ABOUT THE ARCHITECT:
Inspired by the industrial architecture in his hometown of Buffalo, from the grain elevators to the steel mills where his father worked, Mr. Valgora pursued his passion for architecture. Receiving degrees from Cornell University, Harvard University GSD, and a Fulbright Fellow to the United Kingdom, he gained valuable experience in firms from Boston to London. Finally arriving in New York City, he honed his experience at classic firms before founding STUDIO V Architecture, a practice dedicated to the reinvention of the city. Mr. Valgora’s work is defined by an extraordinary range of projects and scales, encompassing new construction, adaptive re-use, renovation, and interiors. His designs have been internationally recognized for engaging history, culture and context with innovative contemporary design: creating inspirational public spaces, encouraging diversity, restoring historic artifacts, and bringing new life to the edges and interstices of our city while reconnecting communities.
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Doug Patt (DP)
Let's go inside the vault. The design vault.
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Jay Valgora (JV)
So, it's very complex. It's two residential towers and it's mixed use. It has retail at the base with a series of astonishing amenities and public spaces that link them together, including a fantastic pool deck overlooking the ocean, overlooking the roller coaster, and a whole series of public spaces. Because, you know, there's a social life to a building, too.
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This is my guest, Jay Valgora. I'll share more about him shortly. In this episode of The Design Vault, we highlight Jay's project 1515 Surf Avenue. It is a two tower, 26 and 16 story residential building complex in Coney Island, Brooklyn, designed by Studio V Architecture. This street corner project will span 470,000 square feet and yield 461 units 139 designated for affordable housing and 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
The building facade is variegated white to cream colored brick, with the main building podium facing Surf Avenue, featuring a soaring ground floor elevation with several diagonal columns, its sloped roofline is further defined by a stepped series of wooden platforms the design team calls the vertical boardwalk. The building features curved glass lined balconies and amenity deck heated pool and green roof.
Residents have panoramic views of Coney Island Amusement Park and the Atlantic Ocean. The total outdoor space will span over 20,000 square feet. The building includes a fitness center, lounges, co-working spaces, indoor basketball court, handball court and accessory off street parking. When completed in 2024, the property will be the largest geothermal heated and cooled building in New York City.
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Hi, I'm Doug Pat and this is Design Vault. Jay Valgora is the founder and principal of the architectural design firm Studio V Architecture in New York City. Jay grew up in Buffalo. He tells the story that it was the steel mills where his father worked and the historic grain elevators of Buffalo that influenced him to become an architect.
Jay received his Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University and his master's degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He was also a fellow in the Fulbright program to the United Kingdom. At Harvard, Jay studied under Pritzker Prize winning Portuguese architect Alvaro Cesar. Mr. Valdora is on the forefront of urban design with nine projects on the New York City waterfront.
He works closely with entrepreneurs to create innovative designs and programs, collaborates with government agencies to address policy infrastructure, environmental issues and approvals, and is deeply engaged with communities through innovative public space design. Welcome, Jay. Nice to have you with us today. So tell us a little bit about Studio V architecture in New York City. Where are you guys located? What's the size of your firm and what type of work do you do?
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So Studio V is right in the heart of Manhattan. You know, we're right in the middle of the island. I like to say that we live in a city of four islands and a peninsula, and we're right in the middle on 32nd Street and Park Avenue. Actually, by the time you broadcast this or soon thereafter, we've even purchased a small building, which we're currently redesigning right now, and we'll be moving to 111 East 29th Street, where we've created our own studio, which is currently under construction.
I guess the only other thing I can tell you is that Studio V is really all about the people. We have a really incredible range of people that work with us. We're about two dozen, and so we really see ourselves as a boutique architecture firm, but we handle tremendously large and complex projects because we have a really wonderful team and very diverse clients and very diverse projects. So we really pride ourselves on doing things that are a little bit different.
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So tell us a little bit about the firm. When did you get started and what's your role in the office now?
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So I began the firm and founded it in 2006. So I guess we've been around about nearly eight years and I'm the principal and the founder of the firm, but I have seven senior staff. They collaborate with me on all the projects. It's really an open atelier. I intentionally always call it a studio. It's not really an office, it's not really a firm.
