Turtle Bay Towers is a former industrial loft building, c. 1929, that was converted by RKTB into luxury residential apartments following a gas explosion in the mid-1970s. This was a relatively new and risky concept at the time, made possible by New York City legislation that provided tax abatements to developers who adapted commercial and industrial properties to residential use.
The gas explosion badly damaged the 26-story building, funneling up the elevator shafts and blowing out a 50-foot wide section of the brick façade from street level up to the top story. Fortunately, the structural damage was confined to these elevators which had been near the edge of the building. RKTB converted the service elevators to passenger use and cut away the damaged shafts, providing a street-level courtyard that opened the full 200-foot high west wall of apartments to natural light and air. These changes decreased the building’s total volume, and zoning regulations permitted the lost space to be regained by glassing in portions of multiple set-backs under greenhouse-like canopies, extending the space on most apartments on the upper floors.
Inside the building, RKTB solved the complex problem of designing and relating a variety of apartment configurations forced upon by the lack of uniform floor layouts. Challenges included coordinating the plumbing of kitchens and bathrooms across multiple floors and bringing in light and air into deep and narrow apartments. In these long units, interior partitions were avoided to allow light to reach the entire length of the space. The architects took advantage of the 12-foot ceilings and built lofts that provided a sleeping or working area on top and a storage area underneath. This solution maximized space while breaking up long apartment layouts. As noted in Architectural Record, “The interiors were designed to capitalize on views, light and spatial variety. A total of 341 apartments benefit from the commercial proportion of the building...12-foot-high ceilings and 8-foot-high windows running the width of most apartments.”
Completed in 1977, the project was of such size and complexity that it also caught the imagination of the public and other professionals. Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New York Times, noted in the June 18th, 1979 issue of the paper that “Turtle Bay Towers is among the city’s best-known apartment houses; it seems well on its way to being considered something of a classic among ‘recycled’ apartment houses, those residences made out of older commercial buildings. It is far and away the best of the city’s many recyclings, an arena of construction in which, by now, real-estate developers have become so accomplished that they have learned to cut corners as meanly as in the making of new buildings.”
The project received the First Honor award from the American Institute of Architects and Housing Magazine, the Award for Excellence from the New York State Association of Architects, and the Albert S. Bard Award for Excellence in Architecture and Urban Design.
Material Used :
1. USG - Interior Loft Structure – USG Light Steel Studs
2. USG –Drywall - Sheetrock Firecode Gympsum Panel