Architecture News | Chasing New York City Waterfalls

New York City may be the concrete jungle, but that doesn’t mean there are not plenty of opportunities to plan an urban escape. Below, we have compiled a list of some of Manhattan’s greatest waterfalls hidden inside pedestrian parks. Whether you’re seeking a quiet morning reflection or a backdrop for your afternoon lunch break, visit one of these hidden New York City gems.

1. The Ravine

Mid-Central Park at 103rd Street

Image Courtesy Central Park NYC

Conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the Ravine is located in the 40-acre North Woods. Reigning as the only stream valley in Central Park, the area was designed to resemble the wild beauty of the Adirondacks.

 2. Greenacre Park

217 East 51st Street, between Second and Third Avenues

Image Courtesy Greenacre Park

Designed by Hideo Sasaki and open since 1971, this park is composed of three levels. The highlight by far is its 25-foot-high waterfall, featuring huge sculpted granite blocks.

3. Paley Park

3 East 53rd Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues

Image Courtesy Flickr

Reigning as the original “vest pocket park” (a small park accessible to the general public), Paley Park was conceived as the prototype of a new kind of public space by Robert Zion. Since 1967, the  20-foot-high waterfall has undoubtedly dominated the 1/10th-acre space, which includes seating areas, honey locust trees, and vertical lawns of English Ivy.

4. Nameless Park!

East 47th Street between Second and Third Avenues

Image Courtesy Gabrien Symons / Viewing NYC

This nameless space near the United Nations offers the perfect opportunity to drown out the city noise: a circular wall of falling water.

5. The National September 11 Memorial

180 Greenwich Street

Image Courtesy Joe Woolhead

Set in the footprints of the Twin Towers, these two recessed pools offer the profound opportunity to reflect upon the tragic events of 9/11. The continuous cascade of water falls into an abyss without a visible bottom – symbolizing the absence of human life left behind in the wake of the events. Surrounding the pools on bronze parapets are the names of those nearly 3,000 lives lost in the attack on 9/11, as well as in the bombing on February 26, 1993.

Architecture Highlight | New York City Castle Countdown

All of these four-leaf clovers and St. Patrick’s Day decorations have us yearning for the lush, green Irish countryside dotted with ancient castles. It may surprise you to learn that New York City is home to a few castle-like structures of its own! Whether straight out of Rumplestiltskin or Harry Potter, these buildings offer a breath of fresh, medieval air and a reprieve from the city’s classic concrete structures and glassy skyscrapers. Check out our countdown of the top five castles scattered within New York City’s five boroughs!

5. Staten Island Armory

321 Manor Road, Staten Island

Image Courtesy Nicole Bengiveno / The New York Times

With its Rumpelstiltskin-esque towers and crenelated recesses, The Staten Island Armory has stood proudly in Richmond County since 1926. More recently, the structure has become a symbol of Staten Island’s efforts to increase the validity of those landmarks that remain undesignated. It wasn’t until 2010 that the dignified castle reached landmark status! Today, this building retains its original purpose as a working base for the New York State Army National Guard.

4. Brooklyn General Post Office

271 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn

Image Courtesy Susan De Vries / Brownstoner

For those who live in between Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, a trip to the Post Office means a trip to this castle. The design for this limestone castle began in 1885, with the final structure’s completion following seven years later. Featuring arched windows, steeply pitched roofs, round granite columns and a square tower, the structure embodies the Romanesque Revival style and was remodeled in 2000.

3. Jefferson Market Library

425 Avenue of the Americas

Image Courtesy Curbed New York

Now a branch of the New York Public Library, the landmarked Jefferson Market building carries a storied past. Built in 1875, the architectural gem was designed by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in Victorian Gothic style, and was voted shortly after its completion as one of the top ten most beautiful buildings in America. Originally, it stood as a courthouse, garnering national attention during the infamous Girl in the Red Velvet Swing case in 1906, and later as a women’s prison and an outpost for the Police Academy.

