Brooklyn Row House 1
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Office of Architecture
Joshua Eager (Project Manager) Ivan Kostic (Project Manager) Valentin Bansac (Designer) Edward Simpson (Intern)
Rafael Gamo Matthew Williams
Brooklyn Row House 1 was initiated by a couple who were faced with a conundrum that many in New York City eventually confront: the possibility of sacrificing location for space. They had outgrown their 11' wide, 1000SF house, and needed additional space for their 2 young children. The original 2-story, 1000SF home was completely gutted and stretched to 4 levels by adding a bedroom suite above and digging a new urban mudroom below. The narrowness of the house required the design to make effective yet frugal use of space; every inch was important. Precise positioning of walls, doors, and windows was crucial as each floor was planned to serve a purpose. The lowest level serves as a new entry, storage, laundry, and mechanical area; the first floor is a continuous public space with living, dining, kitchen, and library opening to gardens in the front and back; the second contains two kids’ bedrooms along with a 2-sink bathroom; while the topmost level holds the master suite with a sleeping area, bathroom, balcony, and terrace. A slender, open-riser steel stair repositioned on the south side party wall connects the house vertically and draws more light, air, and views into the building. Materials throughout the home are modest, natural, and unassuming: the rawness of unfinished steel and character-grade walnut is juxtaposed with the simple refinement of honed Carrara marble and matte ceramic hex tiles.
Cities have always been sites of struggle. Whether that struggle is on the subway, on the street, or in a building, the city is an unending turf war. This is where Alberti's famous quote about a house behaving like a small city is most useful for us. For our practice, the house emulates the city not because it may hold similar part-to-whole formal qualities of the metropolis, but because a house, like a city, requires its inhabitants to scrap for space. Every inch counts. Negotiations and trade-offs must made between the architect and the owner, the owners and their neighbors, the house and the city, the dining room and the plumbing risers, the stair and the handrail. Artful improvisation is just as important as well-laid plans. In this way, Brooklyn Row House 1 – in its planning, form, materials, dimensions, and final outcome – is a microcosm of the city. It is the product of an urban approach to architecture; a metropolitan sensibility.
The house is now set up with just enough space for a family of four to stay as long as needed. One of the more surprising aspects of this project is its ability to support both order and chaos. Furniture, appliances, cabinetry, books all have their own designated space. Each floor has its own function; each window and door plays its role in defining a room. As a result, the house is free to absorb the havoc wreaked by a young, active family.