“The fatal things about these acted poems was that they continually added to and extended themselves, growing to tens of thousands of verses, so that ultimately the time in them was the actual time; somewhat as if one were to make a globe on the scale of the earth”
(“The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge”, Rainer Maria Rilke)
Located in East Williamsburg 850 Metropolitan was originally a stable housing horses and carriages that distributed milk in Brooklyn. Converted to 32 residential apartments, 850 Metropolitan merges old and new with a contemporary steel light box made of two large white cantilevered trusses that allow the mass to hover and emerge from the aged brick façade.
A substantial amount of the existing area was carved out from the original structure that fully covered the lot and redistributed to create the two new additional floors and a cantilever. The lot, 100 ft x 125 ft, provided a unique opportunity for an exceptionally large inner courtyard. The sunken courtyard provides the duplex apartments their own private courtyards around the perimeter while its interior is a shared community garden for the tenants.
The area which was transferred to the new floors was assembled through a creative interpretation of the NYC dormer law. The law provides an opportunity to penetrate the mandatory setback; the two additional floors were not simply stacked on top of each other but instead the top level was shifted to float above the original roof, creating a public terrace serving as an elevated community garden for the tenants’ use on top of the existing structure.
Exposed on three sides the elevated community garden creates a bridge between the small park across the street, the sunken interior courtyard and to views of Manhattan. Therefore, a spatial and visual connection is made between all the public areas of the building cultivating a continuous flow of light and air throughout.
With its modern aesthetic the new steel structure simultaneously supports and contradicts the existing brick structure. It is the carefully calculated tension of form and structure between the two that highlights the qualities of each and brings together their beauty as a whole.