The cavalry and its horses have long since trotted out of this early 1900s New York armory, but remnants of that past life still figure prominently while comfortably commingling with modern design. Its current occupant, a major multimedia entertainment company, sought out the expertise of FXFOWLE Architects to transform the historic building from a soundstage for soap operas into airy offices for an army of 240 employees.
The armory is comprised of two volumes: an ornate street-facing forebuilding with protruding towers and crenelated parapets, and a three-story open drill hall. Since the exterior of the armory is landmarked, the architects meticulously restored it using archival photos as a guide. The interior, on the other hand, allowed FXFOWLE more creative license as no elements of historical value were intact. The firm’s solution was to gut renovate the spaces, while restoring original architectural details that could meld into a high-tech, modern environment.
The drill hall’s shell needed repairs, so the design called for refurbishing the roof’s exposed steel trusses and replacing the deteriorated tongue-and-groove wood sub-roof with a new metal batten system echoing its pattern. The windowless hall originally had skylights that had since been covered. The architects inserted new skylights with apertures oriented to maximize the natural sunlight and also minimize glare.
The client also needed additional square footage in the drill hall. Building codes and zoning laws allowed floor space to be added within the building’s shell, so the architects inserted two mezzanine floors within the volume of the drill hall, increasing the total area from 44,000 to 55,000 square feet. The mezzanines contain glass-enclosed offices, conference rooms, and open-plan workspaces with low partitions.
A setback requirement of 30 feet from the rear property line limited the span of the mezzanines. Rather than view this as a restriction, the architects identified a design opportunity, carving out a full-height space where the client can host informal meetings or large events, enhanced by a giant video screen wall. “It was important to us, from a historic perspective, to have people understand that the drill hall was a large, single volume at one time,” says FXFOWLE Managing Partner Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA.
To preserve sight lines through the space, as well as maintain an uncluttered feel, the architects eschewed exposed ductwork in favor of an air distribution system concealed within the mezzanine floors. This system allows for smaller fans and equipment, contributing to the energy efficiency of the project and its pending LEED Silver certification; it also reduces air ventilation noise despite the large size of the space. The concrete-filled metal raised flooring system is exposed in circulation zones, and carpet tiles further soften acoustics within offices and workstations.
The architects inserted a “light slot,” a vertical volume capped with skylights, between the mezzanine floors of the drill hall and the renovated head house, which contains private offices. Open stairs in the slot project at different angles to capture views through the drill hall and mitigate the difference in floor heights between the armory’s two volumes. Even though the drill hall is windowless and inwardly facing, the new skylights allow for a surprisingly well-lit and comfortable workspace. “We’ve created an internal streetscape,” Geier says, “so the fact that you really can’t see out of the building doesn’t make a difference.”
: FXFOWLE Architects.
Architecture project team
: Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA; Daniel Jacoby, AIA; Michael Syracuse, AIA; Erica Godun, AIA; Ilana Judah, Assoc. AIA; Alvaro Quintana; Chaim Zeitz; Dawn Hood; Illiana Ivanova, AIA; Robert Loken, AIA; Stephanie Schreiber, IIDA; Violette De La Selle.
: FXFOWLE Architects.
: Brandston Partnership, Inc.
: Anastos Engineering Associates (structural); Dagher Engineering (MEP); Langan Engineering (civil).
: Building Conservation Associates.
: Van Deusen and Associates.
Code consultant and expeditor
: Design 2147 Limited.
: Sherwin Williams.
: Lafarge; Modernfold.
: Bentley Prince Street; Haworth.
: Alpro; Armstrong.
: Elliptipar; FC Lighting; Focal Point; Humanscale; Ledalite; Moda Light; Zumtobel.
: Crenshaw Lighting.
: Long Island Fireproof Door, Inc.
: City Newark Glass; Clestra Hauserman, Inc.; C.R. Laurence Co.
: Herman Miller.
: Geiger International; Haworth; Knoll; Offecct; Vitra.
: Arper; Bernhardt; Davis; Haworth; Knoll.
: Herman Miller.
: Holden & Flynn Universal Contractors.
: Precision Signs.
: Elkay; Kohler; Sloan.