Architectural Precast Concrete in New York
Located at the corner of Varick Street across from Finn Square in New York City's famed Tribeca neighborhood, 137 Franklin Street is a deluxe seven-story three-family residential condominium building that embodies both the elegance of pre-war architecture and the luxuries of modern-day building systems and new construction.
Owner Brandon Miller of New York-based Real Estate Equities Corporation commissioned Markus Dochantschi, founder of Studio MDA, as architect for the high-end residential building. Because the narrow, vacant lot at 137 Franklin Street is situated in Tribeca's West Historic District, Dochantschi's designs required the approval of the area's strict Landmarks Preservation Committee — including the use of precast concrete for the building's facade.
Of the overall design of the building, Dochantschi, who has designed high-profile projects around the globe, comments, "It was necessary to create a building that fit in with the warehouse character of the neighborhood, but at the same time recognize the provincial character of Finn Square. The building's design takes many of its cues from the former warehouse buildings that are typical in Tribeca."
Clad in precast panels with inlaid red brick and grey steel, the building is reminiscent of the classic Romanesque styling of nearby Tribeca facades. According to Perry Schramm, P.E., of Pennoni Associates, Inc., the specialty structural engineering firm for the project, "Often projects are converted from traditional brick to precast because high-quality precast concrete is more durable than field mortar, and because precast allows for off-site fabrication and quick installation in the field, which typically reduces cost and schedule, especially in New York City."
In this case, however, Dochantschi insists that he elected to use precast purely because it was the best option for aesthetic reasons.
He explains, "Precast was a very important design feature in New York's famed Tribeca neighborhood of 137 Franklin Street. Because the building is in a landmark zone, we were also limited with materials we could use, and it was important to me to combine traditional materials with more contemporary technology. Ultimately, I wanted a more modern take on brick, and it could only be achieved with very large precast panels. Using precast panels with inlaid brick, I was able to create a contemporary look but with bricks which are very familiar to the neighborhood."