850 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
“You cannot imagine falsely. The imagination is a function of belief and experience; that is of course why the realization of a poem is an event of belief and experience. This event takes place in a time-sequence involving the reverberation of images and sounds. The reaction is one which discovery and memory are sealed together for you; and the relationship that seals them is what we call beautiful”.
Muriel Rukeyser – "The Life of Poetry”
Located in East Williamsburg, 850 Metropolitan was originally a stable housing horses and carriages that distributed milk in Brooklyn. Converted to 32 residential apartments, the building 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 feet x 125 feet, 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.