It's the architects' new lobby for landscape designer Edwina von Gal in Long Island City, New York
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 11/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
The old warehouses, abandoned factories, and deserted streets of Long Island City, New York, made it a picture-perfect setting for a recent episode of The Sopranos that featured Tony crossing the East River for a tête-à-tête with a mob boss. The car pulls up, however, not at a shady loading dock or gritty storage facility but in front of a decidedly polished one-story structure hovering over an austere gravel yard. Seems that the boss—or perhaps just the location scout—had cultivated an appreciation for contemporary architecture.
When not making cameos on HBO, this structure is actually the new entrance to a three-story industrial building recently converted into work space for landscape designer Edwina von Gal. The renovation and lobby addition were done by Keenen/Riley, the firm of John Keenen and Museum of Modern Art curator Terence Riley—whose architecture and design exhibitions will be appearing at MoMA's temporary home, a mile away, through 2005.
The original entry sequence of von Gal's building was rather unwelcoming. Once inside the front door, she immediately had to ascend a flight of steps to the main level, which is actually the second story. To improve upon this off-putting sequence and gain a reception area in the process, K/R erected an elevated addition that cantilevers over the gravel front yard. Von Gal now ascends a painted steel exterior staircase to reach a lobby at the height of the main level. Although actually resting on a concrete support that protrudes from the original structure, the 900-square-foot addition looks like it's hovering off the ground, explains Keenen: "It appears light in contrast to the main building's heavy masonry."
K/R set the addition 5 feet apart from the original building and connected the two with a hallway. The reveal highlights distinctions between old and new, as do differing materials and treatments. The addition is clad predominantly in panels of lightweight composite board made to look like cement, contrasting with the brick of the main building. And the concrete floor, polished in the addition, was tinted dark red in the main building.
The lobby's interior, executed with consultant Joe D'Urso, meshes with the main building's industrial chic. Across from the limestone-topped reception desk, a gallerylike area is populated by Pierre Paulin chairs, Maya Lin and Warren McArthur tables, an Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni lamp, and an Ellsworth Kelly sculpture, a roster worthy of even MoMA's collection.