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Renovation of Historic Neo-Grec Townhouse in Manhattan


Renovating this historic 1879 Neo-Grec townhouse in Manhattan’s Upper East Side the architects and designers from Michael K Chen Architecture cleverly balanced the historical context of the building with innovative technological advantages and elegant contemporary design.

Machine-produced decoration and crisp, incised ornamental surfaces that are characteristic of the Neo-Grec style entwine with design works by emerging and independent American designers and studios and iconic pieces of modern design from Italy and Scandinavia. The multi-leveled house is conceived as both a family home and a setting for large-scale entertaining and events – so its dynamic multidimensional layout offers a great variety of focal angles, intriguing custom- made design solutions and inventive circulation of air, light, color, and movement.

Warm and classic features of the design entwine with modern art installations and custom-made structures, rich textures, materials and warm colors compose an ambiance of welcoming luxury and specific charm. A visual and spatial connection between floors is established by the beautiful brass-railed staircase, which finishes on top with a site-specific installation by artist Sarah Oppenheimer, integrated into the top floor of the building.

Skylight opening installation that introduces a skewed angle into the overall straight-lined geometry of the building and secures intriguing and crisp-blue sky link between the outside and inside of the home. And the exterior of this hose is beautiful, innovative and artistic as the interior decor composition of the multiple-floor premises.

Sculptured terracotta and amazing vertical gardens entwine to create the renovated facade – shell of the project –unique as the building’s origin and interior decor compositions. Designed in collaboration with SUNY conservation botanists, the vertical garden installation hosts native woodland flora including federally endangered species aiming to create an urban conservation gardening experience that will reduce the impact of climate change and extension of species. The geometry of the facade is based on extensive environmental analysis and complicated nano-gradients of temperature, exposure, and moisture for a variety of native plantings.  Photography by Alan Tansey


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