Narrow House: creativity turning limitations into possibilities
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Narrow House: creativity turning limitations into possibilities

A long, extremely narrow house in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood

Only If

Narrow House: creativity turning limitations into possibilities
By Redazione The Plan -

Narrow House can be seen as a prototype, a model for using residual urban spaces, and an example of how creativity can transform the limitations of a lot into possibilities. The home, which is 100 feet (30.5 m) long, is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and was designed by architectural and urban planning studio Only If. As the name indicates, Narrow House is extremely narrow at just 13 feet, 4 inches (4 m) wide, which is why special architectural solutions were needed to make the project both feasible and comply with regulations. And it’s these factors that make the project so important, given that there are so many residual lots of this kind scattered throughout the city that could also be developed with specific architectural propositions fueled by creativity. The project began with over six months of searching for undervalued and residual spaces to be transformed into spaces for living. The result is a building characterized by its black stucco façade with large windows and the absence of interior walls.


Designing light and space

Narrow House, Only If ©Iwan Baan, courtesy of Only If

The greatest challenges facing the architects were maximizing natural light inside the home and organizing the distribution of spaces and circulation. The answer to the first problem was a skillful use of windows facing the street and the backyard, and an open lightwell in the middle of the plan with a perforated steel staircase. Both make it possible for daylight, as well as nature, to enter deep inside the home.

The staircase is also an integral part of how space is organized, with it connecting the staggered floors of the house, each with its own function. The ground floor, raised slightly above street level, for example, is an unbroken passage between the living, dining, and kitchen areas, ending at a glass pivot door that opens to the rear yard.

On the upper floors are two bedrooms and a study. Since there are no internal walls, to make the bedrooms private and out of sight from the staircase, plywood volumes were created with the dual function of both closets and bathrooms. In turn, the privacy of these spaces is provided by pocket doors. The absence of walls meant that the architects needed to find other ways to give the building lateral stability. The building is therefore braced at both the front and rear, with three diagonal braces also visible behind the front façade.

Although Narrow House is located in a densely built neighborhood, it offers its residents a new relationship with nature:

“With its large-format windows, the landscape has an unexpected presence inside the house - says studio director Karolina Czeczek -. The change of seasons, shadows, colors, and movement of the trees keep us very aware of the natural environment in an otherwise densely built neighborhood.”

Narrow House, Only If ©Naho Kubota Study, courtesy of Only If

>>> Read an extract from an article about Casa El Claro from THE PLAN 141.


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Location: New York, USA
Architects: Only If
Team: Karolina Czeczek, Matthew Davis, Adam Frampton, Jedy Lau, Francesca Pagliaro, Jon Siani, Yue Zhang
Completion: 2021

Structural Engineer:
Reuther+Bowen, PC
MEP Engineer: PlusGroup Consulting Engineering PLLC
Lighting Consultant: Dot Dash 

Photography by Iwan Baan and Naho Kubota, courtesy of Only If

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