ABOUT THE ARCHITECT:
David Kubik joined BKSk in 2003 and was named partner in 2018. He plays a strong role in the design of both institutional and development projects and pays careful attention to details in both custom interior work and base building new construction. David is experienced at coordinating large consultant teams on complex projects. He is currently the Partner-In-Charge of two new high-end multifamily residential buildings: The Keller and 111 Charles Street, both in the West Village and the recently completed 601 Washington Street. He also recently led the design of two commercial development projects in the Gansevoort Market Historic District: Gansevoort Row Development and 405 West 13th Street.
David holds both a Master of Architecture and a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the University of Maryland. He has received an Award for Excellence in Design and Fellowships at both the Graduate and Baccalaureate levels, as well as a Thesis Citation. David taught design studio as an adjunct lecturer in the Architectural Technology program at the City University of New York.
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
BKSK secured a complex approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the block-long redevelopment of a collection tattered low-rise commercial buildings near the High Line in Gansevoort Market Historic District. Careful historic research and analysis of the existing buildings, particularly the history of uses and former configurations, enabled a strong rationale for taller building heights and the demolition of some existing fabric on portions of the block. An important part of the Landmarks approval process, and something that BKSK takes great pride in doing, is presenting to preservation groups, the local community board, and select government officials. In this case the presentation made a successful argument for the development along the street and the properties are currently in various stages of completion, with an impressive roster of luxury retailers, and tenants including Hermes, Match Group, Inc., and the reopened Pastis.
Photo by Amy Barkow Photo
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Doug Patt (DP)
Let's go inside the vault. The design vault.
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David Kubik (DK)
From avenue to Avenue across all of these 11 buildings. That was generally programmatically, what was sought after by the client was good commercial space, whether it was retail or office. So then really the next question was, okay, let's look at these buildings, understand which ones were perhaps more intact, more attractive the way they were, which ones could receive some additions, and were there any buildings that just didn't have really kind of great architectural character and warranted demolition and starting over and so we had a little bit of all those.
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This is my guest, David Kubik, AIA. I'll share more about him shortly. In this episode from the Design Vault, we’ll highlight David's project called Gansevoort Row. BKSK Architects made its imprint on the Gansevoort Market Historic District in New York City with a collection of landmark approvals. The redevelopment of a full block of tattered, low rise commercial buildings near the High Line.
Through careful analysis, BKSK made a strong rationale for taller building heights and some new construction along portions of the block. The new development project has a roster of luxury retailers, commercial and office space. The row buildings include existing facades, along with a creative variety of contemporary versions. Interestingly, each new building of various sizes features a unique blend of colors and patterns of brick.
The street facades maintain a turn of the century aesthetic with traditional elements and details, while employing modern windows and expansive metal awnings.
Hi, I'm Doug Pat and this is Design Vault.
Today we're talking to David Kubik, AIA. David Kubik holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture degree from the University of Maryland. He joined BKSK in 2003 and was named partner in 2018.
He works on the design of both institutional and development projects and is experienced at coordinating large consultant teams with expansive layers of complexity. He is currently the partner in charge of two new high end multi residential buildings for BKSK, the Keller and 111 Charles Street, both in the West Village and the recently completed 601 Washington Street. He also led the design of two commercial development projects in the Gansevoort Market Historic District, one of which we will discuss today, the Gansevoort Row redevelopment.
David has received an award for Excellence in Design and fellowships at both the graduate and Baccalaureate levels, as well as a thesis citation. David taught Design Studio as an adjunct lecturer in the Architectural Technology program at the City University of New York. So welcome, David. Nice to have you with us today. So, tell us a little bit about BKSK in New York City.
So where are you guys located? What's the size of the firm and what type of work do you do?
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Well, thanks for having me. A little bit more about BKSK Architects. The firm was founded in 1985. We've always, right from the beginning, been a firm focused on ambitious design, really over a broad range of typologies, whether commercial or residential institutional. And as we're going to talk about today, we have many, many projects that have obtained approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That's a particularly special part of our practice. The firm is located here in New York City. We're on West 38th Street. It's currently led by six partners and we're about 50 people.
