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Thread: 401-403 Greenwich St (TriBeCa) - 1st Ever Glass-Brick bldg - by Joseph Pell Lombardi

  1. #1
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Default 401-403 Greenwich St (TriBeCa) - 1st Ever Glass-Brick bldg - by Joseph Pell Lombardi

    He who builds with glass bricks may do it in Tribeca

    Rendering of Joseph Pell Lombardi’s design for a glass apartment building for 401-403 Greenwich St.
    The bricks will be made of glass and held together with mortar. Lombardi is working with Owens Corning on
    the glass engineering.

    By Julie Shapiro
    February 20 - 26, 2009

    Joseph Pell Lombardi’s design for a new six-story building in Tribeca has all the hallmarks of the historic neighborhood: brick arches, tall windows and fine detailing on the cornice and storefront.

    But unlike the neighborhood’s centuries-old buildings, the new building Lombardi designed for 401-403 Greenwich St. will be made entirely of glass. That means glass bricks stacked to form the facade; glass bricks fanned to form arches; glass columns dividing glass windows; stippled glass trim; and even glass doorknobs.

    “We want you to see through it, to see structurally how it all works,” Lombardi told Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee last week.

    Lombardi designed the building between Hubert and Beach Sts. for a British developer he declined to name. The Glass Atelier, as Lombardi calls it, will offer a clear view not only of the building’s structure but also of its occupants.

    “If I want privacy…I would pull the drapes,” Lombardi said.

    The project is not a sure thing yet, as Lombardi needs the approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, because he plans to demolish a building in the Tribeca West Historic District. Lombardi presented his plan to C.B. 1’s Landmarks Committee this week, seeking their advisory approval.

    The committee was split on the project, concerned about everything from the modern design to the practicality of building with glass.

    “I’m nervous,” said Roger Byrom, chairperson of the committee. “Are there other examples where people have built in this form, Joe, so we know that the doors are going to hang and the windows are going to open?”

    “As far as we can do in our research,” Lombardi replied, “it is unique unto the world.”

    Lombardi worked with engineers at Owens Corning for six months to figure out how the building will, as Byrom put it, “stick together.” The building will be made of steel beams, which along with the mechanicals will be coated in concrete so as to appear ghost-like behind the glass exterior. A thin layer of mortar, lightly tinted blue, will join the solid glass bricks. Even the window sashes and frames will be a transparent acrylic, while the sides of the building will be a frosted glass.

    The project’s English developer intends to put two retail stores on the ground floor and eight rental apartments above, but the building may house all offices at first because new residential units are not allowed in northern Tribeca. The city is looking rezone the neighborhood to allow residential uses as of right. If the rezoning falls through or takes too long, Lombardi may apply for a variance.

    Lombardi hopes to begin construction this summer and finish a year later. He would not give a price tag but said, “There’s no question the financing is there.” While condo prices have fallen, Lombardi pointed out that Manhattan’s rental market has stayed steadier, indicating the project’s viability.

    The unnamed English developer, 102 Green Street L.L.C., is working with Lombardi on two other projects: Converting the former Dia Museum on W. 22nd St. into a nonprofit display space called COG, and restoring a landmarked building at 102 Greene St. that was heavily damaged in a 1950s fire.

    The site where Lombardi wants to build his Glass Atelier currently houses a recent six-story loft building at 401 Greenwich, which he would strip to its steel beams and mechanicals, and an older two-story building at 403 Greenwich that he would demolish. The older building was built as a four-story row house in the 19th century, then reduced to a two-story building with a loading dock in 1947. In the 1960s, the building changed again, with the loading dock replaced by a glass storefront.

    Lombardi has developed and designed many historic restorations in Tribeca including the Mohawk Atelier at Hudson and Duane Sts.

    Members of C.B. 1’s Landmarks Committee disagreed last Thursday over whether 403 Greenwich St. is worth preserving.

    “[It] is not something I think should be easily torn down,” said Bruce Ehrmann, co-chairperson of the committee. “It is not a completely incontextual building.”

    Michael Connolly, a committee member, said the building was not historically significant.

    “In fact, I think it’s worth tearing it down and putting something else up — it’s just a question of what,” Connolly said.

    Connolly liked the design of the new glass building, which looks a bit like a sparkling ice sculpture, but others were less enthusiastic.

    “I see a really thin line between really artistic and really cute, and I’m not quite sure where it fits in,” said Brian Lutz, a public member. “I’m not quite sure I’m ready to see an all-glass building in Tribeca.”

    Ehrmann, the committee co-chairperson, called the design clever, but he had a deeper “socio-aesthetic” concern, which he admitted went beyond the committee’s purview.

    The concern, he said, is “the notion of an all-glass building…with people totally visible inside and out and everyone looking in and everyone looking out, while a whole raft of homeless people are on the street in a depression. I find it rather 2007 for the current era.”

    In the committee’s final vote, two people were against the project, one was for it and one abstained.

    Lombardi, speaking by phone after the meeting, said the all-glass structure isn’t as luxuriously expensive as it might sound. Glass bricks and columns are not much more expensive than their quotidian counterparts, and while the extra engineering costs more, it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as the custom curtain walls at other new buildings in the city.