2. Kingsbridge Armory

West Kingsbridge Road

Image Courtesy Curbed New York

This statuesque building in the Bronx opened in 1913, and at the time reigned as the largest armory in the world. Decades later in 1996, the Kingsbridge Armory was turned over to the city and came to serve as a homeless shelter for ten years. Its next purpose will be potentially its most exciting one yet. Currently, plans are underway to redevelop the space into the world’s largest ice center complete with nine year-round ice rinks, and one with seats for up to 5,000 people. If all goes to plan, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) would also contain 50,000 square feet of community space.

1. Belvedere Castle

79th Street, Mid-Central Park

Image Courtesy Central Park

Overlooking the Great Lawn and Ramble, Belvedere is one of Central Park’s crowning jewels. Though it was originally constructed as a “Victorian Folly,” (a structure whose only purpose is to be pretty), the castle now serves as both an outpost for the National Weather Service and as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Although the castle recently closed its doors for a year-long renovation process, the space will soon be back in action for birdwatchers and passersby alike for years to come.

Architecture News | AIA New York Design Award Recipients

It’s awards season! While standout projects in the realm of architecture don’t get as much attention as their counterparts in the film and music industries, we’re here to highlight the recent winners of the AIA New York Design Awards. A total of 32 projects received recognition this year in the categories of architecture, interiors, projects and urban design. Though the ethereal Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. secured the biggest award of the competition, New York City has plenty to brag about with 12 locally-based winners. See below for the full rundown of all winning NYC designs and buildings!


1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse

Award Level: Honors
Architect: Architecture Research Office
Location: Brooklyn, NY

2. NYC DOT Harper Street Yard Structures

Award Level: Honors
Architect: nARCHITECTS

Location: Corona, NY

Image Courtesy nARCHITECT

3. Columbia University Lenfest Center for the Arts

Award Level: Honors
Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Design), Davis Brody Bond (Executive), Body Lawson Associates (Associate), James Corner Field Operations (Landscape)
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy Columbia University

4. Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills

Award Level: Honors
Architect: WORK Architecture Company

Image Courtesy WORK Architecture Company

5. Williamsburgh Savings Bank

Award Level: Citations
Architects: David Scott Parker Architects, Bosch Architecture (of Record)
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Image Courtesy David Scott Parker Architects

6. Delancey and Essex Municipal Parking Garage

Award Level: Citations
Architect: Michielli + Wyetzner Architects
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy Michielli + Wyetzner Architects


7. The Lobster Club

Award Level: Merits
Architect: Peter Marino Architect
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy Lobster Club

8. Parsons Making Center

Award Level: Merits
Architect: Rice+Lipka Architects
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy Michael Moran/Rice + Lipka Architects

9. New York Family Office

Award Level: Merits
Architects: A+I, SheltonMindel (Interior)
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy SheltonMindel

10. The Gerken Residence

Award Level: Citations
Architect: Young Projects, Future Green Studio (Landscape Architect)
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy Young Projects


11. One Vanderbilt

Award Level: Merits
Architect: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy OVA Design

12. Justice in Design

Award Level: Merits
Architect: NADAAA
Location: New York, NY

Image Courtesy NADAAA


Architecture News | New York City from the Sky

At TOWN Residential, we are big supporters of #LookUpNY, our celebration of those hidden architectural gems that make this city so special, whether atop buildings, written on street signs or inside iconic structures. But for artist Jeffrey Milstein, the sky is just the beginning. Equipped with a pilot license, he leans out of helicopters and trains his camera lens down towards the Concrete Jungle. The awe-inspiring results may just change the way you think about New York City forever. He recently published his work featuring both New York and Los Angeles in LA NY. Check out some highlights of his work below, and be sure to see the full portfolio here.

Hudson Yards trains
Governors Island
Stuyvesant Town
Columbus Circle
Statue of Liberty
Museum of Natural History
Thanksgiving Day Parade

For more aerial photographs, view the full portfolio here.

Architecture News | The Latest and Greatest Exhibits

For many, August is a time to fit in a vacation far, far away from New York City’s crowded streets, but we’re in the mood to celebrate them. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 architectural exhibits and tours you would be remiss to skip this month, from prominent architects to celebrated street art and more. Peruse longtime museum displays at your leisure, put on your walking shoes and hit the pavement, or find the time to do it all!