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So how long have you guys been in New York City?
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We've been here practicing since 1985, and we were down on 25th Street for a number of years. We recently moved up to West 38th Street in 2020, which was an exciting time to move an office.
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How was that? Was that fraught with challenges?
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It was fraught with challenges. We literally moved the weekend of the shutdown. So, we moved out of our old office on the Friday and moved into our new office on that Saturday. And if everyone recalls, Sunday was the day that New York City really, effectively, shut down. So, we plugged in our new server, plugged in all of our new computers, and crossed their fingers that everyone could log in remotely on Monday morning. And miraculously, it all worked.
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That is unbelievable. So, you guys weren't fully remote.
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Fully remote as many did for a number of months. But yes, all of that came down to literally a day.
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As an aside, did that last for employees or is everybody back in the office now?
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We're all back in the office now. We kind of have some flexibility in terms of working remotely like many do. You know, you can have kind of a hybrid week somewhat, but like many companies, for a number of months, we were fully remote, which is tricky for an architecture firm.
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Absolutely. So, tell us a little bit about yourself. So how did you end up at BKSK?
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Sure. So, as you noted in the introduction, I was attending University of Maryland. I grew up in New Jersey, so always had kind of a fondness for the New York City area, was really excited by the architecture that was happening there. So, while I was still a student at the University of Maryland, I did have a summer internship with Clement and Holl Span architects, who are really also well-known mid-sized firm here in New York.
After graduating, I worked for about a year and a half at Michael Graves Architect. Most people don't know this, but they did at the time have a New York City branch office. They were not just in Princeton, New Jersey. So, I worked for them for a little bit. And then in 2003, I joined BKSK Architects. And at the time I was really looking for work where I could have a heavy involvement in the creation of the construction documents and during Construction administration.
I loved the work that BKSK had. There was a real high level of design ambition and you could tell there was a real study and appreciation for the craft of what they were making. And I loved the idea that I could be both involved in the design and documentation as well as have the opportunity to be on site while it was being built, which on some of the larger firms, sometimes that's not always in the cards.
So, it was a little bit of a shift for me to go to an office that was a little bit smaller, a little bit more locally focused. But there was something that I recognized I was really interested in and BKSK was able to provide that. So, it was a really rewarding shift and I really enjoyed that practice.
00;06;07;25 - 00;06;13;13
So now you're a partner. Has that changed at all your role in the office? Or tell us a little bit about what you do now.
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Sure. So obviously some things change, and I'm happy to say that many things haven't. Sure, my role has changed. I'm involved in more projects; I'm overseeing those projects in the kind of sort of senior leadership role you'd expect when you hear the term partner. But – and our office is a little bit bigger now than it was when I joined in 2003 – but, I would say that the ethos has not changed and we still, as architects, as kind of a tight knit group there in the office, were still very much focused on what I was describing earlier, which is high level of ambition in the design work that we do. And we really like to understand how things get built and the craft in which it takes to build them.
So, we enjoy working with contractors. That's not an adversarial relationship. We like to be on site, you know, and communicate directly with the subcontractors and the general contractors. And that's a process that we see can have a lot of opportunity for collaboration. And again, doesn't have to be this sort of adversarial standoff, which sometimes it can unfortunately sort of devolve into. But we try to make sure it doesn't go there and that everyone's working together in the sandbox to create something beautiful.
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Let's dig in here and talk about our building. Tell us a little bit about the Gansevoort Row project. So how did your office get the project?
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One of our existing clients, a client that we had already completed a number of projects with us, approached us about this project over our capital. I definitely can go on and on about that. Relationships. We're really happy with that relationship. They're a terrific client. They understand what it means to do a project of quality.