    Glass bricks also have a higher fire rating and better sound insulation than glass curtain walls, he said.

    “I don’t really see that homeless bankers from the recession would be in a turmoil because they saw a beautiful building,” Lombardi said.

    Lombardi will present the design at Community Board 1’s full board meeting Feb. 24 and at the Landmarks Preservation Commission March 3.

    © 2009 Community Media, LLC

  2. #2
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    From curbed today...

    World's First Glass-Brick Building Proposed for Tribeca

    Friday, February 20, 2009, by Joey

    Tribeca has no shortage of zany architecture ideas ideas floating around—see the metal warehouse and the "stone cloud" penthouse—but the latest proposal from architect Joseph Pell Lombardi takes the cake: a traditional Tribeca building—six floors of brick arches, tall windows, etc.—made entirely out of glass. Even the bricks and doorknobs! The Downtown Express reports that the building was commissioned by an English developer and would take the place of a pair of buildings at 401-403 Greenwich Street. The Glass Atelier was presented to Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee, but it'll be up to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to decide if it gets built (the location is within the Tribeca West Historic District). Lombardi, who spent six months working with engineers figuring out how to keep the thing from shattering (hint: people living inside shouldn't throw stones), told the committee: "As far as we can do in our research, it is unique unto the world."

    The project will contain two retail stores and eight rental apartment above, though current zoning means that the units may have to be office space at first. Lombardi said he hopes to begin construction this summer and finish up in a year, adding, "There's no question the financing is there." Currently, the site houses a two-story building with a loading dock and a six-story loft building built in the '60s (top left). The smaller building would be demolished, and the loft building would be stripped to its steel beams and mechanicals, and then glassed (check out the bricks, top right). And what if the building's tenants don't want to be seen from the street? Said Lombardi, "If I want privacy…I would pull the drapes." Added a committee member, "I find it rather 2007 for the current era." The building will be presented to the LPC on March 3rd.

  3. #3


    I truly respect this development for the ingenuity, innovation, and budget. I like the idea of paying respect to the neighborhood but I'm not sold on the glass bricks. I don't think renderings justly portray how this will look in real-life. Once this is built I imagine this will be one of two extremes, either brilliant and a landmark, or tacky and an eyesore.

  4. #4


    I love the moron committee member that said it seemed a little 2007.

    "It's not drab and depressing enough for a recession. Make it uglier."

  5. #5


    Isn't the existing building nice enough? It looks either new or recently renovated to the tits.

  6. #6


    Renzo Piano in Tokyo

  7. #7

    Post Greenwich St. - First Ever Glass-Brick Building

    An all glass curtain wall in Boston: an all glass facade (IMHO) can look great among neighboring buildings of with more traditional stone facades. The web link show an all glass facade among more traditonal buildings in Boston; "a diamond in a rock pile".
    Last edited by infoshare; February 20th, 2009 at 05:14 PM.

  8. #8


    The Boston Apple store is much more visibly glass though. Glass block buildings have a much different aesthetic that isn't so obvious.

  9. #9
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    This is going to be an interesting building to watch!

    Proposed See-Through Tribeca Loft Draws Mixed Reviews

    By Matt Dunning
    POSTED FEBRUARY 20, 2009

    Restoration architect Joseph Pell Lombardi has transformed more than half-a-dozen of Tribeca’s industrial shells into high-priced condo developments. His latest project could not be more of a departure.

    “The Glass Atelier will be one of the only buildings in the world where you can experience the façade from both the outside and the inside of the building,” said Lombardi as he presented his proposed design for a six-story, loft-style apartment building on Greenwich Street to Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee on Feb. 12.

    The building’s entire façade would be made with clear glass bricks, while its steel frame, covered in white concrete to appear “ghost-like,” hides in plain sight behind them. The side and rear walls would be made of frosted, glass bricks. Lombardi said the apartment interiors would be obscured by the pitch of the bricks. Though the glass brick façade is unique to the city, the building’s design—including its arched windows and decorative cornices—borrow heavily from other utilitarian loft buildings in Tribeca, such as the Mohawk Building at the corner of Hudson and Duane Streets.

    Because his proposed building would be in the Tribeca West Historic District, Lombardi needs approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    The developers plan for 10 rental apartments in the building, with two retail stores on the ground floor. But the city has yet to rezone northern Tribeca to allow residential construction without a special permit, so the developers are calling the Glass Atelier an office building. If proposed rezoning is not passed by the time the building is completed, Lombardi said, the developers would apply for a special permit from the city.

    In the meantime, they plan to make way for the building by tearing out all but the steel frame of a 6-story office building at 401 Greenwich St., constructed just seven years ago, and demolishing a vacant two-story building next door.

    To make the case for a variance, developers normally must make show that their project would not be viable as a commercial building.

    Contacted by the Trib, a tenant at 401 Greenwich Street said he was unaware of the owners’ intentions.

    “This is news to me,” said Lenny Kushnir, whose furniture store, Siberian Living, opened in the building in 2003. Kushnir, who also has offices on the second floor, said he has four years left on his lease.

