Madison Avenue

The design for this two floor apartment combination lies at the coincidence of two events. Light and shadow. Light, as in getting it into the middle of a normally dark building type, the brownstone. Shadow as a way of tracing the movement of occupants as they block this light and their silhouetted shadows are traced onto room dividing screens. Following an analysis of the existing light distribution pattern of the top two floors, light transmitting glass elements were placed in the existing structure (walls, floor and roof) to “fill in” dark areas in the space. They were in the form of skylights, floor openings, additional windows and a stair. The light from the entire sky vault is considered except when it is mediated by neighboring buildings within the city. Light from windows is seen on the floor and passes through wall openings (a plan idea) and light from skylights is seen on the walls and passes through floor openings (a sectional idea). So the same idea is used to unify the space of one room to another and one floor to another while maintaining privacy. Giving an occupant the sense of being in a single space while functioning as a series of discrete rooms.When people move around within this new “filled in” light pattern, they create shadows or silhouettes. Whether they are crossing a room or walking up the stair their movement will be traced against a translucent surface. For the stair it will be an etched glass work surface near the kitchen or one of the full height sliding, translucent partitions that divide the space into rooms. These screens and the glass floor openings are always placed perpendicular to the direction of the light.All the functional aspects associated with an apartment, the kitchen appliances, laundry, bathroom fixtures, storage units and bookshelves are placed in the space according to the new light distribution profile. They are placed in the remaining darker areas on both floors, which are all adjacent to light areas. Providing light for the user and a silhouetted tracing of that user for other occupants of the apartment.

The glass stair at the center of the space was placed according to the light distribution pattern (and a verity of structural considerations). Its primary purpose beyond movement is to diffract light from the skylight above into the lower floor of the apartment. To promote this idea the stair structure is minimized, by hanging it from the floor opening.


© Standing Architecture