Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: 5 East 95th Street, New York, NY

Architects: Zivkovic Associates Architects, PC, New York, NY; Don Zivkovic, AIA, principal; Brian Connolly, AIA, principal; John Simpson & Partners, London, England; John Simpson, RIBA, CVO, principal; Joanna Wachowiak, SARP, associate director

General Contractor: F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc., New York, NY

 

 

Awards
Sympathetic Addition

Winner: Zivkovic Associates Architects, PC, and John Simpson & Partners

Classicism in the City

By Hadiya Strasberg

One grand early-20th-century building after another sits in the Upper East Side Historic Landmark District in New York City. A few were once single-family mansions, which now serve as schools, religious centers, apartments and condominiums. The Amory S. Carhart Mansion, designed by renowned master architect Horace Trumbauer and constructed from 1913 to 1916, is one such mansion that was adapted for use as a school and, more recently, was renovated into condominiums.

5 East 95th Street, the plot adjacent to the Carhart Mansion, passed hands a few times – from Ernesto Fabbri to Goodhue Livingston to the Lycée Français de New York – before it was purchased by a Hong Kong-based developer in 2001. While the first two owners never built homes there, in 1957, the Lycée Français constructed a three-story white-brick annex to the Carhart Mansion, which it had purchased in 1937.

The developer purchased both of the private school's properties on East 95th Street in 2001, intending to reintroduce luxury living to the block. The company demolished the unsympathetic 1950s structure in order to build an addition to the Carhart Mansion that complemented its style and materials.

Two firms that have played key roles in reviving traditional architecture on both sides of the Atlantic were involved on the project: Zivkovic Associates Architects, PC, of New York, NY, and London, England-based John Simpson & Partners. "In 2001, Principal Brian Connolly did a feasibility study, which was revisited in 2002, that established the basic design concept for the building, including its Classical character, overall massing and interior planning," says Don Zivkovic, AIA, principal at Zivkovic Associates Architects. "Then later, in collaboration with Simpson, the design was developed. We also restored the Carhart Mansion, which involved cleaning the exterior masonry of pollution, re-pointing the brick and masonry, installing a new roof and reconfiguring some of the interior to make it contiguous with the new building." The Zivkovic & Associates project team included project architects John Spencer and Pargav Vardanian, as well as Frank Benavides, Laura Cassar and Viktor Kolisnichenko.

John Simpson & Partners was brought on board in 2003 for the firm's expertise in Classical design. "The owner wanted to ensure that the addition was first-rate," says Principal John Simpson, RIBA, CVO, "and for 25 years we have designed almost exclusively buildings that are Classical." It was the firm's first foray into building in the U.S.

In 1993, a large portion of the Upper East Side was designated as the Carnegie Hill Historic District; five years later the French Neoclassical-style Carhart Mansion became a city Landmark. As such, the addition to the mansion needed to undergo review by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The commission was interested in seeing an addition that was distinguishable from the Trumbauer design, something with which the architects were happy to oblige, though on their own terms. "The original concept was to create two interconnected buildings," says Simpson. "The Carhart Mansion and the new construction were to complement each other without the new building just mimicking the old."

"On a block of Landmark properties," adds Zivkovic, "we were careful to respect those buildings and especially relate the addition to the Carhart Mansion, but the best additions acknowledge their counterpart while having their own forms and identity."

One concern that the commission raised was that the addition would be an inferior copy or synthetic version of the original building. To address this, the architects specified self-supporting, load-bearing-masonry construction in Indiana limestone for the two façades that can be viewed from the street, a construction technique that had not been widely employed in New York City since the 1930s. Significantly, Simpson builds only in load-bearing-masonry construction. A specialist in load-bearing-masonry construction, New York, NY-based structural engineer Donald Friedman was consulted. "Donald recommended a structural concrete frame behind the 2-ft.-thick masonry," says Zivkovic, "which eliminates the need for expansion joints. This means that the unsightly caulking of 2-in.-wide expansion joints is also unnecessary. Instead, a slip-joint was made, which allowed for deeper reveals, like those of the Carhart Mansion." The scheme was approved in 2003. (For more on the LPC's decision, see "The Art of Conversation," Period Homes, September 2006, page 18.)

Along with picking up on the materials and building techniques that Trumbauer used in the construction of the Carhart Mansion, the addition also responds to the original building's proportions. "The design of the façade of the new building picks up guiding lines from the Carhart," says Simpson.