1. Panorama of the City of New York

Long-term view
Queens Museum

Image Courtesy Queens Museum

This exhibit is certainly not the “latest” exhibit, but nonetheless is widely known as the crowning jewel of the Queens Museum’s unique collection of architectural displays. The Panorama was built in 1964 for the World’s Fair by a team of over 100 people over the course of 3 years. The display’s incredible beauty and longevity speak for themselves, so be sure to put this on your August Bucket List.

2. Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

Through October 1st
Museum of Modern Art

Image Courtesy MoMA

Come celebrate one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright! The major exhibit includes close to 450 of his acclaimed works made between the 1890s and the 1950s, spanning from drawings, models, building fragments, films, television broadcasts, print media, furniture, tableware, textiles, paintings, photographs, scrapbooks and more. Even those most well-versed in the architect’s life and work will have much to learn at this jam-packed exhibit.

3. Public Art of Lower Manhattan: An Outdoor Gallery

August 5th, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Tickets: $30

Image Courtesy Architecture Daily

Courtesy of The Municipal Art Society of New York, this walking tour will uncover museum-worthy art hidden amidst the busy traction of the Lower East Side’s streets. Tour Guide Patrick Waldo will take participants from Civic Fame high on top of the Municipal Building to a sculpture partially submerged in the East River, examining work from artists like Daniel Chester French, Isamu Noguchi, Jean DuBuffet, Louise Nevelson and more.

4. Sunset Park in Brooklyn with Joe Svehlak 

August 12th, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Sunset Park
Tickets: $30

Image Courtesy NYC Parks

Join tour guide and preservationist Joe Svehlak, longtime resident of Sunset Park who is well versed in the area’s rich history and present-day diversity. The Sunset Park Landmarks Committee is now in the midst of seeking landmark designation for its historic areas, many of which were constructed at the end of the 19th century. And of course, the tour will include the 24.5-acre hilltop park, full of inspiring harbor and city views. Don’t miss out!

5. Art Wars! The Founding of the Met, MoMA and the Whitney

August 26th, 11:00am – 1:00pm
Museum Mile
Tickets: $30

Image Courtesy Guggenheim

Led by Deborah Zelcer, this tour will encompass some of the city’s most prominent museums dating back to the conclusion of the Civil War. Tasked with the goal of proving the refinement and artistry of America in the face of Old Europe’s resplendent classic art, the founders of museums such as the National Academy of Design and the Whitney Museum sought to define art and culture in America. The conversation will also include details about the newer incarnations of these museums and how politics comes into play.

Architecture News | 2017 Excellence in Design Awards

The New York City Public Design Commission teamed up with Mayor Bill de Blasio to select eleven architectural projects as winners of this year’s Awards for Excellence in Design. Now in its 34th year, the award recognizes projects across all five boroughs that “exemplify how innovative and thoughtful design can provide New Yorkers with the best possible public spaces and services and engender a sense of civic pride.” We’ve compiled a list of some of this year’s standouts. For the full list, read here.

1. Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek

Architect: Tree-Mendous

Image Courtesy NYC Office of the Mayor / ArchDaily

As renderings reveal, the Treetop Adventure Zipline will bring new energy to the experience of visiting the Bronz Zoo. The structure rises 45 feet above the Bronz River and invites participants to zip across via 375 feet of zip-line cable. The fun and exciting experience has been designed to target a new active audience and raise awareness of the importance of protecting our natural world.

2. Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center

Architect: Marble Fairbanks + SCAPE Landscape Architecture

Image Courtesy NYC Office of the Mayor / ArchDaily

The new Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is a much-anticipated addition to Brooklyn and a triumph of innovative sustainable architecture anywhere. Replacing an outdated one-story library, the new structure has been designed to strike a balance between indoor and outdoor space for both library and environmental programming usage. Visitors of all ages will be accommodated by its reading rooms, public meeting rooms, large community events space, and lab space for interactive projects. The library also carries a LEED Silver certification for its innovative approaches to sustainability.

3. FIT New Academic Building

Architect: SHoP Architects + Mathews Nielsen 

Image Courtesy NYC Office of the Mayor / ArchDaily

FIT’s new transparent glass academic building will stand at the campus’ northern edge and reflect the college’s commitment to openness and continuous community engagement. Inside its ten stories and 110,000 square feet, the building will include smart classrooms, textile labs, and administrative offices, as well as the first dedicated student life hall on campus in nearly 20 years. The design masterfully reflects the school’s mission to welcome the public and its vision to exchange ideas across many platforms.

4. Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility

Architect: TEN Arquitectos + W Architecture and Landscape Architecture 

Image Courtesy NYC Office of the Mayor / ArchDaily

Any reduction of traffic congestion is a win in our book! Tasked with serving upwards of 13,500 taxis, the renovated Woodside facility will not only expand the existing eight-lane garage but also reconfigure its base level to create additional lanes and improve traffic flow on the nearby roadway. Above the garage will rest a louver-screened structure to host increased office space for staff, with strategically placed windows for optimal sunlight and views.

5. The Cubes Administration and Education Building

Architect: LOT-EK

Image Courtesy NYC Office of the Mayor / ArchDaily

Coming to the heart of Socrates Sculpture Park is a new 2,640-square-foot structure comprised of 18 shipping containers. The Cubes Building will ultimately become the permanent home for all Socrates Sculpture Park administration and programming, and stand as a testament to the park’s commitment to revitalizing historic design while presenting fresh, contemporary public art, as well as fostering environmental stewardship and community.



Architecture News | Google Earth Relaunch

When Google Earth first came onto the scene in 2005, “home” was most definitely where the heart was. According to the developers, the first thing nearly everyone did after downloading the platform was to immediately search for his or her home, and then to begin the journey outward into the awaiting neighborhood, city, and great beyond. In the words of product manager Gopal Shah, “Home is how we orient ourselves – it’s where we start from.”

With this truth in mind, Google created the 2017 relaunch of Google Earth, emphasizing the stories behind each twist and turn of the globe and its people. With a streamlined search feature and full extension of the 3D-view, the new application launched in late April and has been curated by the world’s leading storytellers and scientists for a magical learning experience that can take you from Pemba Island, Tanzania to Zao Hot Spring, Japan within seconds.

Explore with Voyager, Image Courtesy Google Earth

While it’s very easy to get lost in the natural wonders of the world that Google Earth highlights (believe us!), we strongly recommend you take a look at Voyager. Defined as a showcase of interactive tours, the feature allows you to explore, for example, Mexico City through a series of aerial map pinpoints and still-life images of top highlights. Coupled with its “Knowledge Cards” which explain the relevance of each guided location, the exploration is as close as many may ever get to a full tour of the city.

Voyager caters to the nature-lover, with BBC Earth’s journey into the world’s mountains; the scientist, with NASA’s choice scenes from space; and, of course, the architect. The platform invites you to take a guided tour of Zaha Hadid’s most unique works of architecture, as well as a collection of Frank Gehry’s monumental buildings around the world.

Explore architecture by Zaha Hadid around the world.
Tour Zaha Hadid’s architecture around the world, Image Courtesy Google Earth

Once you start exploring, the interactive tour will take you around the globe, offering you 3D views of the selected buildings, plus the ability to share your findings easily with family and friends. Unlike earlier versions of Google Earth, the new relaunch lives entirely as an extension of Chrome, and necessitates no software or download.

Discover more via the New York by Frank Gehry Knowledge Card
Explore Gehry’s work from a 3D perspective, Image Courtesy Google Earth

While your inner architect can happily explore these treasures, Google has embarked to satisfy your inner art-lover as well. “Land Art from Above” by DigitalGlobe invites you to view unique, large-scale outdoor art displays from the past and present, including the 11-acre “Wish” by Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada in Ireland and “Sacred” by Andrew Rogers in Slovakia.

"Wish" by Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada
“Wish” by Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, Image Courtesy Google Earth

Be sure to check out “Eclectic Outdoor Art” as well, inviting you to discover quirky sculptures and colorful street art in the United States. The selected pieces include a troll sculpture that lives under a bridge in Seattle and the now-famous mirrored cloud sculpture in Chicago’s Millenium Park.

Discover this troll sculpture under a Seattle bridge, and more through Eclectic Outdoor Art.
Troll under Seattle bridge, Image Courtesy Google Earth

Amazing Urban Gardens” couples you with Local Guides who take you from a vertical forest in Milan to a network of modern greenhouses and waterfront parks in Singapore. Securing a spot in the ranks is New York City’s The High Line, the popular park situated 30 feet above street level on the old West Side rail line.