And so, we were honored when they came to us about this opportunity and this site. It's on the south side of Gansevoort Street, stretching from Avenue to Avenue, from Greenwich Street to Washington Street. It's really three pieces of property. But when you look across those parcels, it's really 11 individual historic structures that occupy these three properties. So, it was really quite a collection of buildings and structures that we had to grapple with and understand. They were all a little different. Some were more carefully preserved and intact than others, but the entire site had to be presented into the Landmarks Preservation Commission and whatever we designed, they had to approve.
So, what's interesting about that process, I think right out of the gate is that, if you're working on a site that is not subject to LPC approval, the very first thing you do is understand what the local zoning regulations allow you to build. How tall can I go? How big can I go and plan? What is the bulk that's permitted? How many square feet of floor area can I build? When you're in a landmarks district, you do not have rights to that floor area. You have to present a design that is compelling and as they deem, quote unquote, appropriate. It's often the case that you do not get to realize all of the square feet or all of the bulk that zoning might describe for that particular district. And that happened here, too. We didn't reach the full floor area allowed. We realized a lot of floor area for the developer, which is of course good for them. But we did have to present something that was appropriate for the neighborhood, appropriate for the scale on the street and the specific site context that we were dealing with.
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So, tell us a little bit about that. So LPC is Landmark Property.
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Landmarks Preservation Commission, so LPC for short.
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And you said they had to approve what you guys designed. How does that work?
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Because they were in a historic district. It's the Gansevoort market district. Anything that gets proposed has to first go in front of the LPC group and they have to review it and approve it before you can get your building permit, before you can get your approval at the local building department. So, it's not a, quote unquote, as of right district where you just follow the local code, follow the local zoning and you're off and running. We have this extra step of scrutiny. Whatever we present, they ultimately have to approve.
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I saw a great photograph; I think it was on the website from 1938. So, tell us a little bit about the history of the site. Is it interesting and why hasn't it been developed to this point? And what has happened along the way?
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It is very interesting. It has many chapters which we could spend hours talking about, but I'll summarize it a little bit in the sense that there was different types of buildings that were built here, whether it was a store and loft building or more of a warehouse building or purpose built garage buildings. In this district, you would see many different types of buildings. It wasn't sort of so perfectly monolithic like in some other historic districts. And in, generally speaking, many of these buildings were built to a certain height, often around five stories, six stories. And then when the city kind of really fell into tough economic times, a lot of these buildings were cut down to two stories because it was a strategy for building owners to pay less in taxes.
Unfortunately, a lot of these quite nice historic buildings would get cut down arbitrarily to two stories because that's just what made sense if you had a store and maybe one level of offices or storage above but, they didn't really need more than that. And this area of Manhattan on the far, far west Side, you know, became this sort of meatpacking district. And it just wasn't very desirable real estate in New York City for many, many decades. And then as economic growth has kind of pushed the city in recent years and decades, you know, finally this neighborhood has become a place where it's seen as advantageous to develop. High line, obviously, changed a lot of that. The new Whitney Museum, being literally on the opposite corner from this site, changed a lot of that. And our developer, Aurora Capital, are really responsible for a lot of the development in this neighborhood.
So, they've really boosted the appeal and the economic viability of this neighborhood. So, it was interesting to really understand the history of those buildings and it was sort of time for the next chapter of what could happen with these buildings. And so, your original reference, the 1938 photo, we looked at a lot of that carefully because it was obviously history and context that matters when you're dealing with these buildings. And in some cases there were narratives about bringing some of these buildings back up to their original five story height and in other cases not, which we can get into a little bit more specifically. But yeah, it was a bit of a mixed bag.
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So, I understand the scope of the project was to create successful retail, commercial and office space. Tell us a little bit about the scope and then the programmatic requirements.
