Located at West Street between Leroy and Clarkson Streets in Manhattan, New York, 160 Leroy is a residential building with fifty-seven apartments. Situated along the Hudson River Greenway at the southwestern edge of Greenwich Village, it is a direct commission and the third project Herzog & de Meuron have realized with Ian Schrager.
Although the surrounding neighborhood consists primarily of warehouses and industrial complexes – the urban fabric left over from the industrialized waterfront of the nineteenth and early twentieth century – its building lots have been rezoned for residential use in recent years. The waterfront has also been activated as a public leisure park and promenade, the potential of which the new structure aims to uncover and incorporate as an amenity.
The site is not a typical New York building block embedded in the Manhattan city grid; it is at the edge of the city and the edge of a block. As a first step in undertaking the project, we successfully negotiated with the City to obtain an exemption from the zoning bulk regulations so that the project does not have to follow the typical street facade set-back rules. As a result, our design concept animates the building in plan rather than in section. Allowing for generous setbacks in plan at the street level, the building creates space for extra-wide sections of the pedestrian path with room for trees. It also maximizes the panoramic views of the waterfront from the interior for all of the residential units. A sinuous extrusion that softens the edges of the typical city block, the building is a continuous, unified façade – back and front, inside and out.
As a direct result of recent storm surges and flooding in New York City, particularly Hurricane Sandy, the entire building sits atop a plinth and floats comfortably above the flood plane. The overall building form shapes an inner entry courtyard that recalls the tradition of famous New York entrance courtyards – e.g., The Dakota. The lobby is deeply recessed into the building bulk, providing space for a slightly elevated and lush, planted porch along the entire street frontage. This green edge offers a pleasant experience for the everyday passersby and reinforces the experience of the waterfront promenade across the street.
The building has been conceived as a skeleton where the bones are pushed to the exterior and articulated. The structural skeleton follows the internal logic and organization of the building, expressing it on the outside and introducing a sense of scale to the height and length of the project. Within each structural bay, the glass line is kinked. It follows its own crystalline logic, creating bay windows from the interior and pushing against the structural skeleton from the inside. Our initial design proposal introduced external textile blinds for sun shading so as to give the building a softer appearance when the blinds were closed, creating a tension between three primary exterior elements: structural skeleton, crystalline, faceted glass, and textile membrane.
Following 56 Leonard Street and 215 Chrystie (Public), Leroy Street is the third building in New York by Herzog & de Meuron that explores the potential of integrating structure, facade, and space in its purest form – only concrete and glass. Collectively these projects deviate from the typical architectural model in the United States, where structure and cladding are treated independently of one another and expressed as discrete elements.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2018