Bosco Verticalo, Image Courtesy Google Earth

While you’re getting lost in the new update, be sure to check out the story of Saroo Brierley, who made his long journey home by scouring train tracks in India via Google Earth, and reigns as the inspiration for the major motion film, Lion. 

Architecture News | Green Walls and Vertical Gardens

A new study by Syracuse University, the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveals that green buildings are not only healthy for the environment, but also for their inhabitants – both mentally and emotionally. Findings from the research affirm that occupants of green buildings sleep better, get sick less frequently and benefit from increased cognitive abilities. Essentially, a win for the Earth is a win for everyone!

In celebration of this study, we’re spotlighting some of the greenest of the green structures around the world – and in the visual sense of the word: those with vertical gardens. The vertical garden and green wall trend has been taking off worldwide since the 1980s, with success stories including residential towers, hotels, and outdoor parks. 

1. Nanjing Green Towers

Image Courtesy Stefano Boeri Architects
Image Courtesy Stefano Boeri Architects

This pair of towers will stand as Italian architect Stefano Boeri’s third installment of his Vertical Forest model and the first of its kind in Asia. Sporting a total of 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs along their facades, the Nanjing Green Towers will form their own microclimate, producing humidity and oxygen while absorbing CO2 and dust particles. Boeri’s original mission behind the projects was to incorporate as many plants onto the buildings that would otherwise have grown from the open ground they replace. When presented with the criticism that the amount of concrete needed to support the plants may negate the buildings’ sustainable reach, Boeri acknowledged that this prototype isn’t the only way toward improving urban environments. Rather, according to Digital Trends, the architect hopes the “project will positively influence the architectural trend”. And, from an aesthetic standpoint, Boeri’s Vertical Gardens serve to counteract “the excessive amount of glass on facades and the thermal effects that it has in our cities.”  

2. One Central Park

Image Courtesy Inhabitat
Image Courtesy Inhabitat

Now complete, One Central Park reigns as the world’s tallest vertical garden. The living, breathing building stands in Sydney, Australia, soaring 166 meters into the air with design by Jean Nouvel and Patrick Blanc. Described wonderfully by Bertram Beissel as “A flower for each resident, and a bouquet to the city,” the dual towers host 38,000 indigenous and exotic plants. With a unique cantilevered panel of mirrors, the development also reflects sunlight onto its lower levels to completely maximize the potential natural light

3. Oasia Hotel Downtown

Image Courtesy Best Singapore Hotels
Image Courtesy Best Singapore Hotels

Singapore’s response to the glass- and steel-adorned skyscrapers of NYC is the tropical Oasia Hotel Downtown. Designed by WOHA, the 30-story tower is now complete and features a red aluminum façade, soon to be overtaken by a bursting green plant presence. The designers carefully selected 21 different species of green plants and flowers to cover the façade and additionally planted several sky gardens that serve to naturally cool the structure.

4. Liberty Park

Image Courtesy DNAinfo
Image Courtesy DNAinfo

We would be remiss not to mention a relatively new livable green wall in the heart of NYC. If you haven’t checked it out already, Liberty Park opened this past summer as a part of the World Trade Center redevelopment. Developed and constructed by The Port Authority of New York, the park rises 25 feet tall and offers views of the 9/11 Memorial, as well as a place for patriotic and personal reflection. Inspired by the High Line, the elevated park extends one acre and leads to a 336-foot-long Living Wall at its northern end. The lovely garden features a gorgeous array of plants ranging from periwinkle and Japanese spurge to winter creeper and Baltic ivy.

Architecture News | Two Trees’ Domino Sugar Refinery Development

A major development is underway on the Williamsburg waterfront. Developer Two Trees has enlisted SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations to redevelop the historic Domino Sugar Refinery building and surrounding 11-acre area. Upon completion, the new area will include 600,000 square feet of office space, 2,800 residences, and six-acres of park space along the waterfront 

Image Courtesy SHoP
Rendering of waterfront development. Image Courtesy SHoP

A Storied Past
Originally built in 1856, the Domino Sugar Factory was among the first of the industrial buildings that contributed to the area’s significance as a manufacturing center. Employing over 4,000 workers, the refinery quickly became the largest of its kind worldwide, and by 1870 was processing more than half of the sugar consumed by the country. In 1882, damage caused by a fire led to the site’s redesign into a 90,000-square-foot complex with two distinct brick buildings and a smokestack. The area’s staple and now-landmarked “Domino Sugar” sign was erected in the 1950s to further signify the site, which continued to process sugar until 2004.

