Soho is historically an industrial area, where lofts, before being used as artists’ studio were production units. Large and deep plateaus with not much light at the center. A space dedicated to work and storage. The activity of these production units started collapsing during the 19th century, leaving numerous vacant spaces at a very low price. In the 60’s, these cheap units attract artists in search of wider spaces of work, adapted to new techniques and practices developing then.
In 1973, the area is officially named the ‘Cast Iron District’ by the authorities, after the façade designed to develop a quick construction system for large scales. These NY historical buildings predate by a hundred years the city’s skyscrapers, inspired by the same structure principles.
The building, located 64 Grand Street, was one of the many locations to be occupied by artists. Our project space was inhabited by a painter for 40 years. In some places, the wooden floor was covered by a few inches of paint. The kitchen and bathroom were rudimentary. Even after the passing of painter Bill Alpert, the space seems to still hold his spirit. The challenge was to keep its roughness, its simplicity and its unique proportions.
The program includes 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a large open living room. Our proposal headed towards a long plan to keep the dual-aspect and the 25- meter length in a single contiguous plot. A large black steel and ridged glass wall, inspired by the Manhattan industrial district’s facades, goes along and conceals the kitchen and bathroom, while letting natural light in. It is equipped with pivoting frames on certain screens, to ventilate bathrooms. The bedrooms’ doors are integrated to the system too, with a transparent glass and a built-in concealment system. Once closed, they disappear and become a backdrop to the main living room, contrasting with the existing brick walls.
Making this steel wall – the pivotal element of the whole project – almost became an obsession. To make it, we had to find a craftsperson who knew how to bring precision and rough execution together. It took us days of wandering through Brooklyn to finally find the atelier that will develop the technic and final aesthetic of the wall.