New York, New York, USA
Todd Poisson of BKSK Architects has completed the expansion and restoration of the former Tammany Hall Headquarters for their client Reading International (RDI), originally designed in 1928-1929 by Thompson, Holmes & Converse and Charles B. Meyers, and which features a prominent geometric space-frame dome on top of the 90-year-old structure at 44 Union Square in Manhattan, New York.
The building has been repurposed as a 70,200 square feet Class A commercial building, with dramatic changes unanimously approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
BKSK Architects’ 44 Union Square project has recently been awarded a 2022 American Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Its former life as the last headquarters for the powerful Tammany Hall political organization is apparent in its preserved facades, and the visible rooftop addition evokes a deeper history, serving as a living monument to the indigenous Lenape people.
The origins of Tammany Hall as a populist organization include its namesake, the legendary Lenape Chief Tamanend.
Early in the design stage, BKSK initiated an ongoing consultation with founding members of the Lenape Center to bring an authentic, legitimate voice and representation to the concept of a dome addition inspired by the Lenape creation story of a great turtle rising from the sea.
While respectful of the building’s historic character, the organic domed intervention provocatively yields insight into the underlying social history of the building as well as adding 30,000 square feet of commercial space, nearly doubling the size of the building.
In 2013, the former Tammany Hall has designated an individual landmark for its “special heritage, and cultural characteristics.”
The restoration and expansion designed by BKSK included sensitive façade restoration, historically accurate bronze and limestone storefronts, and a 3-story rooftop addition, composed of a self-supporting free-form grid dome.
The dome sits atop a hipped roof of steel, and glass and is fitted with terra cotta sunshades.
Rigorous research was conducted to select the glass for the dome which provides climate and light control while offering clear views from inside Union Square Park and beyond.
Solar insulation, light infiltration, and glare probability studies as well as investigation of glass dome precedents informed the glass mapping over the dome structure and the development of sunshades and other shading solutions.
The preservation scope was a challenging undertaking, requiring the decoupling of the north and west façades with their antique foundations from the building structure, isolating these exteriors and reinforcing them in place with a concrete flat-plate floor system before demolishing the remaining building from the top, down.
The expertly managed restoration work on the landmark façades included complete brick repointing and select replacement, terra cotta rehabilitation, and repairs to the original building’s roofline, as well as brick parapets and limestone balustrades, balusters, and rails.
A new building core structure was constructed –– which doubled the building’s height to six stories and expanded tenant space by 30,000 square feet –– and was reattached to the landmark façade floor-by-floor.
Project: 44 Union Square
Architects: BKSK Architects LLP.
Lead Architect: Todd Poisson
Original Architects: Thompson, Holmes & Converse and
Charles B. Meyers (1928- 1929)
General Contractor: CNY Group
Client: Reading International, Inc. (RDI)
Photographers: Christopher Payne and Francis Dzikowski