Ladies’ Mile addition rejected for second time


Image: Courtesy of
Image: Courtesy of

Revised design, reduced by three stories, followed form of mansard roofs common in Ladies’ Mile. On April 13, 2010, Landmarks considered a revised proposal for an addition to a six-story, through-block building at 33 West 19th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. The original plan, considered in July 2009, proposed a five-story addition for the neo-Renaissance structure built in 1903. The initial design featured a translucent metal mesh hung in front of the addition’s set-back rain wall. The quality and creativity of the Morris Adjmi-designed addition garnered praise, but Landmarks objected to its scale and visibility and asked the applicants to return with a scaled-down proposal. 6 CityLand 108 (Aug. 15, 2009).

At the April hearing, Adjmi presented the revised design, which reduced the proposal to three stories. The addition would rise 30 feet above the existing building and emulate the shape of a mansard roof, an architectural element common to the neighborhood. Adjmi said the idea came from studying the neighborhood and considering the cornice as a “starting point for something above.” He said the proposal intended to “rethink how a mansard functions” and would match the proportions of traditional mansards. The new design featured a double-skin facade, with the interior portion set back five to seven feet. The perforated metal structure would feature a terra-cotta cap and would be visible from street level on both West 19th and 20th Streets.

Higgins, Quasebarth & Partners’ Emily Rulli, representing the developer, noted that the proposal would not align with taller buildings on the block, which would contribute to the neighborhood’s varied typology. Rulli pointed out that additions had been built on many of the turn-of-the-century buildings that contributed to the historic district.

Chair Robert B. Tierney said the proposed addition was still too large, but praised its “inventive architecture.” Tierney noted that if the developer were to return with another proposal, the modifications would have to be “quite pronounced.” Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz agreed, calling the proposal a “compelling design” applied to “the wrong building in the wrong district.” Commissioner Libby Ryan described it as “a detriment to both the building and the district.”

Other commissioners expressed tentative support for the proposal. Commissioner Diana Chapin called the design a “very creative, bold, and contemporary approach to the mansard,” but ultimately found it too tall and visible for the location. Commissioner Fred Bland was persuaded by evidence of the district’s history of additions. Bland said the addition’s scale was not inappropriate like the previous incarnation, but said its design was “a little aggressive.” Commissioner Christopher Moore said he did not think the addition was too tall or too visible, and that while it might not be right for the building, he cautioned the Commission against stifling creativity. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea said a two-story addition would be more appropriate.

With no consensus, Tierney closed the meeting without a vote.

LPC: 33 West 19th Street, Manhattan (09-7994) (April 13, 2010) (Architects: Morris Adjmi Architects).

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