The Domino Sugar Factory's presence on the East River dates back to 1882. Image Courtesy
The Domino Sugar Factory’s presence on the East River dates back to 1882. Image Courtesy
The Domino Sugar sign has long been attributed to the Williamsburg waterfront. Image Courtesy
The Domino Sugar sign has long been attributed to the Williamsburg waterfront. Image Courtesy

After an original failed attempt to redevelop the site by CPC Resources in 2010, Two Trees Management hired SHoP and Field Operations to create a new master plan in 2013. Before demolishing the site, however, they commissioned public art firm Creative Time to create a large-scale public art project to commemorate the building’s less-than-gracious history and involvement with slavery. Tasked with the responsibility was artist Kara Walker, who based her work off of the building’s connection to “the slave trade that traded bodies for sugar and sugar for bodies.” Her creation, dubbed “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant,” featured a large, sphinx-like female statue created from sugar paste. 

Kara Walker's "A Subtlety." Image Courtesy Wall Street Journal
Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety.” Image Courtesy Wall Street Journal

Open to the public for two months in the summer of 2014, the display received over 130,000 visitors.

Present Development
Construction began at the site in March of 2015. Last fall, the first mixed-use residential building at 325 Kent Avenue topped out, and progress has recently been made in constructing its sky bridge.

Current development at the site where the building at 325 Kent Avenue has topped out. Photo Courtesy Curbed Flickr Pool/Joel Raskin

The building will ultimately rise to 16 stories and span just over 400,000 square feet. Featuring a five-story redbrick base and two setback metal-sheathed wings, the building is slated to host a central courtyard, several retail stores and parking.

Rendering of the building at 325 Kent Avenue. Completion is expected sometime next year. Photo Courtesy NY Curbed.
Rendering of the building at 325 Kent Avenue. Completion is expected sometime this year. Photo Courtesy NY Curbed.

Twenty percent of the building’s 522 rental units have been designated for affordable housing, with move-ins expected to begin this summer.

The Future of the Waterfront
The remainder of the development will extend across the East River waterfront, along with James Corner Field Operations’ quarter-of-a-mile park. As inspired by community input, the park will include an “Artifact Walk,” incorporating the site’s original gantry cranes, syrup tanks and screw conveyors. According to JCFO, “The new waterfront park will offer a wide range of active and passive uses and will reconnect the neighborhood to the riverfront.”

Waterfront park. Image Courtesy SHoP

The Domino Sugar Refinery itself will maintain its exterior redbrick façade, yet yield itself to glass and steel-encased offices inside. According to renderings, possible amenities inside the 380,000-square-foot building will include a skate park,  four separate terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows. The building will also feature an open plaza and direct access to the overall development’s amenities, such as the waterfront park and ferry landing. Completion for the building is expected for next year, provided a tenant is secured.

The new refinery interior will feature exposed brick, steel, and glass-encased offices. Image Courtesy Two Trees /
Inside Domino. Image Courtesy Two Trees /
Proposed rendering for open office space. Image Courtesy Two Trees /
Inside Domino. Image Courtesy Two Trees /
Planned amenities include an indoor skate park. Image Courtesy Two Trees /

Check back in here for more updates on the revitalization of the historic Williamsburg waterfront.


Green Architecture | The Passive House in NYC

Ever so slowly but surely, the “Passive House” philosophy has worked its way into the forefront of the sustainability dialogue surrounding New York City real estate. The term stems from passivhaus, a German-born building standard designed to drastically reduce the energy usage of a given structure. Since the first successful retrofit of a Park Slope apartment to adhere to the standard in 2012, New York City has seen an increasing interest in the creation of larger, ground-up Passive House buildings. 

