living with books and art a loft in new york
all images courtesy UNStudio
UNStudio‘s design for an existing loft located in greenwich village in manhattan
explores the interaction between a gallery and living space. the main walls in the loft
flow through the space, and together with articulated ceilings create hybrid conditions
in which exhibition areas merge into living areas.
the design of the loft in downtown manhattan mediates between art gallery and living space.
the existing loft space was characterized by challenging proportions: the space is long and wide,
but also rather low. gently flowing curved walls were introduced to virtually divide the main
space into proportionally balanced spaces. this created zones of comfortable proportions
for domestic use, while simultaneously generating a large amount of wall space for the display
of art. the meandering walls frame an open a space that privileges long perspectives, with more
sheltered corners and niches nestled in the curves. in this hybrid space exhibition areas merge
into the living areas; a floating exhibition wall blends into library shelves on one side and into
a display case on the other side. the client as collector had sought a space in which he could live
comfortably while interacting with the many paintings, objects and books he has brought together
over the years. the loft aims to merge life and art by facilitating these daily interactions, and by
making clearer his own unusual way of seeing.
while the walls form a calm and controlled backdrop for the works of art, the ceiling is more
articulated in its expression of this transition. by interchanging luminous and opaque, the ceiling
creates a field of ambient and local lighting conditions, forming an organizational element in
the exhibition and the living areas. the opaque part of the ceiling consists of subtly arched elements
that give a notion of an limitless ceiling which disguises the real height of the space the luminous part
of the ceiling is backlit by 18,000 LED lights. this extensive membrane of light serves multiple purposes;
it balances the proportions of the loft by creating an illusion of height, functions as unobtrusive space
divider, and can be programmed to illuminate the space with various shades of light, from the coolest,
most neutral daylight, to warmer tones. by interchanging between luminous and opaque, the ceiling
becomes a field of ambient and local lighting conditions.
the third element that the architect has added to this mix is the appreciation of the city which is expressed
in the ‘framing of the views’. the former windows in the south wall have been replaced by full floor to ceiling
glass panes that frame and extend compelling views, over a full glass balcony, toward downtown manhattan.
the main walls and ceilings flow through the space, creating hybrid conditions in which exhibition areas merge
into living areas; an exhibition wall blends into led illuminated library shelves on one side and a display case
on the other. to enable this uniform and seamless space, partly double curved glass fiber reinforced gypsum
paneling is used. within these curved wall elements most of the technical installations like hvac and lighting
have been integrated.
as a last element a douglas fir floor with 1½ feet wide planks covers the entire loft.
collector’s loft, new york, usa 2007
location: greenwich village, manhattan new york, usa
building area: 550 m2
building programme: loft renovation into apartment / private gallery
status: completed 2010
UNStudio: ben van berkel with arjan dingsté, marianthi tatari and collette parras
executive architect: franke, gottsegen, cox architects, new york.
team: matthew gottsegen, bruce harvey, matt shoor
structural engineer: wayman c. wing consulting engineers, new york
MEP: p.a. collins pe consulting engineers, new york
lighting design: renfro design group, inc., new york
contractor: 3-d laboratory, inc. new york