It has the whole atmosphere and character of a studio. We have no offices, we have entirely open spaces. We have huge collaborative areas. So my role really is to work with and inspire the great designers and talented architects with whom I work and to provide leadership. But really they play an essential role. It's not Valgora architects, it's Studio V, and the studio really comes first.
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It's really interestingly described. I haven't heard somebody talk about their office like that. So tell me a little bit about how you get your people to pull mostly from New York City? And do people hear about your office and they want to work for you?
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We have a really diverse range of people, but there's sort of a running joke in Studio V that isn't really intentional, but somehow it proves to be true. I would say that many of the people at Studio V come from two places. It's really not intentional. It's not a policy. But many come from the heartland of America. I myself grew up in Buffalo and I consider that really secretly to be part of Ohio, not New York state.
It's completely part of a midwestern kind of ethos. And many of our talented architects come from around the American heartland in the Midwest, but the other half come from all over the world, throughout Europe, Asia, South America. And so I'm very proud of the fact that we really are part of New York City and kind of represent the diverse talents that come from New York City. And yet I think we're also grounded in certain optimistic ideals that come from my upbringing.
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Well, it's really great to hear. So let's dig in here and talk about your buildings. So tell us a little bit about 1515 Surf Avenue. So how did your office get the project?
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Well, first, we really can't do great projects without having a great client. And LCOR is our client on this. And they approached us with the building and it was really a breakthrough building for us. So Anthony Tortora, who is the partner at LCOR, knew me from another firm at which he had worked before, and he decided he wanted to give us a try.
But they did a competition and they put us against some really other serious architects, and we were really proud of the fact that we were able to prevail in that. I think it's all about the power of our ideas. It's about the design concepts that we bring, but also about solving our client's problems. And I think Studio V is really about those two things.
It's about maintaining ideals and an optimism about what a great design could be, and at the same time solving our client's real problems about bringing a project in on budget and doing something creative that they can actually build and that meets their needs.
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So how many people were involved in the competition to get the job?
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There were a handful of us. I put a couple of my best designers on it. It was a paid competition, albeit a small amount. Yes. And so we were up against these other serious firms. And really, I'm sure we spent three times the amount, but I was determined to do something special for it. And also I was inspired by Coney Island.
The principal, the partner, Anthony, actually grew up near there and he really was committed to the idea of remaking this neighborhood and that also fit studio visit. Those were really interested in transforming communities, rebuilding communities. And Coney Island has an incredible history and past and yet has suffered terribly under urban renewal and other elements. And so now we see this as one of the signature projects that's helping reestablish this really important and historic neighborhood.
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So that's a great place to start. So tell us a little bit about the history of the location where this building is.
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So this is right at the corner of Surf Avenue there, these great street names in Coney Island. You know, it's between Surf and Mermaid Avenue, and it's between 15th and 16th Streets. As a matter of fact, it's right across the street from a roller coaster and sits right on the beach with stunning views of the iconic Coney Island Beach and boardwalk.
So to me, I don't know if I'll ever get to work on a site again that is next to a roller coaster overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with stunning views of the historic parachute drop. It looks diagonally right down at Nathan's Hot Dogs. And it's catty corner to the iconic cyclone. So really, it's a fantastic site. Historically, all of these elements that I just described were part of it.
And historically it was part of the whole Coney Island landscape. But by the time we got there, it was a parking lot. There was nothing there. And so really it's an opportunity on this major avenue that had so much historic importance in Coney Island to really help rebuild one of the essential centers of this community.
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Yeah, you must have been amazed when you got out there and stood on that property and looked out, thought, wow, this is going to be really cool.
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Even now that construction is going along very well and it's fully tapped out and they're adding all the facade elements as we climb up through the building. It's stunning the relationship it has to the Manhattan skyline, to the ocean, to these iconic architectural rides and amusements and buildings. It really sits in the landscape and kind of draws these elements into it in a way like no other site I've ever had.
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So what was the scope of the project? What were the client's programmatic requirements?
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So it's very complex. It's two residential towers and it's mixed use. It has retail at the base and one of the towers is market rate and the other is affordable. And yet they wanted us to treat them both with the highest degree of quality, with a series of kind of astonishing amenities and public spaces that link them together, including a fantastic pool deck overlooking the ocean, overlooking the roller coaster, and a whole series of public spaces.