What it is
To achieve Passive House certification, a building must employ proper airtight insulation, eliminate thermal bridges, utilize Heat Recovery Ventilation systems, and include triple-paned windows. Experts also take into consideration the orientation of the building in order to maximize sunlight or shading potential. The ultimate result is a 90% decrease in heat energy usage and a 75% decrease in overall energy usage.

Image Courtesy
Image Courtesy


Ideally, in a temperate climate, a Passive House would eliminate the need for any heating or cooling system whatsoever. In New York however, small radiators and air conditioning units are typically included in the design plan – still yielding an ultimate reduction of overall energy usage by 75%, and a drastic reduction of energy costs as well.

Originally designed by Dr. Feist in Austria in 1991, the Passive House has since come a long way. Developers indicate that the cost of building in adherence to the sustainable standard has largely decreased since the Passivhaus Institut’s projection a few years ago, which was an added 6% of the average building cost. And, those who live in Passive House units overwhelmingly sing its praises: drastically lower energy costs, an impressively fresh air quality, and a consistent indoor temperature despite outdoor conditions. Plus, the ventilation system has proven to reduce allergies and asthmatic symptoms among those residents usually affected. 

The Passive House in NYC
The first certified Passive House to come to New York was a retrofit in Brooklyn at 23 Park Place. Design firm Fabrica718 successfully renovated a 110-year-old brownstone to use 90% less heat energy. Dubbed “Tighthouse,” the airtight building’s drastic effect is visible through thermal photography.

Image Courtesy
23 Park Place, Image Courtesy

The red glow of the neighboring buildings reveal heat leaking out of the windows and facades. Perfectly airtight and expertly insulated, the all-blue building lets nothing out.  

The trend continued in the borough with many further retrofits, including 338 8th Street in Park Slope, 154 Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights, and 228 Washington Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The last, designed by Loadingdock5, rents out rooms on Airbnb so those interested in the standard can experience the results first-hand.

Image Courtesy
228 Washington Avenue, Image Courtesy

The standard also worked its way into Queens and Manhattan with retrofits at 45-12 11th Street in Long Island City by Thomas Paino and 25 West 88th Street on the Upper West Side by Baxt/Ingui Architects.

In 2014, the first multi-family Passive House opened in Bushwick, designed by Chris Benedict. Standing at 424 Melrose Street, all twenty-four affordable units were designated for senior citizens.

424 Melrose Street, Image Courtesy
424 Melrose Street, Image Courtesy

The Future
Now gaining more traction in the real estate market, the coming years will see increased Passive House ground-up development. PERCH Harlem, a 7-story, 40-unit building also designed by Chris Benedict, is nearing completion, racing (passively!) against the 6-unit 11 West 126th Street to gain the title of Manhattan’s first certified Passive House.

Image Courtesy
PERCH Harlem, Image Courtesy

PERCH Harlem’s exterior will feature a mixture of glass squares and rectangular shapes strategically chosen to maximize the building’s solar gain. Smaller operable windows will allow for fresh air and gorgeous views of the George Washington Bridge and beyond. Inside, Me and General Design will outfit the residences with sustainable materials all around, from the 31% recycled wallpaper, triple pane windows, and individually-controlled energy-recovery ventilators.

Also on deck is a ground-up Passive House in Brooklyn, set to be the first NYC building to achieve both Passive House and Net-Zero capable certifications. The building has even a name sounding like a thing of the future – R-951. It will host three 1,500-square-foot units, each with their own private outdoor space.

Image Courtesy
Image Courtesy

On the grandest scale, another exciting development is Cornell University’s new campus tower for its applied sciences school on Roosevelt Island. In development by Hudson Companies, Cornell Tech, and Related Companies and due for completion in 2017, the 26-story, 270,000-square-foot tower will reign as the world’s tallest and largest Passive House. (The title is currently held by the 30-story Raiffeisenhaus Wien 2, a Vienna office tower completed back in 2012.) The Cornell building will house 530 students, faculty, and staff; using up to 70% less energy than typical high-rises. In line with ever-increasing technological advances, the projected extra cost of building the high-rise in adherence with Passive House standards is 2 to 3%.

Cornell Roosevelt Island building, Image Courtesy
Cornell Roosevelt Island building, Image Courtesy