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“The Malt House” Mixed-Use Complex

Repurposing Vintage Harlem Breweries


“The Malt House” Mixed-Use Complex
By Michael Webb -

Peter Gluck founded the prolific design-build firm that bears his name, and his son Thomas is one of the five principals. Other top New York architects have gravitated to lower Manhattan; Gluck+ is based in West Harlem, a historic district to the north that is now a vibrant, multi-ethnic community. Industry was formerly concentrated in a neighborhood called Manhattanville, extending to the Hudson River, but most of its structures have been repurposed.

Over the past decade, the studio has worked with a local development company on the transformation of a cluster of four abandoned brewery buildings adjoining their office. The three-five story brick warehouses, built separately in the late 19th century and covering most of a city block, have no great architectural distinction but are a vital part of the urban fabric. They reinforce the sense of place and remind us of the days when much of Manhattan was a working-class city of European immigrants fresh off the boat – a past that has been largely erased in the lower half of the island, where luxury apartments, office towers and tourist attractions have replaced docks, tenements and sweatshops.

Beer was the lubricant that sustained the workers, and German immigrants seized the chance to demonstrate their skills. In 1917, the president of Bernheimer & Schwartz Pilsner Brewing company, proudly declared: “At the dawn of a new century, our high ceilings and large expanses of airy light will make the production of our golden nectar the envy of industry everywhere”. His timing was unfortunate: that was the year that war blighted the reputation of Germany in the U.S. and Congress passed the act that led to Prohibition, banning the sale in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933. Bootleggers replaced legitimate businesses and public consumption actually increased.

Gluck and his studio have enhanced those expanses of airy light and exploited the high ceilings to create The Malt...

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