Public spaces, meaning spaces for the residents to share because, you know, there's a social life to a building, too. And I think this is one of the key elements of the building that we were inspired by the social life of residential buildings in New York and how we could create spaces that would bring people together.
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So let's talk a little bit about the building design. So we already discussed the site. There weren't any unique topographic features raised, just a giant flat parking lot. Was it a parking deck or was it just a giant lot?
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It was an open parking lot, and I guess the geographic features would just be these iconic buildings and structures that surrounded it and the ocean itself. The ocean is one of the key elements that did really influence the project, though, because there's a topography to the project, even though the site was flat that responds to the ocean. And that, of course, is resiliency.
You'd mentioned earlier, Doug, that we do a lot of waterfront projects. And one of the things for me is that this sits in the middle of a vast floodplain and we're creating 461 new residences, and we're really at the forefront of dealing with resiliency and climate change. We're very proud of the work we do there, including pro-bono work.
So one of the things we had to do is elevate the entire building and yet still really engage the streetscape. So as a matter of fact, this led to the main design concept, the vertical boardwalk, the idea of elevating the building with a series of step platforms that protects it, and major storm events such as Sandy, and yet also creates a series of spiraling public spaces that work their way up through the building and create these stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
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So that's a good way to segue. Tell us a little bit about the project restrictions, the zoning codes, how far off the ground to the building have to be raised?
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Sure. So of course, like most buildings in New York City, it's an as of right building. So we worked within the existing zoning ordinance. And so in a sense, some of the massing of the towers was pre-established city planning had done a rezoning of this community a few years before, and that actually led to this development and has helped catalyze the transformation of Coney Island.
But then within that, there are certain requirements from FEMA and from flood requirements. But I'll tell you also that the client was very supportive of this. We exceeded those requirements. We didn't just meet the code, we added additional feet of elevation. We did three feet of free board. On top of that, we really pride ourselves on exceeding the code requirements.
As a matter of fact, after we finished the initial permitting of the building, the city amended the code partly in response to advocating that we had done in order to allow buildings to increase their height, to allow extra elevation for climate change and have that not count against the development because it's a positive thing to lift the building up.
The other thing we did that was also important though, is not just lifting it up, it's still engaging the street. So for example, at the corner of 15th Street and Surf Avenue, we created this great porch as the client had this idea that we really need to bring back the streetscape, the retail streetscape, and that would be a fantastic site for a restaurant.
So we created this wonderful porch that has multiple levels that actually allows it to engage the street instead of being too far elevated seven or eight feet up. That's only three feet up. And we allow that to flood in a storm event. But it doesn't go into the building. And that way we can have these series of stepped platforms and public spaces that activate the streetscape and bring Surf Avenue back to life.
00;12;56;05 - 00;13;01;23
So how do you do that? How do you make these objects that can flood and yet they're still functional?
00;13;01;29 - 00;13;53;26
So we really worked with a great team of people, the overall residential levels and all the habitable levels are well above the floodplain. So they're really up to about elevation 13, which is three feet of freeboard above. These are NAVD 88, which is the datum that's used in New York City. And then for the lower areas, really the lobby is accessible.
So we're using flood barriers there to protect one tiny small area, which is a grade which allows the full lobby to be accessible. But all the areas are elevated and then the retail spaces are also elevated. But we stepped it down with this outdoor porch, and that's designed very specifically so that the floodwaters can come in, but they won't enter the building.
They just enter this kind of lower porch level that really engages the street. There's also a parking garage and that does go a bit below grade, and that is allowed to flood. But it has special vents and special technical requirements for the materials that allow it to be flooded and to drain out. And that's the right way to do it.
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So tell us about the building plans. We've got two buildings out there.
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So the building plans were really interesting. And this is one of the things we did in the competition. It's a little hard to describe, but there are the kind of inside corners of buildings where it's difficult to put residences, the kind of the reentrant in corners when you have large, complex residential buildings, it's difficult because you can't put windows there.
And so we came up with a really, I think, creative scheme, and that's actually what helped us win the competition. What we did is we took the left over the dead spaces where you could put windows and we created double height amenity spaces, public spaces for the residents, and we created the coolest, craziest collection of these spaces. There's a media library with a basketball court overlooking it and an elaborate kitchen and a pool deck and a gym.
