place by tower braces that had their own foundation systems through the sidewalk, including through a giant vault that lines the 17th Street side that has a giant ConEd steam pipe running through it. So very complex coordination that the structural engineers at Thornton Tomasetti coordinated with our construction managers at CNY to develop this very intricate tower bracing system.
I should mention Buro Happold also as engineers of the project. So, the facades were decoupled from the structure. Everything was removed inside, including the foundation. A deeper foundation was dug to give the building a very deep cellar and six new stories. So, what was a three-story building with the little caretaker's apartment hidden behind the hipped roof at the front is now a 70,000 square foot class-A commercial building, growing from about 35,000 to begin with.
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So, you had to match the existing brick.
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So yes, finally we could talk about brick. Big part of the project was restoring those two street walls, the two 100-year-old historic street walls that are red brick and limestone, modeled after Federal Hall downtown. We researched the brick. Our design partners at Buro Happold gave us a roadmap – and the restoration contractors at Pullman – very detailed road map of the two street facades of which parts needed to be replaced. But remarkably, not a lot of the brick had to be removed. We did repoint 100% of the brick, meaning partially removing, breaking back the mortar joints and replacing the mortar. The front about three-quarters-inch of mortar on all the joints, but only replaced maybe about 15, 10%, maybe less of the brick.
The brick we found; we researched where the brick was in 1928. It was from the old Virginia brick company in Salem, Virginia. And we found an advertisement in 1929 after the building was completed, and they are bragging about their new building on Union Square, and they are linking it – as a Virginia company, they’re proud of this project for many reasons – but including the fact that Tammany Hall was linked to Thomas Jefferson's ideals and Thomas Jefferson, of course, is from Virginia and is famous for designing his home at Monticello. So, the old Virginia brick company has this advertisement that we found in the Archives of Public Library here in New York that they link the brick here at Tammany Hall to the brick used at Monticello. But if you read the fine print, it's not literally the same brick, it's not from the same kilns. They say it's, quote, “in the same size and made in the same kind of cherry and maple molds as those of Jefferson's beloved Monticello.” So even though Salem, Virginia, which is right next to Roanoke, Virginia, still is about, these days, even a two hour drive from Monticello, they wanted to connect themselves to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson with this new building for Tammany Hall, which was pretending to be or, you know, acting as a quasi-governmental building.
They were really a social agency too. We shouldn't forget that even though that they were known for terrible greed and corruption and fixed elections and did all kinds of bad stuff, they really operated as a social service organization for newly arrived immigrants here in New York City. So, they, however, used Lenape iconography in ways that weren't so appealing to us, from our point of view, looking back. They didn't care for the land of a people. They use their imagery. They used Chief Tamanend's name, but they didn't necessarily care for the Lenape people. And we wanted to reintroduce the Lenape authentic voice into this project. So early on, right after we won the competition, we reached out to the Lenape center here in Manhattan. We wanted to make sure that we weren't offending people by the use of Chief Tamanend’s clan's symbol of the rising turtle. We met with Joe Baker and Hadrien Coumans, some of the co-founders of the Lenape Center here in Manhattan, and they were thrilled. I was so relieved with their reaction when we showed them this design, a good ten years ago now. And they've been friends ever since. They've been great proponents of the project. They supported it through the regulatory process, writing letters to the Landmarks Commission, appearing with us side by side. So, they've been a great partner with this, and we've shared the design as it developed with them. So, we like to think of them as one of our collaborators in this project. It wasn't part of the brief, it wasn't part of the commercial real estate project, but we kind of thought it was very important to bring an authentic voice to this project from the Lenape point of view.
00;24;16;29 - 00;24;28;08
So, we know that you guys had to match the existing brick out there. Was it challenging to find a brick that you could use, and what was that process? What did you ultimately go with?