"The floor levels, the cornice line and the scale of the windows correspond with those of the Carhart," says Zivkovic. "But while the Carhart reads vertically, we designed the addition to read more horizontally relative to the Trumbauer building." While the Carhart has a wider frontage with a giant order, the addition achieves its architectural power by the way its windows step in toward the center as they go up the building. This gives the building its monumentality and makes up for its narrower frontage compared to its neighbor. It also gives it the power to assert itself as a separate building along the street.

The rear façade is constructed of pale yellow brick that matches that of the Carhart Mansion. "It has a solid and robust feel in keeping with the rest of the building," says Simpson. There is considerable ornamental cast ironwork at this façade, including balconies and a staircase with anthemion motifs and 6-ft.-tall brackets that support the balcony, which was fabricated by Yorkshire, England-based Chris Topp & Co.

Height restrictions determined by New York City's zoning laws dictated a creative solution to fitting the maximum square footage allowable. "The way the mass came together was partially determined by zoning codes," says Zivkovic. "We ended up with volumes determined by the city, but worked with those to make the building cohesive and aesthetically pleasing." The main façades are 60 ft. tall, but 20-ft. setbacks allowed the architects to build to 75 ft., terracing the building to break up the scale and to complement the scale of the Trumbauer building. Simpson's signature broken pediment with an arch, which he also used to great effect on the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, proclaims itself at the third-floor level looking east along East 95th Street, taking advantage of an adjacent courtyard. There is a similar broken pediment set back from the main façade on the roof, while another pediment tops the elevator shaft. Set at 90-degree angles to one another, the pediments form a "mini 'Palatine Hill' on the roof that reveals itself as one approaches the building from the east," says Simpson. "This three-dimensional quality makes the townhouse more of an active player along East 95th Street, quietly proclaiming further individuality to the new building without it appearing to be in competition with its neighbors. It also alludes to the other New York City tradition usually associated with the taller buildings, which always finish with a flourish at the top."

Though the setbacks aren't easily spotted from the street, a courtyard to the immediate east of the addition better reveals them. Owned by the adjacent House of the Redeemer and designed by Grosvenor Atterbury in 1914, the courtyard was another Landmark neighbor that needed to be addressed by the design. "With the addition, we tried to improve on the courtyard," says Zivkovic. "It allowed us a third façade, which we were delighted about and took advantage of."

The architects also took advantage of the existing interior spaces in their design. The Carhart Mansion's grand foyer with its curved staircase, a library on the third floor and a bedroom on the ground floor were restored and used as benchmarks for the interiors of the new building. Four expansive apartments are laid out across the two buildings, all of which overlap the new and the historic structures. They range from one to three stories and from 5,290 to 14,550 sq.ft. with 10 to 17 rooms and three to five bedrooms each. Ceilings heights of 9 to 18 ft. were kept consistent with those of the Carhart Mansion and provide a dramatic sequence of spaces, says Zivkovic.

The lavish interiors feature high-end traditionally styled components: Doric cornice moldings with dentils, solid-wood doors with Beaux Arts-style hardware, tiled bathrooms and honed French limestone, French terra cotta or antique wood flooring. Each apartment has wood-burning fireplaces and luxury kitchens with solid-wood cabinets, custom stone countertops and sinks from Danbury, CT-based Waterworks, Inc.

Private exterior spaces were as significant as the interiors; each apartment has a private terrace, garden or balcony. The penthouse enjoys the largest outdoor space, with 5,290 sq.ft. of roof terraces on multiple levels. The Classical design was extended to the terraces, which feature pergolas, trellises, a solarium and a Classical temple façade in limestone. "The temple front design is based on the Temple of Isis in Pompeii," says Simpson, "with four Doric columns and a carved honeysuckle in the arch breaking the pediment. We incorporated the same floral motif on the exterior ironwork."

Construction of the Carhart Mansion's neighbor was completed in the winter of 2005. "The most challenging aspect of the design process was that it was on the fast track," says Zivkovic, "and construction forged ahead as we were continuing to design. It's difficult to get something cohesive to come out of that, but I'm very pleased with the result." For Simpson, the real feat was utilizing load-bearing-masonry construction in New York City. "Everybody said that it couldn't be done," he says, "but happily everybody did their best to make it work." 5 East 95th Street is the first Classical building with load-bearing masonry to be built in New York City since the 1970s.  

 

 

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