All these different elements weave together and overlook one another. So we took the kind of hidden corners and places that you normally can't use in the development. And we created instead vast, soaring two story spaces overlooking one another, creating this almost voyeuristic experience where one space in one activity overlooks another. We find today, too, in a post-COVID environment or whatever environment we're in now, that more people are living and working in more creative ways, sometimes they're working from home, sometimes they're going to work.
And we think the idea of having this fantastic residence right on the Coney Island beach, but then you can work within the building. We created many different spaces for people to interact socially, for co-working, for living, for entertaining. And so these staggered multilevel spaces work their way all the way up through the plan. And it's even kind of telegraphed under the facade with this series of folded plans that you referred to earlier that really bring you all the way up to the rooftop and to the pool deck. And so this was really the big move on the plan. And the client was so excited about that that they awarded us the project.
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So how long was the design process then?
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Overall to do a building of this complexity, the complete design probably takes about a year. One reason why I think this was also a great client is we really collaborated from the beginning. We didn't just do a design and then hope it would work out. We worked with them at every step with their marketing people, their technical people, their construction people.
We did budgeting throughout, which is really important to me. As a matter of fact, it's critical that if we're going to do a creative design, we have to work with the client in order to figure out how we're going to hit their budget exactly, which I'm very proud of with this project. For example, we have a whole series of highly sculptural elements that are made of GFRC, glass fiber reinforced concrete, and they really wrap around the brick elements, which we'll talk about a little bit later and kind of create these wonderful transitions.
These are very complex forms, and we really had to work closely from the beginning to make sure we could meet budgets. Same thing on the brick. We're using some really unusual and more expensive and more fine forms of brick and custom brick that we'll talk about. And we had to make sure that we could really work within budgets and yet maximize the impact and create something that would be really special that hadn't really been done in this neighborhood before.
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So that's a good segway to style choice and the style that your office works within and the style that you chose for this building. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
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Well, I believe I'm an unrepentant modernist. I believe that we live in an astonishing time in the 21st century when we're redefining so many things technologically, socially. So I believe very much in creating works that are of our time and that are contemporary. But I love to combine that with traditional understandings of urbanism, of the way people live within cities and materials.
So, for example, a project like this really combines both of those where we're really using first we're creating very unusual forms, complex shapes. We're working with special computer technology in order to model these. We're working with computer numerically controlled bills and robots to actually build components of the building. And on the other hand, we're working with Brick, which is one of the most ancient materials that we have, one of the most enduring and beautiful materials.
And I love the idea that we're combining these different elements together to create something that is both timeless and of our time.
00;17;58;12 - 00;18;06;26
So you said design was about a year long after that. What about city review? And then ultimately it's still under construction right?
00;18;06;28 - 00;18;59;24
So I would say the total design process to complete all the technical documents and we did this project in Revit, we did it to the highest technical standards and construction documents, which is really helpful to figure out the different components takes about a year overall for the full design, but really at the same time as we're doing that, we're working on the permitting.
And so the permitting was really ready to go right at the conclusion of that. And because the project was as of right as we were developing the final technical documents, we were already going through the process of doing permits and then obtaining the foundation permit and then moving directly into constructions that really allowed us to facilitate the schedule and go quickly.
I would say one of the challenges on the design, which is really one of its greatest features, is the geothermal, because that required a lot of planning up ahead and doing a geothermal project of this scale in New York was very difficult in the construction because it required coordinating all of the geothermal wells with the foundation elements and doing that right from the beginning.
00;18;59;27 - 00;19;02;25
So whose idea was it to do geothermal?
00;19;02;28 - 00;20;13;23
I have to give the client credit again, like we really do a lot of projects that address sustainability, and I was very excited to do the largest geothermal project in New York, but it really required the commitment of the client and they had a great partner in Eco Save who was the engineering and geothermal firm that actually helped develop the geothermal systems and also work out the financial models that would allow it to work.
So this was really a terrific thing, but the client gets the credit and that's really also due to the changing codes in New York City, which are so stringent that the client felt it was worth the investment in new sustainable technologies. Well, actually, geothermal is a very old technology, but applying it in new ways, in ways that aren't typically done.
One of the things I'm most proud of is the second largest geothermal project in New York today, after this one's finished, is called St Patrick's Cathedral. So really doing geothermal on this scale for a residential rental building is the bread and butter of New York City, that kind of makes up the fabric of neighborhoods for me as groundbreaking. And also one of the buildings is an affordable building.
