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mott street townhouse nyc
curtain wall - normatively deviant masonry

in collaboration with ric scofidio
10 000 SF
$10 000 000
under construction

straight-jacketed by building department and zoning requirements in the little italy historic district the mott street townhouse project, currently under construction in manhattan’s nolita neighborhood, was developped as a pragmatic study on the monolithic ideals in architecture and the factuals of contemporary curtain-wall construction.

bound by the city’s requirement to provide a façade of “predominantly masonry” and by the physical constraints of a 20’ x 60’ footprint, grand mineral curtains were created in a collaborative design process that can be drawn by future tenants to allow the influx of a modulated maximum amount of light and air to penetrate the depth of the apartments, while simultaneously answering to the department’s endeavors to safe-guard the monolithic aspect of the neighborhood’s hole-punch windowed street-elevations.

the 8 storey construction is typologically pre-scribed by code and only expanded in so far as that all apartments are floor-through open plans and directly accessible by elevator. due to their sectional tightness the monolithical octroi for the outside is translated into the idea of seamlessness of yacht-monocoque construction for the interiors in which all furniture is inbuilt into a 40’ wall that stretches the depth of the otherwise clutter-free rentals. two floors of retail at street level and second floor are topped by a simplex and two duplex apartments with a set-back terrace and roof- and ground-floor gardens resting on a full-lot basement floor.

based on gottfried semper’s stoffwechsel-theory, which suggests a change in matter in the construction of architectural enclosures while employing the always same method of weaving from the early woven textile tents, over the pivotal caribbean woven straw hut, to structural 19th century masonry-bound walls, two phenomena lost in translation in this process were re-introduced into the contemporary understanding of the masonry curtain-wall:
that of flaccidity and translucency of the initial textile. today’s masonry walls are non-structural skins mimicking traditional masonry walls. mortar has been replaced by high performance silicones to enable these veneers to be suspended off of buildings at any given height.

at mott the code-required “mineral units bound by mortar” were replaced by japanese hand-cast recycled optical and borosilicate glass bricks, sporting a compressive strength of over ten times the stipulated comparative for traditional masonry, shimmed by laser-cut glass-fibre filled polycarbonate plates in a pre-stressed assembly in which embedded duplex-alloy stainless rods weave an expanded masonry-bound into a heavy, translucent and flaccid curtain with a 40% opening ratio. the resulting porosity of the motor-driven curtains allows a variety of overlay scenarios to control natural light and ventilation on the inside of the building while maintaining face to the street as a construction of predominantly masonry and a solidly monolithic appearance with a glow.