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Sure. So, from avenue to avenue, across all of these 11 buildings, that was generally programmatically what was sought after by the client was good commercial space, whether it was retail or office. So then really the next question was, okay, let's look at these buildings, understand which ones were perhaps more intact, more attractive the way they were, which ones could receive some additions. And were there any buildings that just didn't have really kind of great architectural character and warranted demolition and starting over? And so, we had a little bit of all of those. So, you know, if you start generally looking at the block on the eastern end, there were more buildings that were pretty intact, had good architectural character. And we got from a sense in the community that they were cherished a bit more than some of the others.
So, you'll see on the eastern end the scale kind of stayed down at two stories. On the western end, there were two sort of blocks of buildings, one which comprised of five store and loft buildings, almost tenement style rowhouse looking type buildings, but more commercial oriented. Those buildings were all cut down from five stories to two. So, we proposed to put a three-story addition on that two story structure and raise that to a five story building.
And then lastly, on the western end of the property, and that piece of property being directly across from the Whitney, was just a one-story garage building kind of purpose-built garage building. It was not an original building in the district and really had no kind of architectural merit or character to speak of in the historic designation report for the neighborhood, it was described as non-contributing, which is also a term they use for buildings that might be in a historic district but were really never part of the original fabric and don't have any real value or they're not adding value to the district. So that was a corner property that was deemed acceptable to kind of demolish, remove that one story structure, and build something brand new. So, on that far western end, we proposed a new six story kind of warehouse loft looking building. And this goes back to the strategy of where is it viable to add bulk and square footage for the developer to kind of realize their investment? And where does it make sense to not do that?
And so, it was in a sort of perfect, even monolithic approach. Let's just add two or three stories across the whole block from avenue and avenue. We didn't do that. We said, you know what, on the western end, it makes more architectural sense to grow the properties and go higher. And on the eastern end, it makes more sense to keep them a little lower.
What was also interesting about this project was, you could imagine the owner could have very easily said, okay, we have three pieces of property here. Let's go to three different architects and just treat them like three individual projects and go to landmarks three individual times. But we didn't do that, and I think that was really smart on behalf of the owner, regardless of who they hired, to treat this as one job because you could treat it almost like an urban design exercise, a master planning exercise, you could look at the whole block and sort of horse trade square footage and decide where was it more appropriate and palatable to pump up the square footage and where was it not. And so, I think that we recognized it as a unique opportunity. We wanted to get our heads around, immediately about, where does the architecture support this intervention and where maybe does it not.
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So, at the end of the day, were there any project restrictions in terms of the heights of the buildings?
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Definitely. There was a lot of scrutiny about height, but it wasn't coming through either a code or zoning regulation. It was coming through an in-depth conversation with the Landmarks Preservation Committee and the Community board. So, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission approves your project, their permit has a title, and at the top it's Certificate of Appropriateness. Their measure of, you know, whether or not something should be approved really centers around that term appropriateness. So, it's very subjective.
So, they're looking at the context. How tall are the buildings around you? What are the styles of those buildings? What are the colors of those buildings? Do they have a lot of glass? Do they have a little bit of glass? You know, is all of the architectural language context bulk history. So, it's about storytelling is one way we like to think about it. What is the narrative that justifies your project? Like, what is the big idea of your project? And it has to be rooted in the history of the site, the context of site, and an appropriateness. So, there was a lot of analyzation of what were these buildings.
You mentioned the 1938 photo. That was one photo that was really important. There were many others. And so, you're really crafting a story. You're telling a story. So, what we proposed, we hope, extends the sort of natural evolution of this block like I was referring to earlier. This block has many chapters, and this is just the next chapter. Buildings go up, they come down, they go up again. And this will kind of be an evolution that the neighborhood will probably continue to see.
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Since the process with the planning commission was so subjective, how many people are on the planning commission? Was that really challenging? Because everybody's got to agree, right?
00;17;06;05 - 00;17;34;27
Sure. I can't recall the exact number right now. I think it's around ten commissioners. And so, you know, you have to have a majority of the commissioners to obtain approval. You don't have to have unanimous approval. We went to the Landmarks Commission two times in order to obtain that approval. But we involved ourselves with a lot of kind of community engagement and – and meetings ahead of time because we wanted to make sure that what we were bringing was something that was viable and supportable in any way that we could.