So the fact that we could do that level of sustainable design and help combat some of the future issues we're dealing with energy and climate change with this kind of building, I think is the extraordinary thing.
00;20;13;25 - 00;20;33;07
So you said that you brought in the contractor early, so as a high end residential architect, we typically bring a contractor in right after schematic design to take a look at the project and help us determine whether or not we're going to be even close in terms of price, did that help you guys working with the contractor early on?
00;20;33;14 - 00;21;24;10
Absolutely. And again, L Corps had a partnership with LRC Construction, So they're the construction manager doing the job. And really we worked with them on a pre-construction basis closely with the client. You know, often it's described as sort of a three legged stool with architects, you know, the architect, the owner and the contractor and really if one leg of the stool doesn't hold up, you know, it falls down.
And so really all three of us worked together intensely from the beginning. And this was critical, for example, with some of the brick elements, because we wanted to work with this beautiful format called Roman Maximus, very unusual format. We really found that very compelling. It was something we wanted to do from the beginning of the job and we had to work out how would we meet budgets, what would the cost of that be, how would we integrate that with the other elements, how much of it would we use? And so we really worked out those elements of the pricing very early in the schematic phases of the design. Instead of waiting till the end.
00;21;24;13 - 00;21;28;01
Did you ever think about using another material rather than rrick?
00;21;28;03 - 00;21;56;05
You know, we looked at different things for the building and we looked at GFRC at first for the whole building. But I love the idea of brick because I think it's such a classic material and in the end we ended up doing a hybrid where the brick is the majority material for the building, which I think works very well.
And the GFRC elements, these kind of sculptural concrete pieces are sort of the transitional pieces around the front entries and around the main amenity spaces and public spaces of the building. So I think it's very balanced by having both of them, although brick is the main material.
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So how did you end up dealing with Glen Gary.
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So Glen Gary really was very special for the project because they had this really unique product we've been looking for actually for years before I'd even heard of Glen Gary, I loved Roman Brick for my own studies. Even as a student at Cornell and at Harvard, I would travel extensively around the world. I would travel through Europe, and I loved the old Roman brick, which of course is a longer thinner brick.
And I saw in contemporary brick manufacturing they were starting to return to that. As a matter of fact, for years I tried to use it and so few manufacturers would really work with it. Then we found Glen Gary was doing something even more special. It was a longer thinner brick, what they call Roman Maximus, if you will. It's even more elongated and there's something special about that proportion.
It doesn't just stack up in the way that regular bricks do, which is fine too, but it almost creates a beautiful surface. And then we also did the detailing which was very important, where we created deep reveals along the horizontal edges of the brick. It's an old trick that Frank Lloyd Wright used to use. And so by creating a raked joint at the horizontals, it kind of creates this beautiful texture, almost like corduroy, and that along with the long, thin proportions of the brick, gives it a kind of a beautiful surface quality that's much more monolithic and much more beautiful.
And so we use this material all around the base of the building in order to really accentuate that and create a very strong presence to the street.
00;23;20;00 - 00;23;22;05
So you had a good mason from the get go.
00;23;22;11 - 00;23;33;08
We had to work very closely with our Mason and work out all of the details. Let's just say that there were a lot of mockups and a lot of reviews in order to make sure that we would maintain the quality of the project.
00;23;33;10 - 00;23;40;07
So did you do drawings in house? First of combinations of brick or colors or you worked most of that out in the field?
00;23;40;09 - 00;24;06;17
We actually worked extensively on all of that, so we had to work out special brick shapes. We did do curved bricks because they're a series of curves throughout the project, which were critical and we had to do specials for that. We work closely with the technicians at Glen-Gery as well as with the masons in order to work out how to do the specials.
We also had a great facade consultant, Frank Seta & Associates who were really integral to helping us work out the different components of the brick, the attachment, the waterproofing. They're really terrific.
00;24;06;24 - 00;24;16;10
Interesting. We had talked a little bit about geothermal and sustainability. Was that a larger issue for some of the wall systems, insulation, etc.?
00;24;16;14 - 00;24;30;23
Absolutely. I mean, the building has a very, very robust energy envelope and again, as I say, helped us with that as well as we did full energy modeling with IMG Engineering of the building in order to make sure that it met and exceeded really all the sustainability standards. Absolutely.
