Downing Unveiled

A project under construction that I've been keeping an eye on for my guidebook to contemporary NYC architecture is the Townhomes of Downing Street in Greenwich Village by 1100: Architect. The three townhouses have been under scaffolding for a while now, so I was pleased to see some of the facade revealed when I passed by yesterday.


According to the architects, "The unique sandstone facade reinterprets the traditional arrangement of transparent windows perforated into a solid facade." At first glance I thought the stone was travertine, though the appearance lacks travertine's consistency. As well, travertine does not make the most sense for facades, as it is one of the most porous stones. Regardless, the appearance is quite smooth and monolithic, owing not just to the choice of stone but also the matching mortar. The sandstone runs vertically, so it does not read like stacked pieces.


The windows and (slightly) projecting frames are very elegant, working together with the stone to create a very minimal expression. Even the coping disappears, as the stone cladding just stops a few feet above the fourth-floor windows. I'd love to see the parapet detail.

Separation between the three townhouses is a narrow vertical line that matches the windows. An overall reading is of one project with three distinct pieces. I'm curious to see if the individuality of the residents will break through the homogeneous expression.


What is not apparent from the street is just how big these townhouses are; a building section reveals a fifth-floor "observatory" and a cellar-level "atelier" in addition to the other four floors. Each tops out at over 6,000 sf plus 1,300-2,200-sf of outdoor space (by SCAPE). These are BIG urban houses (more than twice the suburban average) for a few RICH families. Well, at least the rest of us have a nice view.


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