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So, tell us about the building plans. I would imagine as you run across the facade, some are rectangular, summer more square, but they all fill the entire block?
00;17;44;20 - 00;18;47;10
Well, it's actually a little bit different. So, the buildings that are on corners have different requirements than buildings that are mid-block. On both the eastern and western end – on the eastern end is an existing building. That building is built full on its lot because a corner building can be built full, it doesn't have a required rear yard. So, the eastern building was a purpose-built garage building, really kind of special, unique yellow brick house has a really bright image to it and we retain that building because it has some really nice character to it. Hermes is in there right now, as a high-end retailer. That's a special condition.
In the mid-block portion of the project, there is a rear yard, and the ground floor is built full. But once you're above the ground floor, starting at the second floor and up, these buildings do have rear yards. And then our new building that we proposed on the western corner that I was talking about earlier, same situation that it's very common.
The zoning allows it. Most buildings in New York City, when you're on the corner, won't necessarily have a rear yard or a side yard or anything like that. And this building doesn't either.
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So, tell us a little bit about the style choices, right. I mean, it looked to me like there were at least three buildings that remained.
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More than that. I would say on the eastern end there are two. And then in the mid-block portion, it's one building. But historically it's really three structures. Then there's this group of five, and then there's our new warehouse building on the western end. So that's why I was saying it's kind of like 11 structures stretching across three pieces of property when you really get into it, in terms of their history. They are different styles. They're all a little different.
The one on the eastern end was kind of a garage building. The ones mid-block are more kind of a store and loft, so they have kind of commercial storefronts at the ground floor and then kind of punched opening double hung window language above that. And then on the western end, our new building was not so much a store and loft had more of a kind of a warehouse look, so much heavier masonry language with much bigger areas of glass kind of departing from the individual punch window language.
00;19;46;24 - 00;19;58;24
So stylistically, the newer buildings are slightly more contemporary than the existing buildings. Did you have different architects working on different buildings and coming up with themes?
00;19;59;00 - 00;22;06;12
We definitely had a pretty substantial team in this project, and we are very collaborative in the office. So regardless of what level you might be practicing at our office, we're all at the table together. Everyone's contributing ideas, which we think is a great way to work and really fun. Obviously, as you kind of break down the teams, there were certain people dedicated to certain areas of the project. I also worked really closely with my partner Todd on this project. He had a deep involvement in this as well. So, it was really kind of the two of us on this.
What I think is fun, and as a general observation across the whole block, is that once we had a clear understanding of the kind of existing language of the architecture, whether it was garage or store in loft or warehouse, when we had our interventions, we did it in such a way that was quite respectful and kind of playing off the traditional languages of those buildings, but clearly contemporary at the same time.
So, the brick detailing is done in a traditional way, but with modern techniques and modern, you know, sort of expressions that are a little bit different. So, in the mid-block building, the one that has a three-story addition on a two-story base, there we used brick that was very similar in tone to the second floor that existed, but then also came up with a very special window language that involved some terracotta tiles on the transom that allowed for bigger glass windows but a smaller masonry opening. So, it felt appropriate for the scale of that facade. And then on the corner building, we really wanted to bring the sort of large heft and substantialness of the masonry detailing that you would see on a lot of the older warehouse buildings, even some of the buildings directly across the street from us. And so, we used a technique called a concealed lintel system to allow all of our brick returns, whether they were eight inches and in some cases 12-inch brick returns. You had these really beautiful brick returns both in plan and in sections. So, above the window, the window heads, you can really see 12 inches of brick wrapping and returning to the window, which you don't always see in newer buildings now, but we thought was really important for a building like this to be well detailed like that and show that depth of masonry, which is so characteristic for a lot of the historic buildings in that neighborhood.
