Susan Doban Architect, PC, has taken a small, narrow, neglected lobby space in a historic building and reawakened it with an art installation that interprets the façade’s art deco motifs of fruits, faces, animals, and trees.
The lobby is located in a downtown New Rochelle, NY, commercial building that is part of the New Rochelle BID’s Downtown Artist Spaces Program. The cream-colored, terracotta façade of the property built in 1929 was restored by Susan Doban Architect for the BID’s Model Development Block project, which received a Preservation League of New York State award.
“The lobby project was conceived as a permanent art installation in keeping with the goal of the New Rochelle BID and the property owner to transform the building into an enclave for artist-tenants in the city’s emerging art district,” said Susan Doban, president of Susan Doban Architect. “We wanted to take the imagery from the façade and bring it into the interior in an abstract and artistic way.”
The swirling geometric and colorful gigantic leaves in the lobby design stand in contrast to the monotone façade, suggesting freshness and energy. The installation was created by Jason Gorsline, design director of the design studio affiliated with Susan Doban Architect.
“We are proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to not only the restoration of this building, but also to its reinvigoration as part of the new artist’s district and New Rochelle’s ever-evolving downtown commercial corridor,” Ms. Doban said. “The outcome illustrates that history can be preserved and also explored in new ways that are visually exciting and conducive to economic growth.”
Challenges and Solutions
The lobby space presented a challenge for the designers because a mirror covered the entire length of one wall, and the space between the mirror and staircase leading up to the artists’ studios was narrow, only four-feet wide.
The solution was to keep the large existing mirror, floor tiles, and wood trim in place and use them as a departure point for the color scheme and design.
The designers framed the existing mirror in new oil-finished plywood paneling constructed from FSC-certified bamboo, a renewable resource. Its uniform grain pattern and color contrasts with the brightly colored vinyl imagery layered onto the walls and mirror itself.
The imagery was placed to take advantage of the reflections in the mirror, and given the narrowness of the space, the composition appears to change depending on the vantage point.
The motifs established in the lobby are carried throughout the building to the signage identifying the artists’ studios on the second and third floors, as well as to the elevator lobby and entrance. The back lit address panel on the building’s exterior takes its unique geometry once again from the façade imagery.
About Susan Doban Architect, PC
The lobby design and façade improvements are just a few of projects Susan Doban Architect has completed in New Rochelle. The firm created the Façade Improvement Design Guidelines book for the New Rochelle BID using the Model Block project as a test case, and has designed more than ten projects on Main Street, including an award-winning Culinary Arts Center, administration building, and two dormitories, all for Monroe College.
In Brooklyn, Susan Doban Architect designed 45 apartments above Fairway market, in a 230,000 square foot Civil War era Red Hook building. The project received the Municipal Art Society of New York’s Masterwork Award for Best Neighborhood Catalyst in May 2007 and a 2007 Building Brooklyn Award from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. The firm has worked on more than 30 capital improvement projects for the New York City School Construction Authority, including many exterior modernization and restoration projects.
More information about the firm is available at 718-797-1041 or www.susandoban.com.