529 Broadway is situated at the northwest corner of Broadway and Spring Street in Manhattan, one the most trafficked intersections in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District. Tourists and locals both frequent the neighborhood for its architectural charm and large retail attractions. The two-story taxpayer building that most recently occupied this corner was one of the few substantial gaps in the street wall of lower Broadway. Recently-completed, 529 Broadway is six stories tall at the street wall, with a gross square footage of approximately 52,000.
From 1852 to 1935, the site was home to the Prescott House, a large hotel in what was then the city’s entertainment district. Its Spring Street facade initially stretched 125 feet down the block and, in 1872, was expanded an additional 50 feet. Within a few decades of the hotel’s construction, the city’s entertainment district shifted north and the Prescott House was converted to an office building. In this process, the building was altered beyond recognition except for the 1872 addition. Now its own building, the addition stands today as 99 Spring Street.
19TH CENTURY ADVANCEMENTS IN BUILDING TECHNOLOGY
To the west of 99 Spring Street is 101 Spring Street, a celebrated example of 19th century cast iron construction. This building was constructed in 1872, the same year as the Prescott House’s addition. The startling difference in the architecture of these two buildings reveals a rapid advancement of building technology in a mere twenty years – the time between the Prescott House’s completion (in 1852) and the completion of these two structures in 1872.
During those twenty years, cast iron’s role evolved from decorative to structural. This is evidenced in the contrast between the imaginatively ornate lintels that crown 99 Spring Street’s small punched masonry wall openings and the structural system of 101 Spring’s proto-modern facade, which permits giant spans of glazing. The design of 529 Broadway honors both of these styles and celebrates the rapid rate of technological innovation that their juxtaposition demonstrates.
A CONTEMPORARY TWIST
However, this appearance evolves, and a glass and aluminum curtain wall is gradually revealed. At the eastern end of the facade, the glazing ratio reflects that of 101 Spring Street and many other cast iron buildings that populate the district. The terra cotta elements dematerialize from west to east, but the curtain wall construction is consistent across the entire building, allowing for the rain screen’s effortless transformation. The curtain wall also serves as the building’s enclosure and is designed to have superior insulation performance.
The glass and aluminum curtain wall behind the terra cotta screen serves as the building’s enclosure, allowing the screen to effortlessly transform across the facade.
As the rain screen’s apertures grow, the imprint of the historic masonry openings remains visible as a printed lace pattern, applied to an interlayer within the insulated curtain wall glass. Additionally, protruding aluminum frames emerge to echo certain original window openings of the Prescott House.
By embracing a historic building material in conjunction with contemporary modeling and fabrication processes, BKSK has crafted a bold and modern design that also celebrates its historic context. When presented in 2013 to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which unanimously approved the design, one commissioner described it as “a brilliant piece of architecture” with another adding that it was “as exciting a building as I’ve seen [in my time] on the committee.”