    “I don’t want to move,” Kushnir said. “We’ve been here six years, and I feel like we’ve become a part of the neighborhood. I don’t want to leave my space, and I don’t want to leave Tribeca.”

    A former tenant, who asked not to be identified, said his offices had been in the building until last year. The tenant said he left the building because the owners refused to repair flood damage in his office. He said was never told about the plans for the Glass Atelier before he moved out, and now believes the owners purposefully delayed fixing the damage in his office.

    “I feel like I was forced out,” the tenant said. “This is exactly what I had thought was going on.”

    Lombardi said he was told the building’s owners had contacted the tenants about the proposed new building.

    “I’m sure [the owners] will work with them,” Lombardi said.

    Lombardi denied that the owners were dragging their feet on fixing the problem. He said he was personally asked to “look into the flooding problem in that office.”

    “We were getting ready to go ahead with that work, and then [the tenant] moved out,” Lombardi said. “The ownership was definitely prepared to go in and fix that space.”

    Lombardi identified the developers as DG Reality Holdings but would not provide names of the principals. A lawyer for DG Reality Holdings not immediately return a call Friday morning for comment.

    Another tenant, Neil Mautone, owner of the modeling agency NYC Red, said the owners of the office building “were very above-board with us. We were told from the beginning that the developer may be doing something with the building, but that they weren’t sure what.”

    Mautone said he was told that he may have an option to extend his lease after 2010, but that it would depend entirely on the developers’ plans for the building.

    Following the presentation to the CB1 committee, members expressed mixed feelings about the building. Two opposed it, one did not, and a fourth member abstained. The full board will vote on the plan at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

    “I’m extremely nervous,” committee chairman Roger Byrom said, adding that he worried developers would discover, in mid-construction, that certain elements of the building were not physically possible, too expensive or too time-consuming.

    “We find it intriguing, but we’d like assurances on as many fronts as we can give us confidence that this thing is going to get built in a way that will stand the test of time,” Byrom said.

    Jeffrey Ehrlich, a public member of the committee, asked how Lombardi planned to conceal electrical wires, plumbing, heating pipes and other unattractive elements of a building that normally are hidden in the walls. With about a dozen sample glass bricks stacked in front of him, Lombardi said the point of constructing an all-glass building was to show off—not hide—the building’s structural elements in a creative way.

    “You will see the shadow of those elements,” Lombardi said, adding that the pipes and conduits would be installed behind the frosted glass covering the steel frame, revealing only their vague outline. “We want the structure to show through."

    The two-story building that would be torn down, 403 Greenwich Street, was constructed in the at the turn of the 20th century as a four-story row house and reduced to two stories in 1947. Later, the bottom floor was converted into a storefront where it housed Tribeca Office Supply until several years ago. Committee co-chairman Bruce Ehrmann said he could not support destruction of the two-story building because its origins date back to 1900.

    But committee member Michael Connolly said he believed the building’s design was sound, if unconventional, and that he felt obligated to support a glass replica building, having supported the construction of a steel-clad duplicaiton of a brick warehouseon Laight Street last fall.

    Lombardi will have to present the Glass Atelier to the full Community Board Feb. 24. He is scheduled for a March 3 hearing with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    Lombardi said financing for the 26,000 square foot project was in place. The building will cost between $7.8 million and $9.1 million, he said.

  10. #10
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    “If I want privacy…I would pull the drapes,” Lombardi said.

    But then again, I bet most of the residents will want to do that anyway. Then the building will looks weird with all of the different drapes and curtains. So it will look good right before the residents move in.

  11. #11


    How will this thing be insulated?

  12. #12


    Quote Originally Posted by Alonzo-ny View Post
    How will this thing be insulated?
    Glass blocks are typically hollow, and the volume of air inside each block provides a degree of insulation. - bill

  13. #13
    Kings County Loyal BrooklynLove's Avatar
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    It looks awful. This guy must be a fan of the Seinfeld bubble boy. The glass etching graffiti artists are licking their chops.

  14. #14


    City Gives Glass Loft in Tribeca a Sparkling Review

    By Matt Dunning

    UPDATED May. 06

    Restoration architect Joseph Pell Lombardi’s bid to build a unique glass-clad apartment building in Tribeca cleared an all-important hurdle May 5. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the project, saying it is an appropriate addition to Tribeca's historic district.

    The “Glass Atelier,” a see-through, six-story building with a façade influenced by many of Tribeca’s 19th century Romanesque loft buildings, will go up on Greenwich Street between Beach and Hubert streets. To make way for the new project, a vacant two-story building at 403 Greenwich St. will be demolished and a six-story office building at 401 Greenwich St.—built just seven years ago—will be stripped to its steel frame.

    The project, proposed for the Tribeca West Historic District, required the commission's endorsement before work could begin. The commissioners approved the demolition and the new construction, calling Lombardi’s proposed building “thrilling” and “intriguing.”

    “It’s carefully done, and it’s sensitively done considering the scale and design of this district,” Commission chairman Robert Tierney said.


  15. #15


    It's a shame that the crappy, one-story building next to it won't be razed.

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