By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — A daring new building previously called "too modern" for downtown will soon rise in TriBeCa, after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission voiced overwhelming support for it on Tuesday.
With angled windows, an undulating brick facade and draping metal balconies, the new five-story building at 187 Franklin St. will at first glance look very different from its neighbors in TriBeCa's historic district.
But the Landmarks Commission was impressed by architect Jeremy Edmiston's playful references to the neighborhood's older buildings, including detailed brickwork and deep, sculptural facades.
"It works," said Bob Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. "It more than works — it actually enhances the richness of the district."
Commissioners called Edmiston's design "exciting," "creative," "symphonic," "very unusual" and "robust and inventive" before voting unanimously to approve it. They requested just one minor change: a darker-colored shell for the rooftop mechanical equipment.
"We should celebrate this project," Commissioner Frederick Bland said. "Everything is familiar and yet nothing is familiar…This is smart architecture as well as delirious architecture."
Edmiston, principal at SYSTEMarchitects, said he was gratified by the commissioners' response, especially after Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee roundly criticized the design last fall, calling it "too modern."
The Historic Districts Council also expressed concern about the plans at Tuesday's hearing, saying the design "is not the best fit for this location" and "scream[s] out for attention."
While Commissioner Christopher Moore said he, too, initially wondered if the design was "lunacy," he ultimately came around to it. Several commissioners liked Edmiston's reference to the Synagogue for the Arts building nearby on White Street, which is also unusual but has become one of TriBeCa's most beloved buildings.
Edmiston's bold design was partly inspired by the family that plans to live in the building, including a husband and wife and their two sons. The family, which Edmiston did not name, was concerned about the lack of privacy of standard windows that face straight out across the narrow street, he said.
In response, Edmiston angled the windows to look up and down the street and then shaped the curving brick facade around them. He then added perforated balconies to give the building's face more life.
Edmiston hopes to start construction soon and will use computer models to determine the exact location of each of the 14,538 bricks. He will maintain the ground floor of the existing 1995 building that is currently on the site.
Several commissioners said they are looking forward to seeing the building rise.
"TriBeCa is a place of drama, challenge and invention," Commissioner Diana Chapin said. "It has its moments [and] I think this is going to be one of them."