This is a renovation of a residential lobby in a through-block SoHo building that has had several incarnations - the original structure, a 1870s tobacco factory, was replaced in 1929 by a steel-framed industrial parking garage which, in turn, was converted to residential use in 2004.
The space designated for the lobby has an unusual configuration. It is bounded and defined by two long walls running east-west, with the volumes of the elevator/stair and retail space projecting into the space in diagonal opposition to each other. This arrangement creates a dynamic quality, a sense of variety and character not found in a typical rectangular lobby. We took advantage of these idiosyncrasies to create a unified, free-flowing space.
Our underlying aesthetic idea is to honor the industrial past and the rough, muscular nature of the structure, while creating an atmosphere appropriate for its current use as a luxury residential building. To achieve that, we exposed the original structural steel columns and selected materials to contrast the tough and the refined.
The two diagonally opposed volumes are clad in oversized dark slate-gray porcelain panels. The long wall back-grounding the columns in the front part of the space is clad in similar but much lighter, concrete-like material. For contrast and a sense of warmth, the other long wall in the rear part of the space is covered in cross-layered bamboo panels resembling three-dimensional woven fabric. The continuous planes of the basalt floor and the high-gloss finish ceiling tie the space together. The recessed ceiling coves running along both long walls allow for concealed light sources to wash the wall surfaces and make the ceiling appear to float.
The elevator lobby – the rear part of the space – is essentially a dead-end corridor. Here we introduced a design element that relies on light rather than material in order to create a sense of depth beyond the physical end wall and to provide an element of surprise, taking advantage of the particular nature of this space that is transient yet is experienced by the same people at regular intervals. A translucent glass panel, floating off the wall, is back-lit by an LED panel programmed to change at an extremely slow rate. The change is imperceptible - at any given time, when one is standing in the space, the light source appears fixed, but when one returns some time later, the configuration has shifted. The starting position is a single vertical light strip in the center of the panel. The strip gradually dissolves, then re-focuses into a pair that continues to travel, wave-like, fading out and refocusing, away from the center. The end position is at the lit panel edges, at which point the movement is reversed and the light starts traveling back towards the center of the panel.
Wooster Street Lobby
SoHo, New York