00;24;30;26 - 00;24;34;23
So you talked a little bit about Revit. How long has your office been on Revit?
00;24;34;25 - 00;25;44;26
That is a great question, Doug. So really, I guess we probably did our first Revit project ten years ago, and it was pretty early for us. We've always embraced new forms of technology and always embraced tools that help us be better designers. But I would say in the last several years, we've really moved towards using Revit on all of our larger projects.
We don't use it on every project yet, but more and more, even in our own office building, even on our own studio building that we're building out now for ourselves, we're doing the project and Revit, so we're moving towards using it now on smaller projects as well as definitely on all of our larger ones. I have to tell you what I like about it, in addition to the technical aspects, the way it helps you with construction takeoffs, integrating different components in real time of the architectural drawings, having them refer to each other, updating drawings. But I love it as a design tool. And in this project where we had this whole series of really interesting, complex spaces, Revit was terrific for actually allowing us to really make cuts through the building and understand the relationship of all the different components, relationship of inside to outside, relationship of one space to another, relationship of one material and how it meets another. Revit was fantastic as a design tool and really helped us do this building in particular.
00;25;45;04 - 00;25;57;23
Yeah, I would imagine clients. Well, I already know this. I mean, clients love looking at three dimensional renderings. They come in and or you send them drawings by email and they're blown away right? I mean, it's like the building's already done.
00;25;57;25 - 00;26;53;19
Renderings are a big part of what we do. And it's interesting here we were talking a little bit earlier because to me, one of the things I'm impressed by is we work really hard to make the renderings reflect the final design, but it's almost impossible to convey ideas of color and lighting and in renderings. People often think they represent reality, but you can manipulate it.
One of the things we did in the renderings for this project was we really tried to convey the color and character of the brick, where you could really sense the warmth of it when the light hit it and how it changes color and becomes a little bit more neutral and shadow. And it creates a real modeling for the building in sunlight, which I think is really critical.
And something I'm proud of with the renderings that we did is I'm amazed as the brick goes on now, I can see that it really reflects exactly how the brick is operating and how it takes on different colors and textures in changing patterns of light. It's especially important on a site like this, which is open and facing south directly overlooking the ocean. So it really gets tremendous light.
00;26;53;21 - 00;26;58;00
Did you guys end up with any masonry on the interior? Any brick on the interior?
00;26;58;02 - 00;27;51;25
So I love the idea of bringing inside and outside together. And so there are a few key places where we brought the brick into the interior. Actually, in the lobby we're doing something very special where I brought the brick right into the inside and actually made it a major feature right behind the front desk, kind of the entry point and I even pushed and pulled that great Roman Maximus brick to give it fantastic texture.
And we lit it beautifully. We're working with Susanne Tillotson, a remarkable lighting designer who's going to light up the texture of that. We're going to put artwork there too, and we brought brick into a few other places in the interior. Also, it's at the rooftop space that we call the Skydeck, where it folds in and becomes the base for some of the seating.
There's an area that we call the living room with the kitchen that overlooks a giant garden over the parking garage. And we pulled the brick in there too. It's in a few places in the entry sequence, going up to the gardens from the lobby. So I like the idea of referring to the brick. It's mostly on the outside, but there's a couple of key places where it makes its appearance on the interior.
00;27;52;02 - 00;28;10;29
Might be a dumb question. You do a lot of projects along the water. Of course it affects the materials and the choices you make, but is it a large consideration for you in most of the buildings that you do? I see a lot of wood on the interior at the front entryway here. What are you guys doing? Are you treating those materials differently?
00;28;11;01 - 00;28;42;01
Absolutely. So it's very important when doing projects on the water that we have to address that it really probably affects other things more. It certainly affects our window specifications. It affects the coatings used on the windows, which have to be to a higher standard. Again, this is where FSA was a great help to us. Brick is a great material for the waterfront because it's really a rain screen.
Brick doesn't really stop the water. The water barriers are behind the brick, but the brick itself is so durable that it does really well in, you know, difficult environments such as Coney Island where we really have a maritime environment and a lot of salt in the air.
00;28;42;03 - 00;28;44;22
So how big was the team that worked on the job?
