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Urban Townhouse by GLUCK+

By Eric Meunier


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This townhouse is located on East 51st Street in New York City, a pleasant street with three- and four-story historical buildings, steps from the towers of Midtown.

The 2009 renovation project (1,322 sq ft) was designed by the NYC architectural firm  GLUCK+.

Here is a perfect example of an inventive architecture that doesn’t leave any passer-by indifferent: you love it or you hate it!

The Urban Townhouse project by GLUCK+:

“This five-floor residence is constructed within the fixed footprint of an existing three-story townhouse on a typically narrow infill Manhattan plot, sharing party walls with the adjacent houses. The clients asked for loft-like spaces, open and filled with light but also private – exactly the opposite of a standard NYC row house, with its street-side windows usually curtained or shuttered from the eyes of passers-by.

To meet this challenge, the conventional plan and section has been radically redefined.The stair and elevator core are pushed up against the street façade, instead of running along one of the party walls.  As a result, loft-like spaces run fluidly the entire length of the 38-foot-deep building, rather than being compartmentalized into small front and back rooms.

The front facade derives its expression from the interior interplay of openness and privacy. It screens the house from the street through several layers: the stairway, the bookshelves, the solid wall with punched windows providing glimpses of the street, and the exterior perforated aluminum rain screen. Two narrow vertical glass slots run the full height of the facade, capturing light from the street while further accentuating the length of the spaces with continuous views from the front to the back of the building.

Although designed for the interior, the exterior of the front façade also engages the street.  During the day the aluminum rain screen, with its water-cut brick-shaped openings echoing the solid bricks of its neighbors, appears as a flat, patterned mass, marked off from the adjacent houses by the tall glass slots on either side.”

The horizontal joints of the aluminum panels break up the vertical surface as a reference to the rhythm of the window spacing of the row houses.  At the same time, the glass and aluminum reference the many high-rise apartment and office buildings of this midtown Manhattan neighborhood.

This impression wanes at dusk, as the glow from the horizontal slit windows and the vertical glass slots animates the street facade, making the aluminum appear more as a screen than a mass, and invites the eye toward, but not into, the house.

The rear facade engages the opposite approach; it is all glass, a full-height, full-width curtain wall that bathes the interior in light. At night, the warm lantern-like light of the interior illuminates the rear garden.

Together the organization and expression of the building address the realities and difficulties of modern living in the city and as such attempts to redefine the typology of the urban townhouse.”

Site Plan

Photos by: Erik Freeland

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About Eric Meunier

Currently the Owner and Chief Executive of HODYO Design, Eric Meunier's expertise in the design industry spreads over 20 years. He was the driving force behind HomeDSGN's early success, founding this website in 2011. Today, he loves to channel his passion for design into remodeling houses and transforming interior spaces with his keen eye for detail and architectural finesse. Learn more about HomeDSGN's Editorial Process.

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