The conversion of a reinforced concrete structure dedicated for the storage of munitions at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to serve as the Headquarters for the Yard’s Development and Management Corporation posed both aesthetic and operational challenges.
The contemporary workplace demands an environment conducive for collective and individual participation by all. The commanding view of the former United State Navy Shipyard together with its Manhattan backdrop were presented as extensions of the Development Corporations offices on the eighth floor of their newly renovated building Number 77.
While one would consider the loft-like qualities of the former munitions’ storage building valuable for office use, close examination showed a restrictive floor-to-floor height and non-existent environmental support, the building lacked building services necessary for the contemporary workplace.
Finding space between the floors, and walls, of the building, for organizing the utilities usual to the workplace proved a challenge similar to the design of a warship’s hold; electrical and communication services, fresh air, heating and cooling, ambient and task lighting, sprinkler and fire alarm, sound suppression and control services were all tightly managed in a dedicated “thin” services layer hung from the existing structural concrete ceiling. An investigation of the concrete floor slab prohibited trenching.
Program teams were arranged according to their activities, with departments requiring privacy and security housed in spaces close to the building core. Spaces hosting collective efforts were presented in floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed conference rooms, each one branded with a United States Navy ship constructed or repaired in the Navy Yard. A “viewing platform” at the northeast corner overlooks the Yard’s central drydocks, allowing prospective tenants a birds-eye view of the Yard, while serving as an informal meeting area for BNYDC staff.
Workspace furnishing; desks, file, and break-out tables were oriented to create an alternative “other” workspace, encouraging cross-departmental collaboration.
Our spartan interior and project organization suggest a design strategy that avoids obsolescence, by design.
The office re-centers the BNYDC in the heart of the redeveloping Brooklyn Navy Yard, showcasing the Yard’s colorful history and vibrant tenants, while supporting the Yard’s dynamic future, and also sets a “building standard” for future tenants of the Yard.
Across the United States and abroad, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects has
designed and built a variety of public and private projects including museums, not-for-profit
cultural facilities, parks, transportation terminals, government facilities, and performing arts
centers. We view each project as an opportunity for design excellence through which we
refine our understanding of practice with each unique set of constraints and conditions.
Projects include US Land Ports of Entry at Champlain and Massena, NY, the Visitor’s Center
and Master Plan for the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, and The Dillon – an 83-unit
residential building in Midtown Manhattan.
The firm has received numerous awards including the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the NYC AIA Chapter Medal of Honor, the
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and a Special Recognition for Excellence
in Design from the New York City Art Commission.