The Residential project on Union Street was a vacant lot in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. It was a very narrow site – 18’8″ wide. It was a site that had a building on it previously, but was neglected and demolished by the City of New York. The site is located very near to the Gowanus canal, and did have a high water table as there were signs of underwater aquifers running under the neighborhood.
This project was a challenge because of the high water table and the bearing strength of the soil. The foundation had to be specifically designed to work on a site with these special requirements. Special engineers needed to be consulted so that we could look at the settlement of the foundation over time, along with what type of foundation would give us a water tight crawlspace and base for our building. The foundation became complicated, consisting of a thick under membrane that was placed under the slab to prevent ground water from pushing up through the foundation, with a two foot thick mat slab as the foundation.
The review process at the building department was very unique as it was a pilot program that I participated in called “Get it Done Together”. It involved a series of meetings with a plans examiner and the Deputy Director of Development to work through any issues with the design, information on the drawings and code compliance. This was a very exciting approach, as I was able to sit with them during their review and gain experience and clear direction on the issues that needed to be resolved, opposed to the typical reviews that are done behind closed doors and the objections are raised and given in the form of a memo.
The design of the project uses the narrow lot as a challenge and creates volumetric spaces as the floor plate is fixed based on the lot width and the setbacks of the rear yard as required by zoning. The house has four floors. The first and second floors are dedicated to living. The first floor has a double height space in the front and rear of the house. The kitchen is located in the center, where the ceiling is lower, with the living room above it on the second floor looking over to the dining room in the rear and the family room in the front of the house. By creating these double height spaces in the front and rear of the house, the volume changed in this narrow lot, allowing for a light, open concept with natural daylight penetrating the house from the front and rear of the house. The dining room on the rear of the first floor, opens up to a deck leading to the backyard. The third floor has bedrooms in the front and rear of the house, with the bathrooms and laundry in the center. The fourth floor is for the master bedroom and bathroom.