108 Leonard Street

108 Leonard is a beautiful Beaux Arts Building, located in Tribeca, Manhattan.  There are very few Beaux Arts buildings in Manhattan, and it's rare for one of these to be converted to condominium.  

 

My design strategy was to appeal to a downtown buyer with a modern interior, but not to lose the uniqueness of the Beaux Arts features.  Because the exterior is heavily ornamented, my direction to the designers was to consider the interior in a series of layers, or skins.  The most external skin is the most ornate.  As we enter the interior space, the walls that touch the exterior need to have some kind of paneling or wainscoting, in order to scale down from the exterior ornamentation.  The back wall of the kitchen was an extension of this wall panelling.  As we go further into the interior, the kitchen islands could be free of any connection to the wall panelling and be sculptural and independent.

This strategy resulted in a design that was universally well received.  Prior designs were too modern and stark, and weren't connected enough to the building.

Bathrooms, mostly located further into the interior, were free to be more modern in expression.

The building had a substantial cellar space, with impressive vaulting.  I suggested that the 'club' level could be free to be more modern than the residences and the lobbies, because they were in a secluded space.  JBI designed a very modern dining/function room, utilizing the rounded vaults as wine storage, with an adjacent lounge.

The foundation of any project is the floor plans.  First, the unit mix is critical to its success.  What size units and how many we believe will sell, and at what prices.  The challenge here was that this grand building, with high ceilings, laid out beautifully as large residences.  However, we knew that this market and neighborhood required smaller units.  It was a challenge to create smaller units, while not losing the grandness of the interior spaces.  One solution we came up with was to create rooms 'en filade', which would have been typical of the time.  It allowed us to create doors into bedrooms coming directly off of living areas (in some cases, double doors).  Unconventional, but true to the spirit of the building and it has resonated with the buyer.  This trick also makes smaller spaces feel larger, by creating a visual connection between rooms.  All plans were reviewed for efficiency.