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Now, I saw some patterning running vertically along one of the taller buildings. Tell me a little bit about that because that motif appears as a lintel above the windows. What is that?
00;22;18;02 - 00;23;52;26
Yeah, so that mid-block building that was five store and loft buildings all kind of put together on its eastern facade because the building next to it was cut down like we talked about down to two stories. It's sort of exposed on that brick facade, the sort of scar of where the chimney would have been. So, there was a very sort of roughly demolished zone on the side of that facade where you could tell by looking at it, ‘you know what? I bet you there was a masonry chimney there and it all just sort of got roughly demolished.’ But it was kind of a signature moment on the side of that building that you would really see in the historic photos, and you would see in that 1938 photo.
So, we kind of wanted to bring back that chimney scar, but we did it with these terracotta tiles and behind those tiles behind that pattern is floor to ceiling glass. So, you're getting this masonry expression on the eastern facade that brings back that very particular circumstance that that building had. But you're doing it in a way that also allows some natural light to come in the building, because this is now a commercial office building. It's not a store in loft. Those upper floors are not used for storage anymore. People are occupying those floors. So, we were looking for ways to bring in a lot of natural light into this new work environment. But we wanted to do it in such a way that again, go back to that word that was appropriate for the sort of architectural expression of the building. So yeah, it was a unique moment. And the transoms, the lintel is basically doing the same thing.
Behind that is a really tall window, but from the street it looks like a smaller window, and it looks like a size window that is appropriate for that scale of building. So, it was sort of how you can have your cake and eat it too.
00;23;52;28 - 00;24;00;27
Yeah, it's a really interesting detail. So how long did the design process take, city review, construction, start to finish?
00;24;00;29 - 00;24;29;27
Good question. I don't know. I don’t have all of those dates at my fingertips, but I would say that while typically a project like this in our office would take about a year to document from schematic design to 100% construction documents, I think on this project it was substantially longer. Maybe a year and a half, a year and three quarters because of the extra time it took to first seek and get that LPC approval.
Once the approval is in hand, then we can really march forward and finish those construction documents. And then the construction itself, I believe, took about two years.
00;24;30;04 - 00;24;31;12
How many sheets were in the set?
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It's definitely over 200. It's probably approaching 250 sheets or something like that. Yeah, it's a big undertaking.
00;24;36;27 - 00;24;38;17
Did you guys model this in 3D?
00;24;38;25 - 00;25;00;27
This entire city block is in Revit. It's all one Revit file that can be broken apart because we had to issue it as three sets of construction documents. Going back to the fact that this is three properties, it had to get filed at the Department of Buildings in three pieces to match up to those pieces of property, even though it was conceived as one big thing. So, yes, three sets of drawings.
00;25;00;29 - 00;25;04;21
Now, a job this big, do have more than one PM? Project manager.
00;25;04;21 - 00;25;18;07
Yes. Yeah, on this project we had two, Will Russell and Evan Singer, who did a phenomenal job really combing through every detail, understanding every nook and cranny. It was a real labor of love for them. I think they enjoyed it very much and they did a great job.
00;25;18;09 - 00;25;29;28
So, this question comes up a lot. Did sustainability ever come up in choosing the materials for the project? And clearly brick was already out there. Did you guys just say, “okay, this is what we're going to do; we never even thought about another material”?
00;25;30;05 - 00;27;06;14
Yeah. So, this project didn't seek any particular certification, but there were many sustainable elements that we tried to incorporate whenever we could in terms of material selection. I think that was also interesting is this is a conversation about adaptive reuse. One of the most sustainable things you can do when you look at a building project is reuse existing material. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, reuse what's there, don't bring new material on site.
Many of these facades, you know, we really carefully tried to keep as much as the brick structure, whether it's party walls, you know, load bearing walls, facade walls. We tried to keep as much of that intact as possible. There were cases where, even a little scary times, you go onto the roof and you look at these old brick parapets and, you know, they haven't been maintained or cared for in way too long. And the mortar is at this point dust. And you can literally just take your hand and take the bricks off, which it was time. We are also very grateful that this project happened when it did because, you know, I think it saved these buildings, too. They really needed this intervention. They needed this next chapter in their life.
