With three new floors of contemporary live-work loft space and a new interior courtyard, the newly converted 19th-century Red Hook Stores warehouse on Brooklyn’s waterfront juxtaposes the architecture of the past with modern interventions and amenities.
“Greg O’Connell, the developer, laid the project’s foundation with his strong, clear vision, and we were charged with designing the residential floors and the site in a way that reflected and built upon his dream,” said Susan Doban, president of Susan Doban Architect, PC, the firm responsible for creating the site plan for the Fairway Market complex and for designing the interior common space and 45 residential units and artist lofts above Fairway Market.
Part of Mr. O’Connell’s vision included creating an interior courtyard on the third floor by removing the 4th and 5th floors and roof. The existing exposed heavy timber beams were allowed to remain, creating a three- dimensional lattice that brings the eye upward to the sky. This open space also allows natural light to enter windows in the interior hallways and artist studios. The architect designed a clean, modern aluminum and glass curtain wall to enclose the courtyard and contrast with the existing heavily textured brick walls and arches which have a cloister-like feel.
The aesthetic of the building interior reflects Mr. O’Connell’s commitment to preservation and recycling. The original markings that indicate the storage bay numbers and date from the building’s use as a coffee and cotton warehouse were left as graphic elements on the exposed wooden beams throughout the building. The beams which were removed from the building’s interior to create the open courtyard were milled for use as wood paneling and molding on the residential floors, Ms. Doban said.
“Susan carefully considered the needs of creating comfortable, attractive apartments that would meet modern day needs, but she was very sensitive to the significance of converting a historic, Civil War era warehouse and readapting it for residential and commercial use,” Mr. O’Connell said. “The result is a beautiful waterfront building that has been restored in Brooklyn at a time when the National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the borough’s waterfront to be one of the country’s most endangered historic sites.”
In May 2007, the project received The Municipal Art Society of New York’s Masterwork Award for Best Neighborhood Catalyst. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has announced that the project will receive a 2007 Building Brooklyn Award in recognition of its design and economic impact on the borough of Brooklyn.
“As an architect, the challenge was to work within the structure and not obscure it with the necessities of every day life, while still meeting functional and programmatic needs,” Ms. Doban said. “Although the warehouse was in a somewhat deteriorated condition, it was poetically beautiful in its simplicity, strength, and texture before the construction began and we wanted to make sure that we preserved that character.”
“When restoring a historic building, you come to know it as you would a person because each building has its own personality quirks,” Ms. Doban said. “You become familiar not just with how the light hits it at different times of day or year, but with the details of how it was used over time, how it aged. We made a conscious decision to preserve the building’s history by leaving many of these details intact.”
“The five-story Red Hook Stores warehouse measures 230,000 square feet in area, with thick brick masonry bearing walls and heavy timber construction,” Ms. Doban said. “The building has a certain massiveness, and we sought to maintain that feel by keeping the existing very high ceilings, using tall interior doors and substantial but simple moldings.
Susan Doban Architect, PC, designed three typical residential units, including some with live-work space, and artist studios facing the interior courtyard. The apartments enjoy large, arched windows with panoramic views of water glistening in the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, the skyline of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey. The firm’s site plan included locating a cogeneration facility, which provides electricity to the building, including the Fairway Market and its food production facility on the second floor, through underground cables, in a newly constructed building within the complex.
In addition to Susan Doban Architect, PC, other members of the project team working under Mr. O’Connell’s leadership include: Howie and Daniel Glickberg, Fairway Market owners; Mike O’Connell, O’C Construction, construction manager; Energy Concepts Engineering, PC, cogeneration plant designer; Lynden B. Miller Public Garden Design, landscape design; and Scott Schnall, Schnall & Schnall, engineer.
The Fairway Market building is one in a series of historic warehouses Mr. O’Connell has redeveloped and preserved in Red Hook. The others include Pier 41 and the Beard Street Warehouse, which are used for light manufacturing and office space.
Susan Doban Architect, PC is a Brooklyn-based architectural firm focused on new construction and adaptive reuse projects in the commercial, residential, and educational fields. The firm has designed a number of adaptive re-use and renovation projects, including an administrative and classroom building for Monroe College in New Rochelle; restoration of facades on 19th Century structures on a model block on Main Street in New Rochelle and the creation of design standards for adjoining blocks, funded by the New York State Main Streets Initiative. The firm also designed the offices of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in a 19th Century building that originally housed a major department store, which received a 2004 Building Brooklyn award. The firm began its preservation work in the 1990s with the façade restoration of 485 Massachusetts Avenue, which received an award from the Cambridge Historical Commission for “outstanding achievement in historic preservation.” More information about Susan Doban Architect, PC is available at 718-797-1041 or www.susandoban.com.