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So, looking at the existing conditions of the brick walls, they were in remarkably good shape, considering it was 100-year-old building. We removed maybe five, ten percent of them. We used our construction manager partners at CNY, hired Pullman, incredibly talented folk at Pullman to restore the brick. They used, I think it was like a four-inch diameter grinder blade to remove the first, say, three quarters of an inch of mortar out of all the joints. 100% of the joints were repointed with mortar that we selected to match the original mortar.
The bricks themselves are an incredible mixture of Glen-Gery molded brick, and Heathcote, and spec sand DD-58, and Catawba, and a Roanoke Original. So that is all mixed in to create the dappled, dark red, velvety, rich red brick that are dappled with a very dark rowlock. Some of the rowlocks are very dark, so there's many bricks that are mixed into this, specifically chosen for each moment, each part of the facade that was being replaced. It's only about ten or twelve bricks at a time, in little clumps, that had to be replaced where there was a crack that was going through them. So that's how we restored the Flemish bond of the building. That bond of the landmark has a beautiful Flemish bond pattern to it that we restored.
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So, let's go back to the roof for a little bit. Was there any discussion internally when you were working on the design that it was just way too contemporary? This was not going to fly?
00;26;02;15 - 00;27;41;12
Sure. So, we looked through history at examples of iconic, bold, contemporary rooftop additions onto landmark or historic structures. We looked at, specifically, for example, the Reichstag in Berlin. Lord Foster designed a striking, bold, contemporary glass dome onto the government building in Berlin. Of course, they lost their dome through war and bombing, and it was reconstructed in a contemporary fashion. But, interestingly enough the original Reichstag Dome did have glass in it. That's a fascinating case study for us.
We also looked at other freeform shell grid structures. That is the technical name for this structural system that can span over vast spaces without any vertical supports. So, the entire dome, the entire roof is not supported by any internal column or wall. It rests on new perimeter concrete walls that go all the way down to the new foundation. The loads are distributed down columns that are in between all the windows, in the historic facade, down to the new foundation in the cellar. So, we looked at Foster's courtyard cover at the British Museum, for example, that utilizes the same kind of system of freeform shell grid, which is also boldly, iconically, contemporary against a landmark base. The thought here was by restoring the base, by restoring all the brickwork and the limestone, we strengthen the landmark base in order to allow it to have a contrasting style on the roof, that the roof could be strikingly contemporary as long as we paid attention and were respectful to the restoration of the base.
00;27;41;14 - 00;27;55;03
So, I read a little bit about the solar insulation, light infiltration. You were concerned glare clearly was going to be an issue. Could you elaborate on the probability studies you did investigating those elements and how they impacted design?
00;27;55;03 - 00;29;31;14
Our partners at Buro Happold did fascinating studies with daylight. We directed them and wanted to make sure that we weren't going to cause reflection problems with this parabolic to other buildings. There are some case studies around the world of curved glass buildings causing problems to their neighbors, including there's one in London that focuses heat to the degree that it was causing fires on the sidewalk across the street. So, we certainly did not want to be known for that. So Buro Happold helped us study the probability of reflection on to the neighbors. We pinpointed the pieces of glass that would be the culprits – the whole selection process of the type of glass, with Buro Happold's help and all their studies – it was determined that a combination of tint and clear glass was the solution to inhibit reflection, but also to prevent too much solar heat gain and also to prevent too much internal glare.
So, from the outside, the glass appears a bit dark. On sunny days, it's reflective just enough to give it a shiny kind of silvery tone, and you can see the clouds, but it doesn't reflect rays of sunlight directly, like laser beams into the neighbors. And while you're on the inside, even though the glass on the outside has a darker appearance from the inside, your eyeballs adjust and it's all color corrected. Your eyes don't see dark. They see blue sky. They see the beautiful terracotta details of the neighboring historic buildings. It was, in the end, success of glass selection to inhibit all those potential problems.
00;29;31;16 - 00;29;40;17
So, did your team learn anything interesting through the design and construction process doing something this unique? I would imagine you've never done a roof like this in the office before.