So, we, in some cases, had to demolish brick walls and keep all the brick and catalog it, put it down on the floor, label it so that the masons could take it and then put it back up and reinstall it. So, we did a lot of that careful work in the restoration and then much of the new either additions or buildings that we designed use brick. And it was a direct sort of reaction to this historic neighborhood. There was just an abundance of it, frankly, used in many different ways, many different colors. And it was really sort of a core ingredient, if you will, to any of the architecture that you might propose here.
00;27;06;16 - 00;27;11;21
So, I haven't seen any of the interior photos. But do we end up seeing brick on the interior of any of these buildings?
00;27;11;27 - 00;27;35;26
On some of them, again, particularly in the places where they are existing. So, in the existing two-story portion of that store in loft building, every 25 feet was a load bearing brick wall. Many of those are still there and the retailers who took those spaces did not cover them up, which is great. We love seeing that. So, you can really see a lot of that character and some of the buildings on the eastern end. You have moments to see some of that brick, too.
00;27;36;03 - 00;27;43;22
It looked to me like there were at least two different brick colors that were really unique to this job. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
00;27;43;27 - 00;28;51;12
So, the two brick colors on the project that we're talking about right now is a kind of a standard red brick that went on our three-story addition over the two-story existing structure. And that was kind of a nice interplay between a nice, textured, more modern looking red brick, but clearly still relating to the historic red brick that was right below it. So, you can distinguish the difference, but it's subtle.
On the corner building, there is a more sort of neutral what you might think is a more modern brick color. It's a Glen-Gery glacier gray brick. It has a lot of kind of nice texture and variation to it, which we were really attracted by. And it is perhaps a little bit more neutral, a little bit more contemporary of a tone.
That said, there are many large six story warehouse buildings directly across the street from us on Washington Street on that block facing the river. And many of those buildings had some pretty neutral tones in their brick selection as well. Maybe perhaps a little bit creamier, a little bit warmer, but not that different from what we were proposing there. So, we thought it was kind of a nice sort of interplay between those tones and still felt quite appropriate in the color.
00;28;51;17 - 00;28;59;24
And how did you guys ultimately find the right colors for the bricks? Did you guys simply have samples in the office, or did you go out and take a look at them?
00;29;00;02 - 00;29;49;10
Yeah, both. So, we really want to gain all those samples in the office and kind of build a library that we can consider. We looked at mockups on site to make sure that we were really happy with it and just walking around the neighborhood looking at these tones and seeing really how they relate. So again, it's nice to feel like the selection is growing right out of the context, but with a little bit of a modern twist, we think is actually quite nice.
And that brick in particular, we really loved the variation in the shading. You get kind of different colors within it. There is a little bit of texture and stippling to the brick finish as well, and we kind of joke around that sometimes if you look at a material sample up close, you think it looks messy, but it's that messiness. When you put it at a building scale or an urban scale that really makes that brick look good and crafted. So having that texture we think is kind of important.
00;29;49;12 - 00;29;57;20
That's a really good point. So, did your team learn anything interesting through the design and construction process? Anything come to light that was like, this is kind of cool?
00;29;57;28 - 00;30;55;01
I think what's just fun about designing in brick is it's a particular knowledge set. It's kind of its own craft or game if you want to call it that. You really have to think about the module of brick and how it wants to be used. We know a typical module for brick is either eight inches or twelve inches, quite commonly, and when you start designing your building, you have to be thinking about that brick module from day one, how it courses out vertically, how it courses out horizontally.
There were moments we learned a little bit of the hard way where we thought we had it exactly right and we didn't have it exactly right. And we had to make changes on the fly. Work carefully with the subcontractor, but you can't ignore the module of brick. You have to kind of work with it, don't work against it, and your details should sort of celebrate the natural dimensions of that brick. And I think we learned a lot about that. We had done already a number of brick buildings in our history of the firm, but this one really had a little bit of everything in it, which was really quite fun.
