Elevated Assembly was designed for a noted writer/artist/garden designer couple with two young children, with a second apartment as rentable tenant space in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The three-story townhouse, built originally around 1900, was severely damaged when Superstorm Sandy flooded the basement and ground floor with eight and a half feet of water. A portion of the building collapsed, requiring a complete gut renovation. Working closely with the New York City housing recovery program “BUILD IT BACK”, this project became the first in the city to elevate an existing attached masonry rowhouse so that the ground floor would be two feet above the high water line, the so-called Design Flood Elevation (DFE).
The main concept and name of this project emphasized the lifting of the building as a recognition of the process of destruction and recovery for a new set of environmental conditions. This design imperative led to the creation of the dramatic open loft space filled with natural light that merged the exterior and interior space in an extended, raised garden, designed by one owner and the company she works with, Urban Green. Flood resilient design guidelines were incorporated throughout and all the floor elevations were also raised as a result of locating the first floor above the DFE. Meeting the new code requirements enabled the overall height of the building to be increased, accommodating the new penthouse addition.
The ground floor living quarters enjoy a dramatic 17’ double height space with monumental glazing to blur the boundary between the inside and outside. It opens to the south rear garden through the restored deck. The mezzanine and the floor below have a more domestic atmosphere with a modest ceiling height and comprise the master bedroom, children’s bedroom and bathroom. The mezzanine utilizes a custom blackened cable net designed by Cabletech in Prague, the owners’ original home, to minimize the separation between the spaces and create a more impressive view out the back wall to the garden.
The same design concept was applied to the top two floors to create a 2-bedroom rental unit. The penthouse has an open living space quarter with large sliding door which opens to the rooftop terrace garden and panoramic city view, while the 2nd floor houses intimate private quarters. The new custom patterned aluminum shingle wraps the entire penthouse and bulkhead volume creating a striking “box on a box” with subtle sparkling effects when hit with natural light during the day. The juxtaposition of the existing exterior brick façade and new metal penthouse creates an iconic contrasting presence on the street, reinforcing the newly elevated design of the structure.
Public circulation was placed to the west side with a monumental narrow stair as often found in classic loft buildings. A dramatic double height entrance door with frosted wire glass also indicates the elevation of the entire house while bringing diffused light into the space and enhancing the unique front step material change from concrete and tile to wood per the flood design guidelines. For the interior finish, the fully reclaimed and rebuilt brick wall is featured with exposed steel reinforcement and sections of newly painted insulated walls as a carefully studied the composition. The interior palette of white walls, polished concrete floor, and brick creates a calm background for warm vintage wood furnishing, a large collection of philosophy, art and architecture books and a beautiful mix of interior plantings which echo the exterior garden.