Residential lofts in Brooklyn by Bernheimer Architecture and Alloy Development
192 Water Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn, is the adaptive re-use of a four-storey loft building with the addition of a fifth storey penthouse. Built in 1887, this historic tea warehouse was converted into nine expansive residential lofts averaging 2500 sq ft, along with street-level retail space and parking.
The lofts feature generous layouts, modern amenities and historic architectural character. Building details recalling the neighbourhood's industrial roots include high ceilings, exposed timbers, brick walls and oversized windows.
Bernheimer Architecture and Alloy Development worked closely to develop a design that respects the building's heritage while understanding the needs of modern Brooklyn families. The central design challenges of the project included the surgical insertion of a new circulation core and fire protection system into the building without fundamentally altering the brick and heavy timber structural systems, which were to remain exposed. The contemporary amenities included in the residential units - four fixture bathrooms, walk-in closets, and modern kitchens, were designed as modern white box insertions into the existing structure, always clearly articulated from their historic surrounds. The penthouse addition and street-level facade were likewise conceived as confident, modern insertions that respected and heightened the historic beauty of the original building. The penthouse unit, clad in charcoal-coloured corrugated zinc, recalls the water towers and oversized bulkhead additions that characterize the industrial neighbourhood's roofscape.
The 3,100 sq ft interior is organized around a series of skylight "chimneys" that provide indirect day-lighting throughout. Fully glazed facades to the north and south are complemented by rooftop deck spaces and monumental sliding doors that provide natural ventilation to the interiors. The street-level facade makes room for a residential entry, enclosed parking, and a retail unit through the incision of a single clean opening in the existing brick and the insertion of a cedar-clad box that doubles as the parking entrance and the building signage.
The historic features of the building were cleaned and restored simultaneous to the renovation. Located in a designated historic district, the project required multiple meetings with historic preservationists and final approval from the Landmarks and Preservation Commission. Additionally, the historic nature of the building meant that three different city building codes pertained to different parts of the building, requiring careful detailing and understanding of technical requirements at key moments, including the steel penthouse which was required to remain structurally separate from the timber-framed spaces below.