00;30;55;03 - 00;31;08;02
Isn’t it interesting that we deal with buildings, but we're really dealing with math, right? Everything has to kind of fit into those modules.
So, did you guys have any trouble finding a great mason to work with on the process?
00;31;08;09 - 00;31;56;12
So, we rely very much on our contractors to find those subcontractors. So, we worked with a great general contractor here who did find their way to a mason who you could tell right from the beginning was enjoying their craft. They would constantly ask us questions because they just wanted to make sure that they were getting it right per the design intent. And we thought that was really great.
Again, going back to something I said earlier, it was a good collaborative, positive relationship between everyone because we just wanted to make these buildings, you know, as best we could. And so, I think that mason did an excellent job in this project, and it really shows if you walk the block. And whether you're looking at very careful noodling and restoration on the buildings to the east, or the obviously more expansive, impressive new construction on the west, all the detailing, all the construction is very tight. It looks great.
00;31;56;18 - 00;32;03;21
It's good to hear. So, this is the last tough question I've got for you. You've been an architect for some time, I would imagine. 20, 25 years.
00;32;03;26 - 00;32;07;14
23. Yeah, depending on when you want to start the clock. But yeah, somewhere in there.
00;32;07;14 - 00;32;14;24
Right. Exactly. So, if you could give your younger self some career advice, based on who you are now, what would it be?
00;32;14;26 - 00;33;36;07
I guess I would say, and it's something that's been important to me, and I guess it was a bit of a leap of faith, I kind of found my way to BKSK architects for a reason. I feel lucky that I ended up there, frankly. It reinforced an interest I had, which is really to understand what you're making.
I enjoy design very much. You know, we want to blue sky and think very ambitiously about what a project could be. You want to push the envelope. But I always like to couple that with the reality of how something gets built. And I think that constant tension, if you will, about being ambitious, trying something new, being innovative, I always want to couple that with understanding how you build because a lot of times the innovation will grow out of something quite conventional, or an observation about how things get built. ‘Well, this is how we normally do it.’ Well, what if you just did it the normal way, but turned it 90 degrees and now you have a new detail and you can express things differently. So, those two things don't have to fight each other, and they could actually reinforce each other. And I think that's something that I've tried to instill in people who have worked for me or when I've taught at City Tech. I think that is something that I've found to be a kind of rewarding aspect of the practice. I also think that goes back to where I went to school at University of Maryland. That was something that was kind of a core part of their ethos and their pedagogy about what they taught. And I think it's important and I recognize the sort of value of it as a practicing architect.
00;33;36;09 - 00;33;55;16
Back when I was in Maryland, working in Baltimore, I was out on set with a contractor and he said, “Doug, do us a favor. Do yourself a favor. Always draw something that can be built.” So, learn construction, right? You may be an architect and you may want to be a designer, but you've got to learn how everything goes together first. That’s great advice.
00;33;55;18 - 00;34;20;00
Yeah. And we try to practice this in our office now. Myself and my partners, we all kind of grew up together here at the firm. Once you get through one really big project of consequence, it makes you a better designer for the next project. It's like learning a language. It's like learning a grammar. Once you understand it and can speak the language and know how to form sentences and the structure of it all, it just makes you a better designer for the next one.
00;34;20;04 - 00;34;26;16
Absolutely. David, it's been great to have you here. Thanks for your time. Where can people go to learn more about BKSK architects?
00;34;26;23 - 00;34;35;25
bksk.com Please go ahead and visit. We're also on all of the major social media platforms. Welcome anyone's input, or anyone wants to reach out.
00;34;36;01 - 00;34;38;19
Awesome. Thank you very much. It’s been great to have you as a guest.
00;34;38;21 - 00;34;42;15
Thanks for having me. This was really fun.
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