00;29;40;21 - 00;30;52;21
We haven’t. It's our first freeform shell grid. It was New York's first freeform shell grid. There is a similar covering at Moynihan Train Hall to their barrel vaults, but they opened six months after we did, so we are happy to say, after an eight-year design process and construction, we kept saying we're going to be New York's first freeform shell grid. We're the first one to enclose internal space. I think there's a similar system that might be on some like entry canopies. There's one for like the seven-train extension to Hudson Yards and there's one out in Yonkers, but those do not enclose covered space and they're not nearly this large. So, we're proud to say we're New York's first freeform shell grid.
They use acres of this system in Asia and Europe. It's a very common system to span large swaths of space. It is used here in this country. For example, we visited the Smithsonian Institute down in Washington, DC. The Portrait Gallery has a courtyard cover that's similar to the British Museum cover. Foster came here and did kind of an encore for us in 2007 with the Smithsonian cover. We studied that system too, in terms of how it let light in, and in our studies of glare, etc..
00;30;52;24 - 00;31;05;21
Yeah. What I find so interesting about the roof is that you could have simply created a typical Mansard roof and then added glass to the top. But the whole thing is glass, which is so unique.
00;31;05;21 - 00;31;52;26
And a mansard roof, of an appropriate proportion, wouldn’t enclose nearly this much square footage. So, we wanted to get our client as much square footage as possible on top of this historic building. And it needed that extra oomph. The dome portion in the middle, which would never be able to be really enclosed by a mansard of any kind of historically accurate proportion. So that's what led us to both the form and the structure to enclose it, because the freeform shell grid is kind of the perfect device to span such great distances so the interior can be super flexible.
We built three floors within it, but those could be removed, they could be remodeled, they could be reconstructed to serve any purpose because all the loads from the roof system just go down the side perimeter walls.
00;31;53;02 - 00;32;18;06
It's a great project for architecture students to look at in terms of learning how to develop an idea to make form, right. It's just so clear. And yet if you knew nothing about it, you just say, “Wow, they just put a glass dome on top.” But there's so much more to it that created so many unique details and so many beautiful things and facets, and I'm sure that space on the interior is wonderful.
00;32;18;09 - 00;32;25;04
It's really terrific. There's opportunities to connect all three floors interconnecting and the possibilities are endless in there.
00;32;25;06 - 00;32;40;23
So, you've obviously been an architect for quite some time, over 30 years. So, what career advice would you give your younger self, looking back after practicing for all this time? What have you learned? What's an idea that you've really locked on to that you'll never forget?
00;32;40;25 - 00;32;53;00
One of the founding partners at BKSK, Joan Krevlin, said to me 25 years ago when I joined the - one of the things that she always kept with her as a young architect is do your job and tell the truth.
00;32;53;02 - 00;32;55;22
What great advice! I love that!
00;32;55;29 - 00;33;42;02
It's a great profession. And as you said, students of architecture have a great time in design studios. And this is a project that is really right out of studio in a way. I love showing it to students because like you said, it's super accessible in terms of the visuals, but it has a great connection to social history and the importance of context, the importance of research that you just don't come into a vacuum and design a building. You look at the context, you look at history, and you look at what you can learn from it. Because this could have been, like you said, just a flat top mansard roof. But discovering the history of the Lenape connection to this building was just remarkable and a great opportunity. I've met the Lenape Center folk. They've asked me to join their advisory steering committee. It's just been a wonderful experience.
00;33;42;04 - 00;34;03;22
I love what you said. You don't just come into a vacuum and design a building. You don't. You don't. And that's what you learn in school. And hopefully you get to use that information, use that process, use that paradigm when you graduate, and you become a real architect. Right. So, Todd, it's been great to have you here. Thanks so much for your time. Where can people go to learn more about BKSK architects?
00;34;03;27 - 00;34;09;06
We can be found at www.bksk.com
00;34;09;08 - 00;34;11;09
Todd, it’s been great to have you, man. That was really cool.
00;34;11;25 - 00;34;16;12
Thanks. This was really fun.
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