DXA Studio proposes prismatic glass addition for Willem de Kooning’s former Union Square home

November 8, 2017

Just a week after the pair of buildings at 827-831 Broadway was landmarked, not only for their cast-iron architecture but for their long cultural history that most notably includes serving as home to world-famous artist Willem de Kooning, the developer/owner has put forth a proposal for a four-story prismatic glass addition and landscaped roof terrace. Though the architects at DXA Studio say the modern topper’s reflectivity is representative of two phases of de Kooning’s work–his 1960s rural and pastoral landscapes as seen through the reflection of surrounding plantings and his late 1950s urban landscapes through the building reflections–local groups are not so convinced.

Current view of the buildings via Google Street View

In an email sent out yesterday, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation referred to the addition as “overwhelming in comparison to the building,” as it would nearly double its height. As he previously explained for 6sqft:

In August 2015, the buildings were acquired for $60 million by real estate investors Samson Klugman and Leo Tsimmer of Quality Capital and Caerus Group respectively. This corridor south of Union Square has recently become the epicenter of new tech-related development in New York, and Klugman and Tsimmer sought to cash in on the trend. When they filed plans to demolish the building and replace it with a 300-foot-tall retail and office tower, GVSHP submitted an emergency request to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the buildings.

This initial request was denied, but the LPC changed their minds last week due to the role the buildings played in the post-WWII art scene. In addition to de Kooning, other notable residents have included: artist Elaine de Kooning; abstract expressionist painters Larry Poons and Paul Jenkins; former Director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, William S. Rubin; and abstract expressionist artist Jules Olitski.

The owner had previously claimed that he’d file for “hardship” if the buildings were landmarked in order to demolish them or add on. However, as GVSHP points out, this claim is “undercut” by what looks like quite a pricey addition. The LPC does allow “minimally visible” additions–typically the rule is that they should not be visible from the street–but they will approve larger proposals if they’re deemed “appropriate.”

This appropriateness will be debated at a meeting of Community Board 2’s Landmarks Committee this coming Monday, November 13th. The Board will make a recommendation that they’ll present to the LPC at a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing. You can view DXA’s full proposal here >>


Renderings via DXA Studio

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