In 14th Street stands a brand-new apartment block. It is built of solid materials, with professional pride and with great care for its surroundings.
On the southwest corner of Manhattan, just north of Greenwich Village, is New York’s old Meatpacking District. Here, for hundreds of years, carcasses were dismembered, packed and shipped from wholesalers to shops. Today, only a few slaughterhouses remain, and parts of the neighbourhood are listed. Free from the threat of demolition, many of the old buildings in the area — swathes of them in fact — have been converted into chic shops, restaurants, cafés and nightclubs.
But the new building at the northern end of the area, on 14th Street, stands out in several ways. At 11 storeys high and with a rooftop garden, it towers above most of the other buildings in the street. And although it contains 37 flats, including five penthouses, and two shops at street level, it doesn’t look like an ordinary New York property. The design is quite different, in terms of both the big picture and the details.
From a distance, the building seems to grow organically out of the urban jungle. The block at the bottom is a thick, light-grey brick shell that tapers off to the west at the top. Out of this solid base grows an elegant, three-storey bronze and glass box. Forming the upper part of the construction, this part is elegantly set back from the brick façade, creating space for a number of terraces. The narrow elevator tower, encased in a galvanized metal grating, also shoots an extra couple of floors up into the air.
Close up, a number of delicate, textural details become apparent, adding hugely to the sense of quality. Firstly, it uses Kolumba, combined with brick in Flensburg format. Secondly, the brickwork contains small, subtle details, such as a change in the pattern at the corners of the building and various relief effects on the façade at street level.
High-quality brickwork was high on the architect’s and the development company DDG’s wish list, as architect and partner Peter G. Guthrie explains. “We wanted a building that embodied the spirit of the neighbourhood, but because we are above our neighbours to the west, we needed to build a bridge between the old and the new. So we wove together the local urban environment, brick and bronze to achieve a synthesis with the overall plan for the new building.”
Texture and detailing are key to the success of the project. Among other things, the poured concrete marquee, which runs above the sidewalk along the length of the building, has both relief effects and peep holes through which the vegetation above becomes visible.
Otherwise, 345meatpacking is pleasantly free of unnecessary details. It stands tall in a refined and functional partnership with the surrounding older properties.
Peter G. Guthrie:
About our beloved bricks
In our search for the right building material to ground our project, 345meatpacking, we knew we needed masonry but we had no idea how we would achieve our desired architectural goals. We needed a material that could convey craft and modernity simultaneously; a material that could be simple and efficient to use both for cost control and because architecturally we wanted a simple tough honesty.
We had seen Petersen bricks at a gallery building in Manhattan and we were intrigued and very impressed with the proportions and finish. We had seen photos of Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba museum that were very captivating. But it was not until we visited the factory that we knew we had found the perfect material and partner for our project. After reviewing the handmade brick process from raw material to mold to oven, and even making a brick ourselves, we were treated to a review of a full-scale mock up of our preferred brick combination, Flensburg and Kolumba.
We were sold. Being able to feel the making process and experiment with the finish options full scale was essential. We had found a product that so embodied our philosophy of craft that actual thumb prints are left in the tops of the bricks as a hallmark of the handmade process that distinguishes a Petersen brick.
The varied face of the brick and its finish also complemented the slim and long proportion to create the perfect architectural distillation of our desire for a hybrid of old and new in one material and product.
The ease in laying this brick allowed us to explore added details such as architectural juxtapositions that worked to enhance the play between craft and production.
The combination of the Flensburg and Kolumba allowed us to vary the regularity and uniformity a bit more in both size and color thereby achieving a more natural feel.
This brick formed the perfect base to contrast with our bronze clad top and windows, shiny, bright, metallic against earthy, tough, solid masonry with both elements mitigated by our integrated landscaping. We are proud of the composition and the Petersen brick was the first and most important component chosen.
Peter G. Guthrie
Head of Design & Construction, DDG