31 in 31: #8

This is a series for August 2010 which documents my on-the-ground -- and on-the-webs -- research for my guidebook to contemporary NYC architecture (to be released next year by W. W. Norton). Archives can be found at the bottom of the post and via the 31 in 31 label.

Metal Shutter Houses

Like coins have a head and tail, buildings have a front and back. In New York City, like most metropolises, the front is more important than the back. That's where the money is spent and the visibility occurs. But in many instances, for one or more reasons (low-scale neighbors, vacant lots, a view from the High Line, etc.), the rear or "invisible" facade is on display. Such is the case with the Metal Shutter Houses by Shigeru Ban with Dean Maltz.

Metal Shutter Houses

The front facade (top, dappled with reflections from the afternoon sun hitting Jean Nouvel's 100 11th Avenue across the street) gives the building its name. The perforated shutters screen double-height living spaces for the nine units. Facing south is the rear facade (above) with full-height glass walls devoid of shading devices, like the north-facing shutters. Combined with the clear-glass guardrails, if this were a front elevation it would be a completely unremarkable building. So if the building is basically a dumb glass box, a lot of pressure is on those operable screens. As the building nears completion, the effect of the shutters is not as elegant as the renderings, a shame for Mr. Ban's first building in New York City.

#1 - Phyto Universe
#2 - One Bryant Park
#3 - Pier 62 Carousel
#4 - Bronx River Art Center
#5 - The Pencil Factory
#6 - Westbeth Artists' Housing
#7 - 23 Beekman Place