00;28;44;24 - 00;28;51;07
Gosh, it's hard to say because there were so many different people. I would say, you know, a dozen people. And then, of course, there's a really wonderful team of consultants that we worked with. So a very large number, probably 12 or 15 consultants who really played a key role. And then the client too. It was really a tremendous team and a really great group effort.
00;29;06;26 - 00;29;16;01
So did your office or you in specific learn anything unusual or interesting along this journey of making these two buildings?
00;29;16;07 - 00;30;10;16
You know, I learned things from every project. My favorite thing about my job today is that I feel like I'm certainly teaching a great deal and hopefully working hard too, if I can lead and inspire. But I find my younger staff are teaching me every day. They're showing me how they're using the technology, they're showing me better ways of doing things.
So I learned a tremendous amount in this. I certainly learned a lot about and I thought I knew quite a lot about brick detailing, doing special bricks, some of the special fabrication we're doing, the robotic fabrication with the GFRC. And to me, every project is really an opportunity to figure out how can we do that even better? How can we apply to the next job, how can we build our body of knowledge?
I also love the fact that all of our projects are different. Our real signature at Studio V is that each design is really unique to that site, that client. So for example, we're doing another building with this client now on a different site in New Rochelle, and it's a completely different look and feel, even if the program is somewhat similar.
00;30;10;22 - 00;30;23;20
It must be reassuring for the client, right? Because they feel a lot more special because the building you're designing every time the program changes and the site changes, you change with that, right? So that must be great for them.
00;30;23;25 - 00;31;20;04
Exactly. Doug I don't believe in the idea of like the architect as an agent where they kind of put their name on it even. That's why I said it's not Valgora Architects, it's Studio V, it's a collective of people. And to me what's really important is that we find a solution for each project. We definitely have obsessions and themes that I think work through our work.
For example, we were just in the Venice Biennale early this year and we're still up actually, it's up through November and we showcase this project along with four other projects. And so one of the themes of that show was called On Edge, where we talked about all of our work, which is about edges, gaps, interstices, kind of repairing the frayed edges of our cities.
And Coney Island is one of them, both literally and figuratively as a community, as well as an oceanfront site. And so to me, the idea of instilling a series of social spaces within that and yet kind of repairing the edge of this community, remaking Surf Avenue and really helping be an agent for transformation is really what our work is about.
00;31;20;07 - 00;31;28;17
So you've been an architect for some time. If you could give your younger self some career advice, can you think of something you'd tell yourself many years ago?
00;31;28;19 - 00;32;50;11
I guess I've certainly made many mistakes in my career, and although those have been things that I've learned greatly from. But the other thing that's driven my career is optimism. Where I would often go from project to project, place to place, city to city early in my career, I actually found myself going from San Francisco to London to Toronto and eventually ending up in New York.
And really I feel lucky about that. So I guess in terms of advice, I'm wondering if there was a kind of serendipity to that kind of an unplanned nature to that, and I would almost hate to interfere with that. I think the freedom that I had in my youth to try different things, learn from different people, live different places, was actually the most transformative thing.
So I guess I would say that to myself, but I guess I was lucky enough just to fall into that. Maybe some of it came from where I grew up because I guess I couldn't really stay in Buffalo when my dad worked in the steel mills when I was part of those industrial buildings. That was just at the point when that was all failing and they were getting ready to tear it down.
Now, the mill where my father worked is no longer there, but now my greatest inspiration is to go back and try to reinvent those communities. One of the things I'm most proud of is that I'm going back to Buffalo and doing work there now to bring back my hometown and to create transformative buildings there, including at the old grain elevators at Silo City are other projects in the heart of Buffalo, like where we're doing projects over in the Elmwood District, our wonderful historic district where we're doing a new building now.
00;32;50;13 - 00;32;57;07
Wow. Well Jay it's been great to have you here. Thanks for your time. Where can people go to learn more about Studio V Architects and yourself?
00;32;57;09 - 00;33;23;22
Well, they can certainly find us online at StudioV.com. They can find us at our Instagram site. And most of all, you know, if you're ever in New York City, we'd encourage you to come see us. Come visit us at our studio itself, which is going to be at 111 East 29th Street. Or visit some of our projects, such as the Empire Stores, one of our most iconic projects in Brooklyn that's been very popular with people. We'd really welcome to have people get in touch with us or please come by the studio.
Thank you very much.
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