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Skyhouse, New York, USA

David Hotson Architect

Skyhouse, New York, USA
By Raymund Ryan -

As you exit the elevator into the vestibule of the Skyhouse, you realize, in an instant, that you have entered an extraordinary architectural construct. Towards the top of a late nineteenth century tower in Lower Manhattan, you find yourself in an all-white world surrounded by contiguous wall segments that fold and tilt and soar. A kind of crystalline plaster tent is housed within the preserved volume of the old building with few tectonic details or evidence of construction on view. You then peer upward into a high oculus offering a glimpse of Frank Gehry’s metal-clad Beekman Tower (now known as 8 Spruce Street) glittering far above against a clear blue sky.
You proceed into a unique and expansive penthouse apartment. It occupies the entire top floor of the former American Tract Society headquarters, an evangelical organization situated here in what was once Newspaper Row, a cluster of early skyscrapers housing publishing companies immediately east of New York City Hall. The apartment extends laterally to a rectangular envelope punctured by large arched windows (previously a kind of loggia ran around the building, between these arches and a smaller inner enclosure). The apartment - it truly is a Sky House - also extends vertically such that three extra floors are today inserted into the volume of the single, pitched and hipped roof.
All external apertures have been maintained and no major new insertions made into the envelope of the historic building. Instead, the interior has been infiltrated with a complex set of walls and floors so that this dwelling-in-the-sky becomes a spatial enfilade extending in all directions, a labyrinth of unexpected adjacencies and of almost telescopic views out to Manhattan monuments. One of the most dramatic moments is when you walk out across a bridge with sheer glass balustrades to a tiny mezzanine known as The Nest. From up there, nestled next to a functioning fireplace, you look down several stories into the...

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