554 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
“To paint well means only this: to put the right colors in the right spot.”
– Paul Klee
Just West of Prospect Park in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, 4th Avenue, fueled by the Mayor’s initiative, has been experiencing steady growth with an emphasis on commercial storefronts and mid-sized residential towers. The site presented us with an especially diverse set of conditions. It occupies the corner formed by the narrow, quiet, residential 15th Street. Along the wide and busy 4th Avenue there is 100 feet of lot line split into two segments by a neighboring building. The lot line opposite of 4th Avenue forms the district boundary, reduced to a zoning density that keeps buildings under 50 feet high, while our site allows for a height of up to 120 feet.
The driving force behind the approach to these site-specific conditions was derived from Bauhaus artist Paul Klee’s 1923 painting “Static-Dynamic Gradation”. Through a simple but precise arrangement and mixture of colors, Klee was able to explore the dichotomy between the static, represented by the larger muted perimeter colors arranged in near-perfect alignment, and the dynamic, represented with varying colors on a grid that shifts and diverges from the axes that were set on the perimeter.
The challenge then was how to take these ideas expressed in two dimensions and unfold them to create in three dimensions a building that responded to the specific conditions of the site. In our case, there was a clear dichotomy between the grounded building frontage along the wide, busy avenue at the street level, and the open-air expansive views in a direction unrelated to the city grid, 40 feet above the neighborhood. These opposing conditions were treated with the two very different approaches they demanded.
Along 4th Avenue, the scale of the 60’ wide window-wall is broken up by a stacked series of 6-foot deep, 25-foot high vertical metal fins. This thin veil offers a sense of protection from the active street below, while also providing a sense of scale that relates to the taller buildings of the Avenue.
To the north and west, 18 “dynamic” units were pushed and pulled, with each move resulting in another outdoor terrace for the unit above. These floating cubes, independent from the direction of the city streets below, are woven firmly into their surrounding “static” counterparts.