We last covered 550 Clinton Avenue when the plans were approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission a few weeks ago. Today, we have an interview with the project’s architect Morris Adjmi, illuminating the challenges of building a new tower in a landmarked district. We also have a fresh rendering of the site, depicting 550 Clinton Avenue as approved by the LPC. YIMBY in bold.
Would you please introduce your building to us?
550 Clinton Street is a 29-story residential building that bridges Pacific Park, a major mixed-use development in Prospect Heights Brooklyn, and the smaller-scale structures of the nearby Clinton Hill neighborhood.
What was the influence of your design of the building?
Comprising a base and tower, the building wraps around a block it shares with the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew—a local landmark since its completion in 1891 and an officially designated landmark since 1981. 550’s design is largely shaped by the Romanesque ecclesiastical complex as part of an agreement to transfer air rights to the tower’s site. The gently torquing tower preserves and frames views of the church’s distinctive belfry, whose columns inspired the sculptural profile of the concrete panels that clad the new building. Though it joins Pacific Park in introducing a new architectural scale to this part of Brooklyn, 550 Clinton is still defined by its context and tied to the neighborhood’s history.
Our excitement about the fine-tuned massing results from the elongation of the tapering at the tower base. And, staying true to the project’s attitude toward the church belfry as a significant marker in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, MA believes that the new massing maintains the framing of the Vanderbilt Avenue view corridor while creating a more elegant tower silhouette.
What revisions did you make to the proposal to secure passage through the LPC?
Responding to comments from the LPC Public Hearing on January 9th, Morris Adjmi Architects embraced the council-members’ comments on 550 Clinton Avenue and found that returning to the massing of the tower afforded the team an opportunity to refine the design and to further strengthen the project’s relationship to The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthews.
The first LPC Public Hearing remarks relating to the Morris Adjmi-designed residential podium and tower also proposed a continued fostering of the harmonious relationship between the two buildings through their use of materials and shared formal languages.
How has the Saint Luke’s and Saint Matthew’s Church influenced the building’s design?
While the new tower will frame the church belfry, the church informs the materiality and façade organization of the proposed 550 Clinton Avenue. Borrowing from the polychromatic façade of St. Luke’s and St. Matthew’s, MA continued to refine the palette of the façade system to further reflect the variety and richness of the materials present in the church. Cast with a multi-colored aggregate that echoes the colorful red Scotch granite, dark brownstone, and lighter sandstone used in the construction of the church, the panels shift from thick to thin as they ascend the tower around large bays of floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a subtle tripartite scheme that becomes more evident when sunlight falls across the building facade.
What was the most challenging aspect of restoring the Saint Luke’s and Saint Matthew’s Church?
The church’s Belfry has been seen as a beacon both for the community of Clinton Hill and for this project in general. The belfry, due to its exposure high above the ground level, has suffered severe deterioration, particularly the decorative colonette shafts. Due to the level of deterioration and the repetitive nature of the colonette elements, replacement of these units in cast stone has been determined to best and most appropriate repair. Cast Stone will allow for the visual cohesion of the replaced shafts as well as a way to provide a stronger material at these structural applications. As with the rest of the primary façade, the belfry will otherwise be repaired with retooling. The retooling of brownstone has been successfully employed on other New York City Landmarks such as Trinity Church (1846) and St. Ann & the Holy Trinity (1847) in Brooklyn. We believe the proposed restoration will be high-quality and appropriate to the church’s status as an individually designated landmark.
At the base, the panels shift horizontally across the facade of the podium, which features ground floor commercial space as well as its own twisting corner that brings the lower structure into alignment with the context of the walk-ups on Clinton Avenue.
What are your goals for this project and when do you think we can expect completion?
With these considerations in response to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, we anticipate that the project will successfully integrate into the neighborhood through thoughtful contribution to both the existing scale of Clinton Hill and the exciting future context projected along Atlantic Avenue.
Construction permits have not been filed yet for the new building. Demolition still needs to take place on site, and construction will likely last three to four years once starting in earnest.